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  • Writer's picturechristinemerle

A New Year of Possibilities!

It is 2021! The Year of the Ox! The Bills are in the playoffs! A vaccine is on its way!

Yes, I am choosing to look forward to this coming year. After the hot mess of 2020, and I do mean hot mess, I am purposely optimistic for 2021. After years of research and reading about optimism and neuro-plasticity, I know that I can impact my future with the way that I choose to think about it. It goes way beyond “glass half empty or glass half full” and instead trains you to link negative situations with positive ones in a way that lets you dwell less on the bad things that happen in your life, and more on the experiences that give you hope.

Does this sound unrealistic or improbable to you? Or maybe it just sounds too sunshine and rainbows? Let’s do a little exercise together: Make a list of everything that was negative about 2020. Really try to think of all the things that challenged your well-being. For example, you may have to list loss of loved ones, growing financial burdens, increasing levels of anxiety and depression, having to learn how to teach in a hybrid classroom, etc., in your negative column.

Take a few cleansing breaths and let’s now make a list of everything that was positive about 2020. Some of them may actually “link” to your negative examples. Levels of anxiety/depression may link to increased exercise or walks, or an increase in self-care strategies. Loss of loved ones may link to new appreciation for time with family and friends. Having to learn how to teach in a different way may link to new technological skills.

Choosing to be optimistic doesn’t mean that you discount or dismiss the negative things that have happened. It allows you to accept them, learn from them, and move forward with a re-framed mindset. It does not mean you don’t grieve for a family member or you don’t get frustrated with the hybrid teaching model. It does mean you don’t wallow in despair forever and see things as permanent and pervasive. Instead, you accept your grief as it comes, knowing that each day will provide a little more relief, and you hug your kids tighter each night as you tuck them in. Instead, you continue to model for your students what resilience looks like – as you navigate the hybrid model, getting through only half of what you had planned each day, spending more time keeping everyone together than actually teaching, knowing that eventually we will find our way back to normal and laughing your way through it in the meantime. Instead, you are grateful for having ten months of practice to really let “family time” become a habit rather than a luxury, even as you referee sibling bickering, knowing that this time together has been invaluable. Instead, you focus on the network of relationships that you have sustained that have helped you laugh and cry through 2020, knowing that these bonds are stronger than ever.

I know that 2021 is going to present its own obstacles. This pandemic is not over yet, we have a long winter road ahead, and our numbers are still going up. My business is still bouncing back, I am still emotionally recovering from some inconceivable losses, my son is graduating this spring and applying to colleges he hasn’t even seen, and my husband has semi-permanently turned our bedroom into his home office. Those are two depressing sentences. Neuro-plasticity = I have learned so much about zoom webinars and training and have some great ideas for this year and MK Training & Consulting will be OK; I am learning how to use my journal to effectively help me grieve and I will continue to pray and put one foot in front of the other; I am planning some activities to look forward to for next fall because I know I will miss my boy; and I am buying Cormic a desk to use to help part of our bedroom look a little more like his office, and less like office/clothes/dumping ground chaos.

The realistic part of me is not going to say anything silly to tempt fate, like “2021 is going to be the best year ever!”, or any other such nonsense. But the optimistic part of me is going to continue to begin each day writing down 3 things for which I am grateful, making sure to keep my mind focused on blessings rather than burdens. After all, if the Bills can make the playoffs, anything is possible!!

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