How do you measure, measure a year?
Throughout the past few weeks leading up to March 1, I can’t help but repeat those lyrics over and over in my mind. For me in my own life and throughout sessions with clients, there has been a sense of increasing reflection as we contemplate what the past year has meant for us. Some clients have reflected on the immensity of it all and how far they have come in what has felt like a short time, while others feel like so much of the past year has been wasted, as though they have had to put plans in their life on hold due to the heaviness and uncertainty that the past 12 months has thrown at them. Many clients feel trapped between these conflicting perspectives, creating anxiety and an overwhelming mixture of all emotions in trying to make sense of it all. How could a year have felt so long, and so short at the same time? How could a year feel so overwhelming and so empty simultaneously?
All of these conversations have led me to ask this question to myself. How do we measure these past 12 months? Do we measure the past year in the number of zoom calls we have had? Do we measure it in the number of banana breads and sourdoughs we have made, or the number of times we took part in some other collective social media activity? Do we measure it in the number of times we have said, COVID, corona, social-distancing, or ever the number of times we have simply said “because, 2020”? Do we measure it in the number of masks we have or have worn, or the number of times we have said under our breaths “It goes over your nose”? Do we measure it in the number of protests we saw happening across our country demanding equality and a light to be shone on the serious problems of social and racial injustice in our country? Do we measure it in the number of people who showed up to vote for our country’s new leader? Do we measure it in the number of people who have died of COVID, or even in the number of people who have actually survived?
I cannot picture a different set of 12 months of my life that have been more consequential for our world than the past 12 have been. At the same time, I also remember the moments that felt like the complete opposite in how they dragged. The metaphor of living through the movie Groundhog Day over and over again throughout the past 12 months has felt so real. We feel as though every morning when our eyes open, we will be living the exact same day as the day before and, in these same moments and on these same days, we are constantly saying to ourselves how shocking each new thing is that we hear each day, and how overwhelming the collective year has felt. We are bored and flooded. We are exhausted and restless. We feel both ready for change, and an urgent desire to return to the normal we once knew.
I recently saw a post where someone said that we should stop trying to return to how things were in the “before” and stop romanticizing it as being ideal. There were struggles before COVID-19 turned our world and lives upside down and I think a beautiful thing that we have been given in these past 12 months is an opportunity to reset in some ways. Another therapist that I know does not like the term “silver linings” and instead introduced me to the phrase “unexpected positive outcomes” and I think that pushing ourselves to find these outcomes is a perfect way for us to reflect on entering March 2021. Has anyone taken the time to measure the past year in the good moments? Can we measure it in the extra time we have spent with the ones we live with and love as we have been spending more time in our homes? Do we measure the ways in which our communities have helped others who have been in need? Do we measure it in any personal growth we have had in changing habits and behaviors such as exercise, healthy eating, reading, meditating and so much more? Do we measure it in the work we have done on ourselves through therapy or by ourselves to grow and work through our own inner pain? Do we measure it in just the fact that we have gotten through it all and are sitting here today to tell our stories?
As I am writing this, part of me feels like there was no way for me to even do a reflection on the past 12 months and give the immensity of it all justice. My brain is feeling the jumble of conflicting emotions even as I sit here trying to put into words all that I have felt and absorbed. Truly, there was and is no way for me to be able to fully articulate what this past year has meant for me, or for anyone else for that matter. The feelings and heaviness of it all are indescribable, and I also know that all of you who are reading this have lived through the same 12 months as me and have had your own experience of it that is individual to you. I just hope that you are able to take a moment to reflect on all of it, the good and the bad, the setbacks and the growth. I know for me, I am going to be sure to measure the last 12 months in what I have done, instead of only that which I have not. I am going to reflect and focus on the wonderful things I have seen communities do for one another. I am going to reflect on that which I have gained, instead of just all that has been lost. While this has been a year filled with loss, hate, and anxiety, I am going to honor all of those emotions, and still try to choose to measure this year in love.
I have been practicing therapy for 15 years and have worked with countless individuals, families and couples. While I do not want to claim to be an "expert" on all things therapy or life (because I always believe that there is room to grow and learn) I have noticed throughout my time connecting with my clients that similar struggles and repetitive patterns present themselves that affect how clients experience and see life. I wanted to take this experience with my clients and the knowledge I have gained and share it here, so that maybe it can touch others lives the way it has helped my clients.