If there’s one thing of which there’s been plenty in 2020 it’s bad days. There’s been an onslaught of bad news consistently dripping forth since the start of the year. It started with some protests across the country disrupting transportation of people and goods. Those seem like the good old days now. Since March we’ve been hit hard with pandemic panic. Our worlds have become quite different. Vacation plans, family visits, kids activities, and much more were cast aside in light of the new world we found ourselves living in. Is there a song that captures the sentiment of 2020 that comes to mind? The mid 80s hit from The Police “Don’t Stand so Close to Me” could reassert itself as a anthem for 2020. What could be some other great options?
Like many good ideas which appear slightly ahead of their time, a song by the band AJR climbed up the alternative radio charts in the summer of 2019. The song is called 100 Bad Days. It could well have been the anthem for 2020. The chorus of the song offers us the wisdom of perspective that we would do well to try to absorb for what we’ve endured this year. The lyrics of the chorus are “100 bad days made a 100 good stores, a 100 good stories make me interesting at parties.”
In the moment our struggles and difficulties provoke feelings of pain and misery. However, with time, these difficulties are looked back on as having offered something of value. If nothing else, they provide good stories to share with others. In the now, discomfort is suffering. Our pain is difficult to endure. However, with time the pain dwindles and is replaced with lessons. It instructs. This seems to apply to so many areas of our lives. From physical hurts where scrapes, cuts, and bone breaks hurt in the moment, but become life long stories of adventure and bravery. The pain fades, but the lessons or entertainment value lasts forever. The same is the case with respect to emotional hurts from relationships. What seems deeply disappointing and overwhelming in the moment becomes looked at with affection in hindsight. If nothing else, we learn from lost relationships more about ourselves and how we may adjust our behaviors going forward. We experience similar perspective in our business lives. The stress and mounting problem of today that seems expensive becomes a valuable lesson that prevents us from making a bigger future mistake. What kinds of stories resonate with us. We love books, movies, and stories from acquaintances about struggle. How did someone endure difficulty yet reframe the experience as something positive. Turning stumbling blocks into stepping stones is an almost universally admirable trait.
Looking back on 2020 at this point, if you had to pick a positive experience that has come from this year, what would it be? Are you feeling still too close to things as they unfold or, is there something that you learned about yourself through these times? Perhaps, that you had a strength or resilience you didn’t know you had? How about with respect to your kids? What have you learned from them? Are there others you have seen that seemed to have been able to adapt with ease? What is it that they had going for them? What has been the hardest thing that you’ve had to give up during 2020? Do you find it reassuring that in spite of much personal pain and suffering, the world seems to go on in some way seeking a new equilibrium? There remains optimism and opportunity in some areas. Can you take comfort from seeing green shoots in new areas? Have you reconsidered priorities for your life? Does that once a year two week vacation to an all inclusive resort in Mexico seem like that big of a deal now? Were you able to find other ways to spend pleasurable time with your family closer to home this year? Has your shopping list changed? Were the things that were front of mind in terms of wants shifted at all? Have you found time to learn a new skill or pick up a new hobby? Are there people that you have connected with on line in a deeper way? Have you found new ways to meet people or spend time with them? In what areas of your life have you spent less money than normal?
We can spend time thinking about what we missed out on in 2020, what we had to give up, how we’re worse off, how things are more difficult to manage in so many ways. Maybe some of us “celebrated” milestone birthdays in 2020, ones that ended in a zero, a start to a new decade. We can dwell on what we weren’t able to celebrate and who we weren’t able to visit, or what we weren’t allowed to do. Or, we can consider many positives that have surfaced which but for 2020 we would have not learned about. Perhaps we learned that too much news makes us neurotic. We become even more fearful and concerned when exposed to problems constantly. Perhaps we also learned that if we looked hard for it, there were positive outcomes that were completely unpredictable. The stock market in Canada is up for the year (as of late November) after having collapsed by almost 50% in March. People are adapting. Life does go on. People find ways to make the best of where they are. If you’re still struggling to find some good news, consider a suggestion from Mr. Rogers who offers, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news my mother would say to me, look for the helpers. You always find people who are helping.” That’s as true today as it was when Mr. Rogers’ mother would have said it to him.
If nothing else, the good news may be that once we can get together and have some parties again, we’ll all be much more interesting. Maybe we’re able to customize the four worst words of 2020 of “we’re in this together” into something personally meaningful. Take time to define who your “we”, “this”, and “together” are. Maybe you have a better idea of who the truly important people in your life are as a result of 2020? Perhaps, this becomes spending quality time with loved ones right here at home? We won’t be spinning any yarns or telling tall tales. We will each have a long list of unique experiences to share. Even though it may be the one year we feel like wanting to forget, it’s one which will likely be talked about for years to come. Who knows what 2021 will bring us, but hopefully we can find a way to share a story or two from 2020 that offers a lesson that’s useful for others.
Best wishes for the holiday season.