Silver linings? Wait, what? We’re in the middle of a pandemic!
Almost all of us are facing a new reality. We might be struggling because we’re cooped up with our family or because we're feeling lonely in an imposed solitary isolation. Or maybe we are missing family because we can’t travel or visit. I know I miss my parents.
Or maybe it's the food. Homemade dinners might be delicious, or maybe they’re boring and too much work. And there’s either not enough food or there’s too much food in the refrigerator because we’ve been stockpiling.
Our lives are not like they used to be, and it’s really easy to dwell on all the things we miss. We wish we could see friends, go out for dinner and travel like we used to. We wish we could go to the grocery store without gloves, lineups and fears. We wish we could shake hands with strangers and hug the people we love. This so-called new normal is not normal at all, and we miss a lot of things, big and small.
But is there something in your world that is better?
Think about it. What are you doing now that you wouldn't have done before?
Finding silver linings is different from gratitude. Gratitude is a beautiful thing. My friend says she tries to remind herself every day how lucky she is to have her family safe, good food in her home and enough money not to worry. Gratitude has many benefits, including better sleep, self-esteem and physical health (see my 2018 blog post). But is there more?
What do we have now, in the Covid-19 world, that we didn’t have before? What can we truly appreciate? What are the silver linings of this terrible virus that is afflicting so many and scaring most of us?
My almost-90-year-old parents live together in a small town in Ontario, not too far from two of my sisters. My father has dementia, so life is not that different for him. But for my mom, things look very different: she’s stopped going to the grocery store, her only visitors are my sisters, and there aren’t any sports to watch. My parents spend a lot of time watching the news, and I shudder to think of all that news pouring into their living room. Many of my family were concerned that my mother might really be unhappy cooped up for an extended time. Luckily, she has 17 grandchildren. In response to the shelter-in-place, these far-flung grandkids agreed to reach out more often, and they even created a call schedule. The result is that my mother is now getting more phone and FaceTime calls from her grandchildren than ever before. So, in this time of social distancing, she’s more connected than ever. This is a gift: for my mother, and for all the grandchildren who are getting to know their grandmother a little better. And it likely would not have happened in the old “normal.”
A friend of mine has her two sons home from college. The brothers are typical brothers; they get along, but given a choice, they would spend their time with their friends, not each other. In this new normal, they are playing cards, shooting hoops and working out together. It’s unlikely that these young men would have had this time together, were it not for our coronavirus-induced sheltering, and they will likely never have this kind of uninterrupted time together again. Their relationship will be forever changed because of this virus. Another gift. Another silver lining.
Got any in your own life?
Look for what is different AND better in this new normal.
My daughter has a regular call with a group of friends, and they end every call with each person sharing one thing that they are grateful for and one silver lining. My husband and I had virtual cocktails with friends last week and asked everyone to share a silver lining. If you’re struggling to come up with one of your own, here are a few examples:
Reconnecting with good friends (email, Zoom, FaceTime)
Slowing down and learning to really relax
Having lunch every day with my partner (or breakfast, or both)
Having access to amazing teachers because they are now teaching online
Breathing easier: pollution is down
And if you want more real examples, I’ve collected a longer list here.
We also have a unique opportunity right now to take a good look at what “normal” was for us, and what we want to change. As Elton John said in an interview with Apple Music's Zane Lowe, “Maybe this will bring people together and [we can] be far more thoughtful about each other in a world where we are so selfish—me included. And it gives us a chance to reflect on ... what life is all about. And life is all about love and sharing and generosity of spirit; and coming together as one, I hope will be the result of this.”
And while we look for silver linings, I want to be clear that I’m not suggesting we ignore the losses—both big and small—from the coronavirus. There are many who are suffering from tragic losses of life, homes, income and health. There are also “smaller” losses that are real too: the new grandchild you can’t hold, the wedding plans that aren’t possible or the canceled soccer games. These are not life-shattering, but they are losses all the same. As Lori Gottlieb writes inThe New York Times (Grieving the Losses of Coronavirus), “It’s hard to talk about these silent losses because we fear that other people will find them insignificant and either dismiss them or expect us to ‘get over them’ relatively quickly.”
Sometimes it helps to give in to the pain: label it, acknowledge it and accept it. It may help the pain move through us faster, or at least with less inner devastation.
So, here are two things I want to leave you with:
Don’t minimize your losses, even if you think they are insignificant. They are real. Don’t get lost in them, but don’t ignore them.
Search for silver linings. They may help you see that you can do more than just “get through this.” Despite our current feelings of chaos, some extraordinary things can arise.
Shove, Cindy. A Collection of Silver Linings. docs.google.com/document/d/1c_paVBu9Sh3m84T-xJJrAsv4yjL1Gq0ECq2_I-pecBA/edit
Cindy Shove, MBA, MA
Cindy Shove is a certified life, executive and Enneagram coach. She helps individuals be more effective, enabling them to see themselves more clearly and set goals, and she provides accountability and support. Her experience includes start-ups, nonprofits, corporate strategy and college-level teaching. She has an MBA from the University of Toronto and a Master of English degree. More about Cindy can be found on her coaching site Quench Coaching and her blog.
To subscribe to the SOULFUL Insights health and wellness newsletter click here.