For the last two Covid years the isolation has caused me to do a lot of reflecting. Most of it while waxing nostalgic. I spent way too much time wishing things were back the way they “used to be!” If I were being honest the “used to be” wasn’t always that great but being deprived by a pandemic can make everything that came before it look rosier than it actually was. Lately, I guess I have had enough of looking backward. There’s nothing to be gained from it. Now I have to look forward to get out of this funk I have been in. It isn’t as if I haven’t had to look toward a new future in the past. I retired from teaching on a Thursday and on Friday my new life began owning and operating a bed and breakfast in Vermont. The difference being that I knew one phase of my life was coming to an end and had time to prepare for the next one, fully recognizing and acknowledging the accomplishments of the past and looking forward to a carefully planned out new experience. Covid gave us no warning, neither to its arrival nor the end of our previous existence. My half empty glass kicked in big time!
Enough! The last couple of weeks I have been trying to shake the negativity. Every time I mourned the loss of my previous life I tried to look ahead. I needed to find things to look forward to. Which brought another dilemma in that I had to come up with ideas that brought me some joy. And honestly that was difficult. One crazy thing that stood out was that ever since I was a kid I have been collecting model railroad equipment. At different points in my life I had layouts in my basement and with every move the boxes and boxes were moved as well. I have decided that as soon as the weather permits I am going to build a layout in my oversized garage, which will not only necessitate cleaning it out but will have the added benefit of allowing me to park the car in one half and construct the layout in the other half. Great.…That brought a smile to my face. But what else? Part of the problem is trying to envision what the new normal will look like. And then, will any of the things I loved about the past be part of this new era? Will the skills that I had before and succeeded with be useful in a revised world?
Probably the most significant thing missing for me today is the social interactions I used to have regularly with friends, former students and colleagues and the fear is that for two years we went into our shells, locked the doors and shuttered the windows. It has become habit. I hope there are a lot of other turtles out there who want to come out of their shells again and socialize but we are creatures of habit and I pray that habit hasn’t been broken for good! I am learning slowly that the unknown can turn out for the better just as easily as it can go sour. Not sure I fully believe that yet but Henry and Wally say it does! At this point in my life, what used to protect me from disappointment as a young person doesn’t serve me well anymore, but the local community college doesn’t have a free course for senior citizens to teach them about positivity so I guess I have to try the hit and miss method. I am slowly trying to fill that glass! Where’s the bartender?
Here you go, George – let me top off your half full glass! Your thoughts gave me a lift… it is good to see you expressing forward movement that will bring some satisfaction. People are tired of living under the shroud of COVID. It’s as though we have been living defensively for two years – well there’s no ‘as though’ about it, it’s been bunker-mentality. Time to move on.
I used to work for a psychotherapist who suggested that one treatment modality for a certain type of depression was for the therapist to act depressed. After a while, the client may try to find something positive to talk about and each instance would then be encouraged. I’m not so sure about this approach with really distressed individuals, but there is some truth in the thought that most folks can only stand to be ‘down’ for just so long. Sounds like you’ve reached that point, George!
The immediate future will certainly be different, but we are made to change and adapt. Handle future issues in the future and don’t let your worries cramp your creativity. I’ve got more HO-scale kits that I will happily donate to your effort! It makes me smile to think of you building the layout with plenty of room to be inventive. Let me know if you would like some company in building the structure that will hold the train set.
As Hen points out, anticipating the project is as much fun as doing it. It is nice to have something to move toward, whether it’s model railroading, planning a garden – or woodturning (my favorite)! I’m looking forward to exploring texture and surface embellishment in my next woodturning projects. In order to prepare, I’m squeezing in You Tube videos to learn more about approaches that work with wood: knurling tools, chatter, sandblasting and pyrography. One excellent byproduct of the pandemic has been the proliferation of live remote demo’s by expert woodturners! Here’s to the momentum of the human spirit! Wonder what other projects folks are looking forward to doing?
Glancing Back But Moving Forward
I like George’s approach to move forward, commit to a project for which you have a passion and loosen up with a libation or two. He also reminds me that if we hold the right frame of mind, the unknown can turn out better just as easily as it can sour. Good advice in the time of COVID.
Looking forward to something you want or like or care about can lift our sense of happiness or contentment as if we were actually there or more! According to a 2010 psychological study about the connection between anticipation and happiness that was published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, “ just planning or anticipating your trip can make you happier than actually taking it.”
George also talks about being fed up with looking back. He realizes that in these almost two years of altered (normal) reality we likely remember the past more positively that it actually was and that pining for what we had (or think we had) isn’t doing us any favors. I think he’s onto something! In a related study that was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology in 2007, it was found that people are happier during the planning stages of a vacation than they were after taking one. In other words, we just might delight in looking forward to trips more than reminiscing about them. It also goes on to say that if we actively plan our trips or projects over time, we more readily smooth over the unforeseen bumps we will encounter that if we didn’t prepare and will have a more positive experience.
Of course the trick is to not only recognize what George has brought to our attention but to act on it. I hesitate to look at the happiness studies of people who planned to do things and then never did. L I recently read that it’s easy to think (believe), harder to act, and hardest to act on what you think (believe).
For me, I’d love to saddle up to the bar at a local pub with close friends and continue this conversation over a couple of drinks. Of course, I’ll have to wait until COVID takes a back seat. In the meantime, there’s always my laptop, MS Word, and tomorrow morning’s Zoom call with Wal and George.