I’ve been pondering for quite some time how to write about 2020. What can I say that hasn’t already been said? As I’ve circled around this question, a theme has emerged. It is the relational theme that every therapist knows. Two people in a relationship (partners, parent/child, siblings–it doesn’t really matter) present a story. They are in conflict. Each wants to feel heard, understood, seen. And because there is more than one person, there will always be multiple narratives. The essence of relational therapy is understanding this most basic assertion. Even if two people are at the same place at the same time, the experience and memory of the event will be inherently different. There is no fundamental Truth.
So rather than write about what a difficult year this has been, or offering words about resilience and hope, I want to explore my own mindset about compassion, understanding others, cultivating curiosity. I invite you to do the same.
This pandemic has reshaped all of our lives in the most essential way. Everything we previously took for granted now requires thought, mindfulness, decisions. Basic activities like shopping for food, working or schooling children now necessitate choices. Is this safe? Do I have my mask? Can I go to work today? Can I pay my bills? What is most striking to me is how universal these decisions are. We are all living through this pandemic. Whether I’m speaking to family on the East Coast or in Europe, we all talk about the way we are affected and how we are coping with the pandemic. Never before in my lifetime have we all lived in the same story.
And yet, the story is so personal. My story, my experience is inextricably linked to me. My views, my beliefs, my privilege, my options, my gender, my age, my race. The list goes on and on. And for me, this is the real story of this pandemic. It’s the tale of a shared humanity that requires compassion, curiosity, grit and deep self-awareness. For some people, this year has been one horrendous challenge after another. For others, it’s been a year of opportunity and even abundance. If we think we KNOW how this is for someone else, we are operating from a place of entitlement and judgement.This parallels any relationship challenge you are in or have ever been in. We can only truly know someone else’s experience if we open ourselves up and listen with interest.
What is your story and how willing and open are you to hearing someone else’s?