T.S. Eliot says April is the cruelest month (The Wasteland), but February has my vote. I thought I would get a coronavirus vaccination this month but, like millions of others, discovered it will be much later because my state botched its vaccine rollout. The isolated seniors with whom I check in each week despair. We need hope.
Adding insult to injury, I was so excited to see primrose blossoms and daffodil shoots in my garden that I nearly cried when frigid weather blew in. Now my garden is buried under ten inches of snow. Dreams of an early spring were an illusion born of February’s desperation. The long pandemic winter continues. This is depressing.
Like the seniors with whom I speak regularly, I need a way to keep from going crazy. I could call my strategy “Plan B,” but I passed “B” a long time ago. This one is “R” for “reframing.”
Reframing is a mental exercise similar to changing the frame surrounding a picture. Although the picture itself remains the same, we experience it differently depending on the frame through which we view it. Whether our focus lingers on a dark red barn, a white moon, or a pale blue sky depends on the framing. The first example below draws the eye to the German words along the edge of the print while the Madonna and Child become almost secondary. In the second (click arrow below), the viewer is riveted on the Madonna sheltering her child and feels the protective comfort she provides (Madonna of Stalingrad drawn by Kurt Reuber in trenches of WWII). Same picture, different frame, different experience.
Something similar happens when we mentally reframe a difficult situation. A roadblock becomes a challenge; a mistake becomes a learning opportunity; a pandemic becomes a season for reassessing values, changing our life, building resiliency.
As the first pandemic year turns becomes a second, reframing helps us not only survive the pandemic but celebrate the good we have brought from it. Reframing helps us go forward with hope.
First, the fact that we were resilient enough to survive a year of the pandemic is worth celebrating. We made it. Yes, there is more ahead, but we survived. None of us imagined what the year would be like, nor that constraints on our life would last so long. The muscles of resiliency we strengthened last year will grow even stronger in 2021. Reframing the pandemic to celebrate our resilience and perseverance helps us keep going. We can do this. (See Resilience in Many Forms)
Second, the past year has been a season of growth. We read, streamed, cleaned, cooked, began new hobbies, and learned new technology skills. In 2021 we take that to a new level. There are more books to read, movies to watch, skills to expand, and cuisines to explore-and plenty of time to do it.
In the early months of the coronavirus, we sorted pantries, closets, and garages. Now we can do it all over again and peel away another layer. Stuff that seemed essential last year no longer does. Cull paperwork. Rethink a room. Simplify our space. Redo storage and closets. Add a houseplant. Throw away that ugly chair. (See Open My Window, Birds Still Sing)
February will end. The snow will melt. Spring will come. Government logistics are already improving and vaccine supplies increasing. We will emerge from pandemic isolation eventually. I promise.
We have made it this far and proven our resilience. Surviving coronavirus with our sanity will not be easy, but we can make it easier by reframing our experience. Looking across my desk to the snowy garden beyond my windows, I live in hope.