Many of us welcomed the new year with hope and optimism – perhaps a bit shaky – only to face two weeks of deeply unsettled feelings. We may have already felt disappointment at not meeting the shiny new goals we created. Staying informed about national and global events is valuable, but we may find it an extremely heavy burden to carry. Responding with action or productive dialogue has been helpful for some. However, I have noticed that many of us have sunk into varying degrees of depression as we recognize the new year has not brought us greater hope with each passing day. How can we fight through? While I hesitate to even use the word “zoom” after the year 2020, I want to encourage each of us to zoom out from the national stage and zoom in to our own community.
When I focus on our beautiful community on the Palouse, I see individuals practicing resilience, service, care and creativity. I have children attending three different Moscow schools, and I have been incredibly impressed by the myriad ways these teachers have adapted to continually changing circumstances and requirements. My children have felt the impact of that genuine care and compassion. I am inspired by the various church communities who have pivoted to find ways to support members spiritually and emotionally while also prioritizing their physical safety. Our health care workers have been nearly superhuman in their response to the mounting challenges they have faced. Each of these individuals deserve our respect and commendation.
On a smaller scale, we can look even more closely at our own friends, loved ones, community leaders and those who serve us daily. If we judge individuals based solely on divisive Facebook comments, our turmoil may increase. If we look at the quiet acts of goodness, kindness, resilience and courage surrounding us, our spirits can be lifted. Whenever I pick up my children from their in-person days at school, I am so impressed with their capabilities to wear masks for so many hours and for their positive attitudes about being nearer to friends and teachers. Our family has grown closer despite the fear and anxiety we are facing together. Uncertainty in the future can help us reevaluate what is certain in our lives.
Many of us on the Palouse are battling significant mental health challenges, economic setbacks and negative changes in social relationships, but we are not facing them alone. As we turn to dependable family, friends, spiritual leaders, community support services and health professionals, we may see that there is support available and a positive way forward. As overwhelming as it is that the entire world is facing chaos and uncertainty, we can draw comfort from the fact that we are not alone in our fear or our grief, as well as our resilience and creativity.
We may be in a place where we have the strength to serve. Alternatively, we may need service and sometimes we need to ask for assistance. Many are eager to help but do not know our needs. Asking for help may be difficult, humbling or accompanied by a sense of shame or failure. But please remember that being helped today better enables us to help others in the future. Throughout our lives, our times of struggle build us into people of compassion.
Finally, we may feel the magnetic pull of the latest updates and recent reactions to the news via social media, but I would encourage each one of us to break away and step outside instead. We can then observe the latest changes in nature and feel our emotional reactions as winter slowly slips into spring. Beauty is to be found both in the individuals around us and the complex intricacies of each tree and plant we encounter.
As we allow ourselves to feel all the feelings of 2021, may we be conscious of our focus, and intentional about what we allow to take up space in our minds each day. There is beauty we are missing when we focus on all that is dark and outside our control. May we seek out the beauty around us and increase in peace and purpose.
Amanda Palmer is a doctoral student at the University of Idaho who has been planting roots and raising children on the Palouse since 2012.