I headed into 2021 with a spirit of great optimism. Sadly, the events of the past two or three weeks have made it challenging to maintain that attitude. Something as innocuous as a quick scan through the daily headlines or five minutes on Facebook leaves me dispirited and anxious. Most days, I can barely comprehend what I am seeing and hearing: the number of deaths from COVID-19, the violence and insurrection that has taken place in the wake of the presidential election, bigotry and intolerance and discrimination. The list is endless.
It all makes me feel so powerless. I console myself with the knowledge that nothing lasts forever. I have much to be grateful for, and I have survived tough times before. But I have come to realize that I need some new coping strategies if I am going to make it through another six months to nine months of life in the midst of a global pandemic.
The truth is all I can really control is what happens in my little corner of the world. I wear a mask and maintain social distance (and expect the same courtesy from others). I vote in every election and support lawmakers and policies that address the issues I am most concerned about, including but not limited to social equality, equal opportunity, immigration reform, affordable healthcare, and climate change. I’ve been working to improve my personal health, by making sure I get adequate sleep and exercise, and eating better and drinking less.
And I’ve set some daily goals, to keep my hands busy and to keep my focus positive. Will an hour scrolling through my Twitter feed bring me any closer to realizing my dreams? No, but spending that hour at the piano, practicing or working on a new piece of music, just might. I’ve made a list of such goals, and my intention is to check every single item off that list every single day – meaning I will be so busy getting things done that I will have to be very choosy about how I spend what little time there is left. I am convinced that by being very selective about my news sources, rationing the amount of news I consume, and limiting my exposure to social media, I will minimize their negative impact.
When the worst of this is behind us, I will be ready.