By Jennifer Hill Buehrer LMSW
Having lunch with a few colleagues today, someone made the statement, “it’s getting difficult to remember what a lot of things were like before COVID.” I agreed. And I realize that this statement not only applies to the tables and the food stations in the cafeteria, or the hallways that used to be filled with people all the time, or the committee and team meetings that had us all gathered around large tables, sometimes with meals provided… it applies to us. It’s true. Sometimes it’s difficult to remember what WE were like before COVID… what I was like. It’s not like I’m suggesting that the pandemic has changed my personality. I am who I am. But I do feel like I’m changed. And I’m guessing I’m not the only one.
In the months and years to come, I think it will become evident to most of us that the pandemic and everything that comes with it has changed each of us in some way(s) – some big, some small. There is some degree of trauma involved in this kind of experience, and especially for people working in health care. Experiencing trauma will generally result in change of some kind. The weird thing for me is recognizing that I feel changed by the experience, but I can’t exactly define how. That’s what I think is going to reveal itself over time. I’m someone who tries to live in the moment, and focus on the day in front of me, rather than think much about the future or the past. And I like this about myself. I don’t see that changing; in fact, I’m hopeful that more people can come out of this experience with that kind of approach to life. Because you aren’t guaranteed anything beyond today, and thinking too much about the past isn’t fruitful because it can’t be changed.
I’ve heard some people talk about their appreciation for things changing – down time with loved ones, their homes (after being stuck in them for so long), the ability to gather with friends, and certainly health. I think there is also a lot of reevaluating going on. Is your current job fulfilling enough? Or your current partner relationship? Do you feel good about your physical condition, or the time you have to devote to hobbies and activities you love? Do you put enough energy into friendships and relationships with loved ones? Do you attend to your spiritual life enough for it to be a positive thing for you? Recognizing that life can be so fragile and sometimes shorter than expected, have you done the things you wanted to do? Are you where you want to be?
It seems like the years ahead could be a boon for the therapy industry! There is a lot to unpack for a lot of people coming out of the past year and a half. And we have to acknowledge that this could also not be over. Summer was a little bit of a break for us last year, and much more of one this year, but it’s hard to know now what the fall and winter will bring us. I guess I think it’s important for us to attend to all these questions and life reviews now, even knowing that it’s going to be a journey with a lot of twists and turns, hills and valleys, and it could go on for a while. It’s all about intention. I intend to be intentional… and I’d love for you to join me. I can’t promise that it will be easy, or free of pain. Growth often involves pain. But healing does too… pain, scars… but scars are cool. And they make you so much more interesting.