Gratitude for a Crazy Year

Entering the holiday season means time together as a family, colder weather, warm meals, and plenty of gratitude. The holiday season is the time when we look back at the year we just had – the crazy year of election pandemonium, murder hornets, a wild and unprecedented pandemic, and off-and-on lockdowns. As I ponder the last 11 months, as crazy as they were, I’m also grateful and thought I would share some of the thoughts I’ve had. 

What I’m Most Grateful For

Above all, I am thankful for seven amazing, strong, wonderful children, and the incredible sons-in-law I’ve been blessed with. These kids are all healthy and employed or in school. They are good citizens of this great country. They are all men and women of faith who look toward the future with hope – what more could I ask for? 

I’m also so grateful that, even in the middle of the global pandemic and so much negativity around us and in the news, I was able to marry the most amazing woman I know: my best friend and companion, Shannon. 

Where I Found and Continue To Find Hope

It’s undeniable that this year involved chaos in record amounts. We started the year with a country already in discord about political and social beliefs. Then we were all hit with the earth-shattering pandemic. It affected every country and every person differently. In the middle of that, we had an election, news reports that made us question our trust in our fellow man, lockdowns, quarantines, protests, and riots. How can I possibly speak of hope?

Here’s how: Hope is what sustains us all, myself included. I believe that, in some ways, it’s all we have left emotionally when things seem to all be going wrong. Every one of us experiences times that aren’t the best and hope is critical to our mental well-being. 

There was an interesting article I read in October from the Wall Street Journal by Elizabeth Bernstein, called “Finding Hope when everything feels hopeless.” She offered a few suggestions for maintaining hope even when things seem so hopeless:

“Read History”

Elizabeth recommended reading history because it gives us perspective. She explained that she reads books about the Black Death, the Civil War, World War II. In reading those books, she realized that all the bad times eventually come to an end and we move past them. We know a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus is coming, we just have to be patient. 

“Future Cast” 

She also encouraged setting a vision for the future, imagining one that’s better than it is today. Doing this will cement in your mind what you want your family, career, community, and recreational activities to look like once this pandemic is over. Think positively! The future you envision is possible. 

“Take Small Steps”

In the Pandemic World, it’s easy to feel completely overwhelmed. More than ever, many of us are feeling out of control. One way to take back some control in the unpredictability is to make small goals that you can achieve. It can be anything – lose a couple of pounds; drink a little less; start each day being grateful; be a positive influence on someone at least once a week. Pick your small, attainable goals, and enjoy a little more control in your life. 

“Watch Your Words”

This is one of the most important things, I think, that Elizabeth recommended. Our words are extremely important and they matter. She referenced the Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel who once said: “Every word we speak or write matters.” Our words can influence the hope in others and be positive and they can even help ourselves. Our self-talk can become negative, but it’s time for that to stop. Use language, even with yourself, that’s positive, like “I can,” “I will,” or “It’s possible.” Use your words to spread hope to yourself and others. 

My mother taught me that every time we come into contact with someone, we can make their day better or we can make their day worse. Why not try and make it better?

Hopeful for the Future

When I think about my hopes for the future, there are several specific things that come to mind. I’m hopeful for the pandemic – a vaccine is right around the corner. I’m hopeful for America, although we need to learn to dialogue again and stop the hateful monologue we have going. While I am fearful for our democracy – that’s a different blog for a different time – I do have hope for the future. What else can we have?

For Those Struggling with Hopelessness

You are not alone, first and foremost. Many are feeling the same sense of hopelessness. Start by following the above-mentioned steps. However, it’s extremely important that, if you are grappling with deep despair and having trouble finding hope, you please speak to someone about it: a friend, a therapist, a clergy member, or a family member. In case you need it, the suicide prevention lifeline number is 800-273-8255. We all have low moments and I document mine in LOVE WORKS. Please hang in there – it will get better.

There is hope. 

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