If you like I made New Year’s Resolutions for 2020, you had the best excuse for not keeping them up beyond March.
The pandemic – and the never-ending upheavals to even our healthiest routines – sabotaged most of our plans, rearranged our goals and robbed us of many of the joys of daily life.
At this time, in any other year, I would sit down with my wife and children to review the old calendar. I would invariably be surprised with what has happened in the span of just one year. The media recapitulates the big world events with retrospective spins, but what matters most to you and me are our personal experiences.
This year was totally different.
We missed out on celebrating birthdays, anniversaries and other events that would normally bring us together; time spent with family and friends; plays and musicals seen with my wife – all cancelled indefinitely due to the necessary restrictions of the pandemic.
Before moving on to a New Year, we would ask, “What are we most grateful for?”
In contrast to the disruptions to our lives, the terrible impact on the physical, emotional and social wellbeing of so many of us, and the lives lost during this world-wide health crisis, there were redeeming actions taken by many for which I am grateful.
So many individuals and organizations, recognizing those who have been most impacted by the pandemic and the necessary public health restrictions, worked individually and collectively to reduce those burdens.
If you have reached out to a neighbour, an elderly family member or families struggling with social isolation and the financial burden of the pandemic, I thank you.
With few exceptions, we have seen a wellspring of kindness to lift one another up. We have worked as individuals and as a community to protect and support the most vulnerable.
I appreciate the wonderful, kind actions of others; my gracious patients who continue to entrust me with their care, adapting to the new ways of connecting; my colleagues who support me in our shared calling; the many good people I have worked with to improve the health of our community; my friends, and my family.
As individuals and as a community, we have to recognize what we have endured and survived. Now more than ever, I reflect on these questions. How have we been helped? How have we helped others? What have we learned? How have we grown? The answers are measures of a year and of our lives.
In spite of the shifting sands of this past year, we have learned much. The general public now knows more than they ever did about infectious diseases, the novel coronavirus, physical distancing, the value of wearing masks and hand hygiene.
Most of us learned to use Zoom and other online video platforms for the first time.
We’ve also discovered the impact of acting collectively for the wellbeing of all.
And more than ever, we recognize what really is important in our lives. Of course, we miss vacations, parties, dinners, hanging out with friends, and going to school or work the old fashion ways.
More profoundly, we missed our physical and social connections with one another. This really is what life is all about.
Entering each New Year, we reflect on what we will do differently. Within the guidelines of public health, what activities should we do more of? What should we reduce? What should we cut out all together? What can we create?
We know we cannot predict what 2021 will bring us. We have to accept those things beyond control, but given our strengthened recognition of what we value most, where will we devote our time, energy and attention?
What positive actions can we each take to regain a sense of wellbeing and connection to the people in our lives? What can we do together? What can we do for others?
The pandemic has reminded us that life, relationships and each moment are precious.
This year, I’ll be continuing my work with the Burnaby Division of Family Practice in our free public health lectures (now being presented virtually during the pandemic).
I’ll be giving a free online talk on The Keys to Positive Change at 7 pm on Tuesday, January 19th, 2021. As part of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice’s Empowering Patients public health education program, I’ll share practical tips for improving your wellbeing and making positive changes that last. These are the secrets that my patients and I have successfully used to transform new habits into healthy routines that stick.
For more information, please check this website over the next few weeks or https://divisionsbc.ca/burnaby/for-patients/empowering-patients or email Leona Cullen at email@example.com (Please be patient while the Division works on providing the link to my online talk. I’ll update this site as soon as it becomes available).
Davidicus Wong is a family physician and his Healthwise columns appear regularly in this paper. For more on achieving your positive potential in health, see his website at www.davidicuswong.wordpress.com.