When I Look Back on This Time



BY JEAN MARIE JOHNSON

We didn’t ask for this, COVID-19, the pandemic. It arrived unexpected and unwelcomed. Yet we find ourselves here, in the midst of it. And the question arises as it always does, in every moment, every passage, every transition, every change: “How will you handle this?” As for me, I am answering in reverse, by considering the memories I want to have about this time.

When I look back, I realize that I want to know many things.

I want to know that I didn’t:

  • Squander the quiet by filling it with unanswerable “What if’s”
  • Fester in an uncertainty that stifled my courage or my creativity
  • Let my light go dim – never that
  • Join a chorus of negativity as an outlet for fear
  • Lose hope for a brighter and healthier tomorrow

Instead, I want to know that, besides sheltering in place, practicing social distancing, and adapting in a myriad of other ways, I:

  • Gathered my strength, born of so many other unexpected and unwelcomed changes
  • Summoned the best in me in response to every shift and challenge
  • Noticed every good thing
  • Appreciated the personal gestures – a smile in a stranger’s eyes, the “Here you go, Ma’am. This cart’s been cleaned,” from a store employee
  • Relished the larger gestures – teddy bears, American flags in all of their inherent glory, sidewalk chalk messages of encouragement, white candles in windows, and so on and so on
  • Reached out, if only to ask, “U good?”
  • Deepened my patience and my compassion in ways too numerable to recount

No, I didn’t want this any more than you did. I didn’t want it, in the same way, I didn’t want the grief that comes with the passing of a loved one, the despair that comes with betrayal, or the fear that comes with a cancer diagnosis. But here it is and, because I know I have a choice, I know what I am doing with it.

What about you? This circumstance doesn’t define you, and so, how are you handling it? And, more to the point, what are you doing with it? What memories do you want to have about this time? Start there, then ask yourself how you are using this time to become a better version of you.

It is your choice. How you respond is always on you. Choose wisely.


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