As a child, I vividly recall how my parents, of blessed memory, always believed that irrespective of the challenges or crises in our lives, we should always remember that only GD controls the world and that there are reasons for good and evil in the world which are beyond our understanding. They continuously encouraged me, my siblings and others to always search for the silver-linings which affect us and those around us. They were indeed a dear couple whose personal dispositions, irrespective of adversity or circumstances, were always extremely positive and contagiously inspiring.
As I matured, I began to more fully understand and appreciate their incredible positive mindset. This level of profound positivity has helped guide me through adversity, crisis and unanticipated challenges. To be sure, it is anchored and deeply rooted in my religious practice and personal value proposition which aspires to promote, embrace, and at times celebrate positive, hopeful and optimistic thinking. To quote the great Lubavitcher Rebbe z”l, “Think good and it will be good”.
Following this past year of harsh pandemic impact, social isolation, sadness and unprecedented physical and emotional separation, we are only beginning (emphasis on beginning) to witness a bright glimmer of hope for a return to some form of “normalcy”. I prefer to call it a “realignment of normalcy” instead of a “new normal”. It is not new….but rather a familiar normal which is realigned with new realities and circumstances.
With the recent proliferation of new vaccines and a reduction in COVID-19 infections in most locations, we are now beginning to see a glimpse of hope to the long arduous tunnel of uncertainty. The recent decrease in positive viral infection cases (albeit still relatively high in select communities), as well as reduced hospitalizations and increased immunizations, are all hopeful and positive indicators. Although we are not yet out of the woods, we are thank GD that we are a far cry from where we were a year ago.
In retrospect, as we look back over this past year, there are so many lessons learned as well as profoundly important take-a-ways and reflections which currently inform our thinking, feelings, perspectives behaviors, attitudes and values. Yes, the Pandemic of 2020 has left an indelible impact on our lives and will continue to change our lives as never before imaginable. Some positive, others significantly less so. But, our challenge above all others, should be to try to use this past year’ s experience as a foundation and as a framework and catalyst for a positive realignment of our values and priorities…..be they personal, familial, professional or communal.
For starters, as opposed to using trigger words or catch-phrases such as transformative, game-changer, new normal, paradigm-shift, and the like…..my personal preference (underscoring personal) for describing our COVID 19 experience is through the concept of realignment.
As we cautiously move further from the epicenter of COVID-related health and safety restrictions and precautions, we should begin to take a deep cleansing breath and start appreciating a new found freedom from the shackles and burden of social and emotional constraints created by a year of hardship, grief, anxiety and restrictions.
This feeling should create a realignment of our attitudes, values, ideals and beliefs. It should heighten our individual and collective communal awareness and consciousness regarding our priorities. What used to be passé to most of us may now be important; and, what used to be important is now essential or even imperative.
Several personal examples and thoughts at the top of the pyramid of realigned values and relationships are described as follows:
Prior to the Pandemic of 2020 , we all recall those memorable phone calls or Facetime exchanges with parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, cousins and uncles which were all so taken so much for granted. If we missed a scheduled or anticipated call or Facetime chat, we would be inclined to return the call at a time of convenience. Or, how about those thoughts about wanting to visit out of town family for a Chag, birthday, or other milestones which were easily delayed or pushed–off to a future time and place when the calendar would be less busy, cluttered or congested with “other competing commitments or appointments”. But, as we know well, in life there is really never a “convenient time” for anything. Procrastination is one of life’s greatest enemies. Ceasing the opportunity should no longer be a catch-phrase. It should be an imperative of monumental importance.
Just think back over a year ago. Had we known then what we know now….. we would have dropped everything in a split second to grab the opportunity to visit with loved ones, to kiss and hug children and grandchildren, to participate in social/communal contact activity, to pray in a synagogue or to visit the sick. In hindsight, of course, it was impossible to know then what we know now. But, the challenge for us today should be to appreciate what we know now, and how our past needs to inform our future. Let 20/20 Hindsight become our Foresight Objective ( C. Botwinick, Think Excellence: Harnessing Your Power to Succeed Beyond Greatness, Brown Publishing Group, 2011).
As we move into the future, I am mindful of the painful and tearful moments when many of us were unable to recite kaddish with a minyan for a dear loved one; attend a funeral or visit a shiva home; the tireless yearning to participate with others in tefillah with a minyan, and in face-to-face real-time Torah classes and lectures; the frustrating inability to fulfil our obligation and responsibility to visit the infirmed in a hospital or nursing home…….and, finally, the feeling of emptiness in not being able to experience the tremendous joy, beauty and wonderment of a Shabbat or Yom Tov meal together with family and friends.
These were just a few of life’s many precious moments which were curtailed for most of 2020. For many, the pain, loneliness and the despair was palpable….especially for those who lost loved ones and friends to the horrible ravishes of the Pandemic. They were also exacerbated by levels of uncertainty about the future course of the Pandemic and its future impact on our lives.
Today, thank GD, many of these feelings of despair and loss, albeit still very fresh and real, are being partially eclipsed and soothed by a glimmer of hope, promise and optimism. We have no choice but to create a realignment of our trust and faith that things will get better soon and that as time progresses, we will be blessed with amazing opportunities for growth and happiness.
As we aspire to change our mindset to a more positive narrative, we should try to embrace and realign new priorities and opportunities like never before.
Several of these realigned life priorities may include but not be limited to:
- Creating more quality time with immediate and extended family;
- Going that extra-mile to help those in need, whether they be at home or infirmed
- Participating more fully in chesed and charity initiatives
- Counting one’s blessings by being gracious and thankful for what we do have;
- Never putting off for tomorrow with what we can do today by eliminating procrastination;
- Trying to be more understanding, sensitive, empathetic and respectful of others irrespective of differing points of view;
- Developing a closer and more spiritual relationship with GD through prayer, Torah study and the fulfilling of mitzvot;
- Working continuously to align and realign our values;
- Not sweating the small stuff, but focusing rather on those challenges and opportunities that will really make a difference in ones life (to paraphrase Dr. Stephen Covey…”focus on the big rocks, not the small pebbles”); and
- Always seek ways to change a less than positive narrative to one which inspires and celebrates positive thinking and hopefully positive outcomes.
The above considerations are just a cursory glimpse into the variety of ways in which to realign our values and priorities, irrespective of adversity or the challenges we face;
As difficult as they may appear to be, positivity through realignment is attainable and achievable. But, first and foremost, we must develop a deep felt conviction and commitment to pursue such a path of positive growth.
The experiences of these past twelve months have provided us with a foundation upon which to build this new and emerging mindset. It is my hope and prayer that GD will grant all of us excellent health, wisdom, ability and a bandwidth to turn this challenge into promise and promise into reality.
Its time to realign….