• Dr. Sharon Livingston


Do you remember how exciting the beginning of the year was, as the calendar turned 2020?

The puns abounded, with an expectation or hope of gaining clarity through 2020 vision.

As challenging as 2020 has been -- and as much as many of us are optimistically looking forward to 2021 and letting go of a catastrophic time in the world -- there have been things which have become clearer.

Here are a few observations I’ve had in no particular order. I’m sure you can add to them.

- It is possible for a large percentage of people to work at home and get at least as much done as going to the office.

- I know you’ve heard this before, but this year proves the point that nothing is certain but uncertainty.

- Living with a life partner while sheltering in place can actually make your relationship stronger although we’ve heard a lot to the contrary.

- We can meet virtually to teach and learn, to gather, to dance, to sing, to see people, to celebrate. And you don’t have to drive to get there or be sure you’re awake enough to drive home.

- You can tell if someone is smiling just by seeing their eyes above their mask.

- There really was no reason for a run on toilet paper.

- My one bottle of rubbing alcohol has lasted for 4 years and there’s still a quarter of it left. But why is the new batch of alcohol 70% isopropyl while my old one is 91%?

- I can’t see or hear as well while wearing a face mask.

On a more serious side, we’ve been challenged to adapt and we’ve also been given an opportunity to learn more about ourselves. One insight I’ve gained is that a person’s real personality becomes clearer and manifests itself in a time of crisis. You find out who is friendly or not. You also learn who you can trust and rely on.

Let’s reframe the painful changes of 2020 and think about the adventure we’ve all had to face. More specifically, what’s one thing you’re taking into the new year that you feel proud of? Let me give you an example.

I have a number of clients who feel anxious spending time alone. That’s not unusual in my practice which helps people deal with stress.

One of my clients is the ultimate people person. He and his significant other have thought about moving in together, but still have separate homes, although they spend 5 or 6 out of 7 nights together. She likes her alone time. He prefers to be under the same roof.

He learned that he was exposed to COVID and would have to self-quarantine. That forced him to stay sheltered in place for 9 days.

Like others in similar positions, at first it was very uncomfortable, but they all found their “sea legs” and learned how to take care of themselves at home alone.

I suggest to everyone that they write about their thoughts and feelings every day.

This client used his musings to publish articles on his personal blog. He returned to playing his guitar instead of using it as a room decoration. He visited with friends on Zoom to talk about common interests. He loves to think about time travel and invited a few buddies with similar interests to discuss articles about it. He reached out to family members and offered them support – math lessons for the kids, a listening ear for older cousins who were feeling lonely. He organized a workout group and showed his man friends how to do exercises that could be done in one’s home. He watched old time movies that his partner might not have found as interesting – swashbucklers with Errol Flynn.

When the ban was lifted, he and his partner had a romantic reunion that reinforced their love and connection. He felt stronger and more self-confident, knowing he could enjoy time with himself.

My holiday wish for all of us is to get a clearer appreciation for our personal gifts. 2020 has been difficult, to say the least. At the same time, it’s given us a chance to get to know ourselves better and find ways to better care for ourselves and value our differences as we stay in touch with the people that we care about most.

Here’s to a Holiday Season filled with the hope and optimism of a New Year and a clear recognition and appreciation for our capabilities, no matter what the future brings.