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Every struggle presents opportunity for growth

By Amy Austin, RN, PsyD, LMFT
we certainly don't learn from the easy stuff

Last week I was at the market masked up like the Lone Ranger (and believe me that’s how I feel when I am wearing a mask sans my trusted horse Silver) walking up and down the aisles talking to myself (one of the perks of wearing a mask) when I heard, “Hello, how are you?” 

I stopped mid-sentence asking myself where the canned tuna was and replied, “Fine, thank you!” I was so taken back that I forgot to ask this nice gentleman how he was doing. Imagine that! A simple pleasantry, a common exchange BC (before COVID), was now a monumental event saying, “I see you. I recognize you. I know you are there. I care enough to stop and ask how you are.” 

Well, at least that was my interpretation of such a surreal moment because something as simple as an exchange that lasted a nanosecond had not happened since before COVID-19 began — a sad state of affairs for sure.

And what about the oxymoron, “social distancing?” Another one I adore is “cautiously optimistic,” but I digress. What is social about distancing? I get it’s about being socially polite and attempting to stay virus-free, but there’s nothing social about distancing. Human beings, as a whole, crave connection and communal experiences. That’s what makes life worth living. Celebrating, breaking bread, praying, sharing successes and wins together, seeking shoulders to cry on, friendships to cherish, accepting foibles and quirks and even heated discussions to lovingly resolve are part and parcel of being human. 

Face it. We need one another. 

The good news is animal shelters are at an all-time low because people are in desperate need to love and be loved. I mean, who needs a shrink when a pup is licking your face or a kitty is purring in your lap? 

How do we stay connected during a time when we are told to keep six feet apart from each other, not to go out unless it’s an essential trip, and not to congregate together? 

I was at the dentist’s office and saw a woman walk through the door and spot a friend she hadn’t seen in a while. She said, “I’d give you a hug, but you know…” Yeah, we know.

Resiliency is the ability to mentally or emotionally cope with a crisis or to return to pre-crisis status quickly. The degree of resiliency differs between individuals; some bounce back sooner than others. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a cloud of frustrations, fears, and heightened anxieties. Many people are feeling shell-shocked and wondering when life will return to normal, or if not, how a new normal might look.

The mindset I keep in mind and heart and try to pass on to others, is that all struggles are opportunities. We certainly don’t learn from the easy stuff. Opportunities exist through reaching out, no matter the forum. So, touching someone’s heart – even if it’s as simple as saying hello in a supermarket – can be life-giving, life-restoring and life-sustaining. 

In Lynda Fishman’s Repairing Rainbows, she shares a truth: 

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, forgiveness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

This could be the perfect time to feed your opportunities. 

Amy Austin is a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFC# 41252) and doctor of clinical psychology in Rancho Mirage. Dr. Amy can be reached at (760) 774.0047.

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