2020 is almost over, and if there were ever a year in which being “NOT YET DEAD” seems like an accomplishment, it’s this one. We’ve lost loved ones, gotten sick, been scared, stayed home, washed groceries, dealt with “virtual learning,” reimagined two-parent work schedules, and lost jobs. We’re over it.
So when I started writing this blog, I thought I would write about the past, just to get myself out of the “what-a-shitty-year-this-has-been” attitude and back into a more pleasant state of mind. I’d start with the 50s, and although I had only reached age 4 by the end of the decade, I somehow remembered it as being pretty cool. I was ready to write about all the AWESOME things that happened in the past, justify my attitude about 2020, and look forward to the COVID vaccination and a new year!
And then, as it always does when I start looking at the FACTS, I had a nice little meeting with reality.
I “Googled” the 1950s and, yeah, there were great things like Elvis singing “All Shook Up,” television sets playing “I Love Lucy,” and a booming economy. But while I was shakin’ to Elvis and loving Lucy, my parents and millions of other sentient people (unlike myself) must have been freaking out. Because if it wasn’t bad enough that the Asian Flu pandemic (1957) killed more than 70,000 Americans, parents also had to deal with the fact that polio, a “contagious viral illness that in its most severe form causes nerve injury leading to paralysis, difficulty breathing and sometimes death,” threatened THEIR CHILDREN!!!
Polio was called “infantile paralysis” because it mostly affected children under five. In 1950, 28,386 severe cases were reported. By 1952, there were 55,000.
Yeah, that’s what they were dealing with. You couldn’t let your children go outside in the summer (IN THE SUMMER!!!) when outbreaks were at their peak. Pools, theatres, schools and churches were closed. Travel was restricted and quarantines were imposed on homes and towns where people were diagnosed.
And here’s a nice little vocab reminder from that time … Iron Lung. Do you remember hearing those words? Maybe it was just my ultra-anxious family, but whoa baby. I sure remember hearing about iron lungs and why they were used, and I was terrified … so I can only imagine how my parents felt!
So, by this point in my little march down memory lane I started to recognize the rose-colored tint I had on the past, especially when I added “Swine Flu,” the second measles outbreaks, HIV/AIDS, whooping cough, and other epidemics. And I hadn’t even TOUCHED on the wars and social injustices witnessed over the six decades I’d been alive.
Maybe I need to adjust my thinking.
If all those awful things happened in the past, why do I remember it as being so great? And so much better than right now?
So I asked my friend Google again, and I got more than 863,000,000 results (evidently the subject has been given some thought!).
One article in Psychreg gave four reasons that resonated with me:
- You look to the past with a sense of certainty that the present can’t provide – basically, we know how it’s going to turn out
- As you experience more, it takes more to “wow”
- It wasn’t as easy to engage in social comparison in the past – thank you social media
- Your perspective of the past has shifted – you have more confidence that you can deal with the things that stressed you in the past, so you tend to look back on them as “they weren’t so bad after all”
If the past wasn’t that great at the time, but I could look back on it and think it was fantastic, then would there come a day when I would look back on 2020 with the same positive lens? From doing this little exercise in retrospection, I’m thinking, yes.
But it’s not just that one day I’ll look BACK on all this with a different perspective that makes me feel a little less miserable about 2020. It’s also the fact that I can look at 2020 NOW and think about some of the OTHER experiences this past year brought that were among the best times of my life.
And according to that same article, here’s how:
- “Be able to be comfortable with discomfort. You might not be able to perceive the present moment with the same sense of certainty that you reflect on the past with, but you can improve your ability to be comfortable with the discomfort and uncertainties that the present moment might throw your way.
- “Minimise comparison. You’re not here to outdo others, you’re here to live a fulfilling life of your own.
- “Manage your expectations. Not everything you do will be the best thing you’ve ever done or the best thing you’ve ever accomplished, and that’s fine. Life is going to have highlight reel moments, and some less than stellar moments.
- “Engage in binary thinking. Shift your focus from the quality of what you’re doing to the fact that you’re simply doing it.”
So 2020, sorry I’ve been disrespecting you so much. You really weren’t all that bad.
But COVID-19? I won’t be sorry to see you go!