“What are you the most excited or optimistic about today?” I asked this question as part of my Summer Depth Check Up… When I asked it, I was unsure what I would hear back from America. With responses coming in from all over the country, I knew that it would be a mixed bag. Here’s what Americans said, and my takeaways from reading their responses…
Time with Our Families
“Time with my family this evening.”
“The weekend and seeing my girlfriend.”
“More time to cuddle my kids.”
“My baby looks like he will start crawling any day now. Our daughter’ kindergarten homeschool may not be as time-consuming as I was worried it would be.”
Many of us, myself included, have found this pandemic to be a time where we have time… Time to connect (or reconnect) with our kids. Time to be with our spouses. Time to just be with the people we love. I said this early in the pandemic… this is time we will never get back, and spending it with family seems to be a common source of happiness.
That said, let me also acknowledge that for some right now, our family relationships may be dangerous instead of joyful. Cases of partner and child abuse are a genuine part of this pandemic and something we all need to acknowledge. Unfortunately this time we have together with family, as exciting as it can be for some of us, is also terrifying to others.
Time with Ourselves
“Me working on myself – took a leap and started therapy. So far, so good.”
“Taking care of myself.”
With some extra time on our hands, some of us have taken opportunities to dive deeper into ourselves. This is a moment where embracing even just a little self-care can help us move from surviving to thriving in this pandemic. Whether your version of therapy has come from counseling or exploring a new hobby, COVID represents our chance to be there for ourselves in remarkable ways.
For those in our world that are battling mental health challenges, this time with ourselves can take on a different meaning. Instead of excitement and optimism, it can feel depressing and cause anxiety. As a community, we need to look for this, and when we see it we need to step in and show compassion and love. We need to be the listening ear people need, and a shoulder they can lean on.
“Cooking supper with my daughter.”
“The mean frittata I made for supper.”
“Might make pizza later, that’s about all I’m feeling optimistic about today.”
They call it comfort food for a reason. At the end of the day, no matter what challenges we’ve faced, a good meal can make all the difference. Share it with family or friends, or cook for yourself. Enjoy some of those summertime picks from your local farmer’s market, or treat yourself with something from your local bakery or ice cream shop. We took restaurants and the experience of eating with others for granted way too long. Now we’re realizing the importance of food shared together, whether outside on a cafe patio or at home.
“It’s 1 am right now, so I’ll talk about the next day/today: Hopefully, my contacts lenses will arrive tomorrow.”
“Going for a walk & reading new books.”
“I got some car parts in the mail.”
“Being done with this damn survey.”
“I got outside today and rode my bike alone for the first time in a month since the last time I rode in June, where I watched a cat get hit by a car and then watched it die. Hey, you asked.”
“Some of the sick cows at work are getting better.”
“Getting my first tattoo.”
These were some of the most entertaining answers. From car parts to contact lenses, bike rides to tattoos, we’re creating moments with the little things. Things we used to take for granted now hold a more profound value, and we’re noticing pieces of our lives that would have previous slid past with no fanfare. Thank God for the little things amid this big challenge we’re all walking through.
On the flip side of this, the little things can be our most significant source of fury. When we’re stretched and stressed, those little things can feel like boulders. A dish not put away or a mess left undone can cause arguments that make no sense when we see them with perspective. Perspective is the key to the little things… it’s all in how we look at the world.
If you’re the one who responded that you were excited to be done with my damn survey, thank you. Humor was a big part of this check-up, and I enjoyed your honesty.
“Ability to accomplish tasks, knock things off my list, move closer to my goals”
“Work is busier today than it has been for two weeks and many days in the past four months”
“I have a job interview this coming week.”
“Getting a new job.”
“I still have a job.”
Over the last few months, our definitions of “work” look very different. Some have shifted to a new work-from-home reality, where the kitchen table or living room now doubles as the office. Others are interviewing for new jobs and new opportunities – this is a time of new beginnings. As school starts back up, moms and dads are walking the tightrope between their jobs and their role as teachers. In the middle of all those shifts, work was an area where many still found excitement and optimism. Considering that we spend most of our waking hours at work, it’s good that we’re not dreading it.
For some of you reading this, right now, you’re out of work, or your job sucks and you wish you were. I get it. Your work may be the last thing that produces excitement or optimism in your life, and that’s ok. I would tell you this… If your work or lack of work is adding to your anxiety and stress, look back to some of those other things above for your positivity and try to find one light in the darkness.
“There is no optimism in this hellscape.”
“I don’t feel optimistic at all.”
“It can’t get much worse.”
If you’re someone who is feeling optimistic and excited right now, even if it’s just about the little things, you may need a subtle reminder that not everyone is having that same experience. Here it is… From our families to our neighbors, our coworkers to our friends, there are many out there who are tired and worn down. The last few months have seen lost jobs, deaths, racial injustice, violence in our streets, and an election cycle’s negativity. It’s been a heavy time, and there are people in our circles and in our communities who have been hit hard.
Remembering that, and approaching the world with a little extra empathy right now, is the only way for us to lift one another up. If you’re one of the strong ones right now, look for ways to carry someone else’s burdens… not for them, but with them.
“God is always here for me.”
“I have a family member going through a double organ transplant today and have peace that passes all understanding. I am looking forward to seeing her healthy and whole!”
When we’re feeling the world’s crush on all sides, the need to tap into our faith can be more intense than ever. We need strength, we need hope, we need assurance. For many, myself included, our faith provides that. Daily, I find myself tapping into the Bible, spending quiet time alone in prayer, and focusing on God’s promises. Faith is helping many see the world we’re in today with something more significant in mind than our present troubles. Wherever your faith lies, now is the perfect time to explore it more deeply.
“Things returning to some semblance of normal in January.”
“Schools are on track to open Sept 8th.”
“Upcoming fall/holiday season.”
“It’s almost over.”
“A new therapy that might allow us to go back to normal.”
“Trump winning again in November.”
Amid a storm, the thought of blue skies and sunshine can be what carries us through. The thought of a positive future is helping many find strength right now. The idea of returning to some kind of normal, and going back to the lives we took for granted at the beginning of the year, is pulling us ahead. We can even find hope in the middle of an election year. That’s really what thoughts of the future give us… hope. Hope that there’s something on the other side of all of this – that we have something to look forward to.
Right now, no matter our challenges, there is still hope. People are still finding sources of optimism and excitement. That’s my greatest takeaway from asking this question. That positivity can take many forms, and it’s different for each of us, but it’s still out there even though things look dark.
It was uplifting to me to hear so loudly that optimism still exists, and to see all these examples of where you’re finding it. It was also a good reminder for me to hear that not everyone is feeling optimistic right now. It reminded me to keep practicing empathy, to keep listening, and to be there for others – however I can.
I hope you’ll do the same, and I hope that you’re finding your own sources of optimism and excitement today as well. If you could use a little more optimism, or you’re curious about how people answered some of my other questions on the survey, subscribe here for more insights from Depth Not Width.
Until next time, take care… and give some care too. The world needs that now more than ever. – John