So 2016 is behind us – and on so many levels, it was terribly rough on so many people. Personally, financially, physically, spiritually – the blows fell so fast and furious that it was difficult for us to recover from one shooting or attack before another loss or shocking revelation cracked us across the face again. For many Americans, those blows are quite literal, but they do not have to be physical blows for us to feel battered.
And we are more than happy to put this year to rest – there is something important and powerful about turning the page on the calendar or throwing out last year’s calendar and starting fresh. It is a representation of an opportunity to cleanse out, dust ourselves off and reinvent.
But here’s the thing: 2017 is going to suck, too. Maybe more than people realize. We are divided and on edge – we are turning on one another – and no matter where you fall on the political spectrum, most of us will end 2017 deeply disappointed. This is a hugely complex and challenging time in the world – and it is easy to despair at it all.
BUT!!! I also have a friend who finished her PhD and got engaged on Christmas morning. Someone else who became a grandparent, and a dear friend who beat cancer. Someone got a fantastic job offer out of the blue that could take his career to the next level. Someone who lost her souse recently and now finds herself unexpectedly in love again.
To be clear, I don’t mean to offer trite and vapid “just be positive” advice. It is true in every time in every nation that horrifying things will happen – and here is what saves us from letting those times get the better of us:
• Celebrate your victories and the triumphs of those around you – life cannot only be about our challenges or what do we have to hold onto?
• When friends are going through their tough spots, step in and step up. A dear friend who lost her apartment had people show up to help her pack, buy things from her to raise cash, take in her kitty and much more.
• Any stranger may be having a rough time – lending a listening and nonjudgmental ear may be all they need – to be heard and be understood. You cannot truly help someone without knowing where they are coming from. Compassion wins – every time.
• Celebrate YOUR life – in small ways and large ones. Dance to music. Sing in the shower. Walk in a park. Write. Turn your phone off. Spend time with an animal – they are always in the moment. Read that book that’s been sitting on your nightstand. And when you meet a large goal, shout it form the rooftops and let others celebrate YOU.
• Strive to do better and be better than the ugliness around us – be better informed – act from your best self – be ready to examine your own faults. When we do that, it elevates us all.
It is so, so important not to lose sight of how powerful each of us is. I feel like I have been repeating Gandhi’s saying more and more lately: Be the Change You Wish to See in the World. In the times ahead, it will take nerves of steel to stay grounded, connected and moving forward, both individually and as a nation, while also taking care of ourselves and one another.
But the Human Spirit is an extraordinary creature, capable of such wonders of transformation.... Let us not be defined by our despair, but by how we rise, how we learn and how we act towards one another. That way, nothing can defeat us.