Cultivating Gratitude in Adversity
As we approach Thanksgiving, many Americans turn our thoughts to all that we’ve been grateful for this past year. 2020 hasn’t made it easy, not by a long shot. But cultivating gratitude, especially during a long period of adversity, provides us with a true gift. An attitude of appreciation or thankfulness reminds us that there is good to be found, even in the most difficult of times, and it naturally lifts our spirits.
Want to be happy? Be grateful.” – David Steindl-Rast, monk and interfaith scholar
Yes, there is an entire TED talk devoted to this subject. (Just click this link.) Happiness, David suggests, is born from gratitude. The key is to slow down, look where you’re going, and above all, be grateful.
Thanksgiving provides us with an opportunity to do just that. Like the pilgrims stopped to give thanks for making it through their difficult first year, I think many of us will follow suit. A degree of happiness and optimism is indeed found by dwelling on the positive in any given situation. Here is my list, in no particular order except by stream of consciousness, of those top ten things that I'm grateful for this year. I started with the day-to-day concerns of work and routine and moved out to a wider view of life during Covid:
1. The film industry is finally opening up in Atlanta! Long awaited, more and more productions in TV, film, industrials, and commercials have figured out how to create content while protecting their cast and crew by implementing vigorous Covid testing and distancing requirements. Actors are breathing (through their masks) a collective sigh of relief. Creatives have an innate need to express their talents and the months-long shutdown has been incredibly frustrating to artistic souls. And, of course, very taxing on the pocketbook.
2. The voiceover industry didn’t suffer the complete halt that on-camera work did. Yes, it slowed down significantly during the first few months when everyone everywhere was quarantined. But it began to rebound strongly in the summer months, especially in the areas of eLearning and (surprise, surprise) medical narration. Many voice actors in the major markets of LA and New York had to scurry to create home studios, but I’m profoundly grateful that the Southeast was ahead of the curve on this one. Long before the pandemic, we were told that a home studio was becoming essential, and I’m very thankful that my broadcast-quality studio was already up and running. All I had to do was add Source Connect for clients wanting to use it for directed sessions, which was a relatively easy thing to do.
3. I love the convenience of my favorite fitness classes moving to an online presence! I work out daily in a Pilates, barre, or step aerobics class. While I had to buy some small pieces of exercise equipment, like resistance bands, a soft rubber ball, and hand weights, I am more than happy to work out from home. And I love saving the travel time to and from these studios, not to mention being able to totally avoid traffic congestion, parking headaches, or being out in bad weather. I can even take classes that I normally wouldn’t be able to make, especially those scheduled too close to dinner time. I also like having a virtual front row spot and an unobstructed view of the instructor. And it’s especially convenient that no one can see me check my phone from time to time during class. (To any of my instructors reading this, pretend you didn't see that last sentence.)
4. My daughter has been able to attend school in person, albeit with testing, masks, and social distancing in place. Her school implements testing and safety precautions to the nth degree, with the teachers, students, administrators, and their families exercising diligence at home, too. Consequently, there have been extremely few cases of Covid, and these are handled immediately with quarantine of those involved, so that the rest of the school population remains safe. I’m doubly thankful that she can attend school and visit with her friends there. It makes for a much happier kid! I’m also thankful that she’s old enough to drive herself to school, which has freed up many more hours in my week that I can now use towards other purposes. It’s also translated into more, much needed sleep. I rarely have to spend longer hours up at night trying to fit everything that needs to be done in one day. More sleep equals a better overall mood, a happier outlook, more energy, greater productivity, and a stronger immune system to fight off all the viruses and bugs out there. Definitely a win-win.
5. Speaking of health, I’m incredibly grateful that my family has remained healthy this year. Even without Covid, there are tragedies that touch families that fortunately we've been spared this year. My heart goes out to one family I know whose sweet little girl has been fighting cancer for well over a year, dealing with seizures and impairments that sadly developed from both the cancer and its treatments. Another dear friend is waging a losing war with cancer that has relentlessly recurred, attacking one part of her body after another, no matter what treatments she follows. And of course, there are those battling long periods of illness due to Covid. I pray that all those afflicted will recover quickly and completely; my prayers are also with those whom I know cannot.
6. I am also grateful that my immediate family – my husband, my kids – is together in our home. Not so great for my recent college graduate, who was eager to start an independent adult life in Boston, but as his mother, I’m glad to have him with us. The downside is not being able to visit my elderly parents who live out of state, except through Zoom calls. But I’m thankful for Zoom, which allows us to easily video conference with one another.
7. I’m also profoundly grateful for my family’s financial stability and that we’re not suffering the deprivations that so many others are struggling with. I’m thankful to be able to help out through the wonderful non-profit organizations that work tirelessly to support those who need a hand up during these hard times.
8. I’m profoundly thankful to my child’s teachers for going above and beyond the scope of their responsibilities to try to make life at school as normal as possible for their students. That goes for all teachers out there, and doubly for the first responders who risk their own well-being to care for others who desperately need their help.
9. Zoom classes, webinars, virtual instruction, and social meet-ups! Thank you to Zoom itself, as well as all those who provide social outlets, educational content, and interactive learning. It help tremendously in maintaining our sanity and need for socialization. By extension, I’m grateful to all the streaming entertainment that so many have turned to over these long months. Thank goodness for the internet! Can you imagine how much more difficult this experience would have been if the pandemic had happened thirty years earlier?
10. Finally, I’m thankful that 2021 is just around the corner! With Pfizer and Moderna leading the way in providing highly effective vaccines, we can’t help but hope that this nightmare will be over by this time next year … if not sooner. In this respect, 2021 promises to be a much happier year when we can all breathe a (healthy) sigh of relief and begin to resume our lives more or less “normally” as before.
No doubt, when this pandemic is relegated to the rear view mirror, we as individuals and as a society will be profoundly changed by our collective experience. Hopefully, we will also come out of this with a little gratitude for what good we did discover, and especially how much worse things might have been. This is not to minimize the loss that many suffered. For those who lost loved ones, my heart goes out to you. For those whose lives were completely upended by job loss and financial crises, I wish you a rapid turnaround of fortune. But adversity is a great teacher, and I do hope that we all are more awakened spiritually as a result of all this. We are social creatures, we need one another, we need to help one another in so many ways throughout our lives.
Thanksgiving provides a time for reflection to consider the good even in the most difficult times. I hope you and yours enjoy a wonderful holiday filled with happiness, health, and appreciation.