By Margo Ewing Woodacre, MSW
Now that a year has passed since the official start of the COVID-19 pandemic – a year full of uncertainties, frustrations and fears – we find ourselves at a crossroads, wondering what’s next for ourselves, our country, our world. Safety measures imposed on us did have a bright side: they afforded us time. Time for introspection, and for considering where we’ve been, where we are, and what we’d like the rest of our lives to look like. With vaccines finally a reality, we’re looking forward to sauntering back into the world. But despite our excitement to leave 2020 behind, it’s worthwhile to ask ourselves: What have we learned from this past year?
What have you learned?
Knowing I’d moved through my own growth during the pandemic, I wanted to see how other women, similar to myself, were surviving and dealing with this disconcerting state of affairs. So I emailed a simple questionnaire to 55 diverse Baby Boomer women. Turns out, they, too, had been pondering similar questions. Each woman was asked to write the first thoughts that came to mind.
Question: After these many months of solitude during the quarantine, what three words come to mind to describe what you have felt?
Of the participants, 70% listed at least one positive word to describe their spirits including such terms as: hope; faith; peacefulness; blessings; resilience; flexibility; empathy; reflection; renewal. The most used description among them was gratitude and gratefulness.
On the other hand, 30% listed only negative descriptions such as: uncertainty; loneliness; anger; limitation; social disruption; boredom and, understandably, the most used terms: anxiety and fear.
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Question: In one sentence, what have you learned about yourself?
Fully 97% respondents said they learned something positive from their experiences. Their statements included: I learned how to enjoy my own company; I will not take freedom for granted ever again; I can adapt when necessary; I must stay stimulated and engaged with new things; I can depend on my creativity and resourcefulness; I need to let go of that
over which I have no control; I will work on looking for the brighter side of life; I need to do more acts of kindness; I can overcome my anxiety through mindfulness; I am stronger than I thought.
These results, on the most part, did not surprise me. Anyone who has lived 55 or more years has dealt with many a challenge. Some of us have faced divorce, lost loved ones, lost jobs, combated illnesses, and taken care of others in need, to name just a few of life’s ordeals. The common thread I found through this survey is that we can find the good in the worst of times and through that, we do more than survive. We thrive.
Moving forward, the sadness, fears and inconveniences of the pandemic will still exist, of course. But hopefully the time we have had to reflect and contemplate has strengthened us, allowing us to imagine the next chapter of our lives. Although the years behind us may outnumber those ahead, we’re secure in knowing that we have the energy, creativity,
and drive to thrive.