These are fragile times. People have endured unprecedented challenges and restrictions on their movements and social interactions for two years and counting, and for many, many people it will take a long time to recover. In the past 24 hours, two articles have shown up in my news feed that just wouldn’t have been there before our time with COVID.
On CBC online (Canadian Broadcasting Corp): Anxiety, depression, loneliness at highest levels among Canadians since early pandemic: survey … Nearly 1 in 4 respondents said they needed — but could not access — mental health support last year.
From the Globe and Mail: Why loneliness is a serious and growing problem among seniors.
It’s not just seniors who are grappling with these issues. And the reasons and circumstances vary. But the constraints of the pandemic has severely impacted people’s ability to lead full, rewarding lives.
A few days ago a blog post appeared in my inbox from Francine Sullivan’s Where on Earth is Francine. She hadn’t posted for a long while and I was anxious to hear what she had been up to. Talk about someone who has figured out how to have a full life on her own; in retirement Francine has, for the last several years, been a house sitter (and sometimes pet sitter) for people around the world. As one of those unfortunate Canadians for whom winter is not her favourite season, she has found pleasant house-sitting arrangements in exotic, warm weather places in which to pass the winter months. It’s always fun to read about as she learns about a new place and shares those observations. Until COVID.
Her post this past week, entitled The Importance of Recognizing our Own Self-Worth, is impressively honest and insightful. She relates her sadness at her world imploding, but she also identifies what was most damaging, that in losing her self-affirming routines she had lost a sense of purpose. That is an insight many of us might take to heart. And her post talks about how she began to take action to regain that all-important sense of self-worth. I encourage you to read her entire post. A link to the full post follows.
The Importance of Recognizing Our Own Self-Worth (by Francine Sullivan)
As I look back at my previous post, Wings of Change, written just three months ago, I see that the first sentence in that post compared that time to one year previously, where I’d written about The Only Constant in Life is Change. See a common thread here? Well, things also changed significantly for me during the past three months.
In October of 2021 I wrote excitedly of my plans to spend three months in Mexico, mid-December to mid-March, starting with a month-long house sit and then adventuring out to neighbouring areas. Over the past two years, people have spoken of ‘pre-pandemic’. My plans had been made pre-Omicron, and things shifted quickly as this new variant spread rapidly. In the forefront of my mind was that I’d made a commitment and was not someone who would let anyone down. Then, as the variables of so many what-ifs crossed my mind, and the various Plan Bs were considered, I came to a point where the anxiety of what might happen, although it seemed like the worse-case scenario, started to overwhelm me.
Once I had made the decision that my health had to take precedence over my commitment, I contacted the house sit homeowners. They were compassionate, understanding, non-judgmental, and supportive. They were quickly able to work on their Plan B and make alternate arrangements. Sadly, many of the things I had considered as worse-case scenarios have since happened to many, and so I had not been at all alarmist in my thoughts. I kept in touch with the homeowners, and learned that their travels, and that of their family members, had been disrupted by not only the pandemic but also the inclement weather that affected flights. It was a not-so-perfect storm and the homeowner commented that I had made a wise choice in deciding not to travel. Soon after, our government had also reinstated its advisory to avoid non-essential travel. I now have no intention of travelling any distance until things are far more settled.
So where has that left me? Physically, in another cold Canadian winter. However, with a great sense of relief that is far stronger than my dislike of cold weather. Where has it left me emotionally? Something I probably would not have shared publicly before this pandemic, but I am learning the benefits of sharing as it helps not only myself, but also others. Emotionally I at times struggle with feeling like my life is in a holding pattern. I’m one of those planes circling above the airport, waiting for the signal to land. The only thing is, I’m the reverse in that I’m waiting for the signal to fly again. And in the meantime? Where do I stand, emotionally? Like many others I encounter, at times finding it difficult to see how I am accomplishing much more than just ticking another day off a calendar; trying to find some real purpose in my life.
This week I had reason to reassess my feelings of worth. In part it was from an interaction with someone I volunteer with, who phoned and appeared overly anxious about a project we were working on. In truth, she was harsh with me, and yet I worked to calm her and ease her concerns. I didn’t think I’d succeeded. However, the next day she emailed me and was hard on herself for how she had treated me. She was struggling, saying she felt like she was a prisoner in her own home. This was a direct outcome of a snowstorm where we were being asked not to travel unless it was essential. Just another burden on top of the one of the past two years. I replied, asking her to be kind to herself, and asked if she would be that hard on someone else, if they had spoken a little out of turn. Of course not, she said. So then why do we do it to ourselves? Why are we so often so critical of ourselves, I wondered?
Then it was time for me to listen to those same questions. Why was I finding it difficult to find my worth and purpose these days? I took stock, and the following is not in any way to pat myself on the back, but rather to scold myself for being so unkind to myself. I continue to physically volunteer for two agencies, where I serve those in the vulnerable sector who are more harshly affected by this pandemic. I volunteer online for three organizations, giving much of my time to assist others. I will quickly say that these volunteer tasks fill much of my time. Without them, I might be climbing these walls that I hibernate in. My life does have worth, and does have value, and I need to remind myself of that. I need to be kinder to myself.
[…] To read Francine’s conclusion, please click on this link to her blog post: Where on Earth is Francine – The Importance of Recognizing Our Own Self-Worth