I recently had the chance to attend a virtual training led by my long-time friend Sonya Richardson. Sonya is a mom and grandma, a talented therapist and brain science expert. I learn something from her every time I have the chance to be with her. She got me thinking about surviving versus thriving.
Here’s what I learned this time: Navigating something hard is a skill like any other. We can learn how to do it well and we can practice to get better at it.
A pandemic is certainly hard. Our lives over the last year or so have hardly resembled the years before March 2020. Chances are, we won’t ever live through another time quite like this one, but we will most certainly find ourselves in other hard and lonely spots. What can we take with us from this unscripted time that will help us write our new stories with hope and optimism?
Sonya recommends that we start with what she calls Radical Acceptance. Take a clear-eyed look at the situation and then lean into it. My husband introduced me to the phrase “it is what it is”; while I initially found this bit of wisdom frustrating, I’ve learned to value its clear-eyed viewpoint.
When we accept circumstances just the way they are, we are ready to move forward. We are ready to get unstuck.
I’ve found myself stuck in lots of sticky places over the years. When I was a stay-at-home mama with littles, I got stuck in loneliness and resentment. As my kids got older, my struggles changed. Parenting can be challenging and discouraging. When I felt stuck in an uncomfortable time, I tried to see it as a season, and one that was going to change sooner or later. Turning to friends for encouragement and asking for help allowed me to move forward.
The final step is positive reappraisal. We take stock of where we’ve been and set a course for where we want to be.
The secret to this step is choosing our path forward, not just assuming that we want to go back to where we’ve been. Sometimes, life makes it impossible for us to go back, but other times that comfortable place is still available to us. We can choose whether that familiar spot is our spot or not. We can be brave and wise enough to decide to pick a new and better spot.
Maybe you’re in this third stage. You’re evaluating your situation—your parenting, your work, your relationships—and you’re deciding whether you want to make a change. Don’t waste this opportunity to adjust, to rethink, to start again.
I want to take my own advice. While we were safe at home, I sent my firstborn out into the big world. My younger son will be driving soon. My parenting role is changing. I can lean in and look around. Or I can stay stuck wishing it hadn’t happened quite so fast.
Poet and actor and activist Maya Angelou reinvented herself over and over again. She said, “My mission in life is not just to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”
May we all choose to thrive!