Recently, a friend asked me how I was doing. My response caught them off guard: Instead of my usual “Great!” I said “Hanging on by a SINGLE thread!”
But you look so happy in your Instagram and Facebook posts, they responded confusedly. That’s when I realized that in a world where there is so much gray, we can still have bursts of joy and yet feel like we are one problem away from falling apart.
Who can blame us? Most of us expected the COVID-19 crisis to last a couple of months. As the end of 2021 approaches, we’ve endured nearly two years of pandemic. It weighs heavily now, in the closing days of our year.
I know that I’ve been in a place of immense privilege throughout it all. I’ve had the luxury of working from home. I’ve kept my job. My social engagements shifted to Zoom. I have a roof over my head. I know where my next meal is coming from. My life is relatively stable.
But I, like others, can’t shake the blahs. In late April, I read a profound article that put a word to this feeling: languishing. The piece highlighted joylessness and aimlessness as root feelings that lead to emptiness and stagnation. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. Because I feel it, and I know others feel it, too. Because we are human.
Social media platforms constantly feed us content about political wars, inequities, crises, and so much more. As time passes, we collect and carry all of it. It weighs us down. In addition to carrying the world’s problems, we also have to muster the strength for daily tasks to keep our lives on track.
It’s overwhelming. It’s exhausting.
But I consider myself a problem-solver, so I maintain hope in finding a solution. I don’t want to feel this way this much or this often. Neither do my friends, family, or colleagues.
I have found relief in two things: Thoughtful self-care and filling my cup through service.
The new cornerstone of my self-care plan is to say “no” when I don’t feel like doing something and being OK with that. Being OK with not having an elaborate excuse. Being OK with normalizing the fact that we can’t do it all, all the time. We can face the plain fact that balancing our careers, families, community activities, and mental health takes a lot from us. It’s OK to not be OK and be vocal about it.
I’ve found great comfort in focusing on my emotional intelligence and in being vulnerable. I have a community that is ready to jump in and support me. We have a community ready to lend a hand when we are feeling aimless or even hopeless.
We are not wandering alone.
I have found my community and a support system through the social impact causes for which I volunteer. Giving back to my community gives me hope. I can envision a brighter future because of it. When I work hand-in-hand with others to create an opportunity for someone to access a college education or a professional development opportunity, or when I can support someone as they start a business or nonprofit, I feel grateful. I have found that one of the best antidotes for blah is to practice gratitude daily.
Showing kindness to others and being of service to others is what makes our community a better place for everyone as we continue to navigate the pandemic.
And as we finish our year together, I have three wishes for you and yours: Peace, strength, and care.
Liz Codina supports local efforts to build thriving communities in the Omaha area. Previously, she worked for nonprofit agencies in program management and development roles. She is among the leaders of the South Omaha Business Association and is vice-president of the Metro Young Latino Professionals Association. For more Civic Nebraska Writers Group columns, click here.