“May you live in interesting times.” How often have we heard this adage at different periods in our lives? I don’t know about you, but this past year certainly qualifies as one of the most interesting I’ve lived through – and I grew up in the 60s and 70s. What I’ve recently discovered is that this English expression, which at first glance seems to be a blessing, is actually thought to be a translation of a traditional Chinese curse. I guess the thought behind it is that life is better during “uninteresting times” of peace and tranquility than it is during “interesting” ones, which are typically times of trouble and unrest. Given what 2020 has presented us with, the concept of a curse really doesn’t seem out of the question.
For most of us, navigating our way through the COVID-19 pandemic has generally left us feeling like we’re living under the gun. We fear we can’t let our guard down. Ever. Even grocery shopping often feels fraught with danger. Many of us fear for our jobs and futures – or at least the jobs and futures of loved ones. In the U.S. we’ve also faced an extended period of intense political conflict and social unrest. It often feels like threats are everywhere, and many of us are experiencing some form of stress and anxiety.
At the same time, the pandemic has profoundly limited the scope of many of our lives by sequestering us in our homes, leaving us alone or at best seeing the same people every day and not meeting new ones in other places. Unfortunately for many of us, variety is a thing of the past. Simple pleasures like dining out with friends or going to a movie are really no longer options. There might be a lot of good in our homes, but at a certain point, through sheer repetition, we tend to stop seeing how that good enhances our daily lives.
Pandemic conditions, whether threatening or just mundane, ideally do not make fertile ground for thankfulness. But I think gratitude is actually one of the tools we can use in both of these circumstances. We’re living through unusual and trying times, which makes it more important than ever to notice and be thankful for what is valuable and meaningful to us. It’s good for our mental and physical health, and it can help us stay well and stable through the pandemic and beyond.
So, I’ve decided to take a few minutes each day to consider all the things I’m grateful for during this difficult time. COVID-19 is getting personal now with friends and acquaintances, and I’m thankful that it hasn’t yet shown up at my door. This is really no time to be alone, and I’m grateful to have my significant other to share this experience with. Even though we’re home together now nearly every hour that I’m not at work, there’s still no one I’d rather be with during this time than him. I’m thankful for my cats. Having them to talk to, play with, and snuggle multiple times a day makes everything seem less stressful, especially now. I’m grateful for my friends and family and the technology that has kept us connected throughout this crazy year. I’m thankful to have the best job and most supportive co-workers in the world. And I’m grateful for the extra time for me that I’ve discovered now that my outside options are so limited. And that’s just my short list.
We’re all grateful for different things. As we move through this season of thankfulness, taking the time to ponder and express our gratitude can help us remember what really matters to us and remind us that even during the most challenging times there’s always a great deal to cherish. Five minutes of reflection a day can help keep us sane and healthy, and I’m all for that.
Take care of yourselves and stay safe during this season and beyond. May you live in interesting times, and may your gratitude help make that feel like a blessing, not a curse.