Finding Peace in the New Year
Hope When You Don't 'Got' This
2020, need I say more?
It's been a tough year with lots of changes we neither asked for nor wanted. Our lives uprooted without any fair warning, schools and businesses closed, masks, politics.
Let me stop.
You don't need reminding, do you? You're here because you want to know that there's hope on the other side of this madness.
Let me start by saying, I'm sorry. Whatever you lost this year, or whoever it was, I know nothing can compare with that grief. I was blessed. I got COVID in early July, but I came out of it with little more than Pneumonia, whereas some people I know died because of it. It's hard to explain the feeling of loss. Maybe you didn't lose a job or a loved one, but in many ways, you lost freedoms. You lost a way of life you probably didn't even realize was so good before. You weren't ready. I'm sorry. I know some high schoolers that didn't get a graduation ceremony. That stinks! I'm sorry. The list goes on.
Inner Peace is not the absence of turmoil, but faith in where you stand, despite your circumstances.
What do you believe in? Health? Fitness? Yourself? Your abilities? Let me take a step outside of the box for a second and say that it's okay to admit that you don't 'got' this. It's really okay.
All this motivational self-talk and positive thinking isn't doing much for you if your world is falling apart, you're losing hope fast, and you have zero control over your circumstances, is it?
So, if putting on a happy face and making a vision board to share on your flawless Instagram isn't going to do the trick, then what is?
Maybe the answer isn't in looking inside yourself, but in looking up.
Humor me for a minute. What do you see when you go outside and look up? Rain? Stars? Clouds? Buildings? Now, tell me. Do you feel big? Or do you feel small? Now, think about the millions of stars out in the universe, the galaxies, the planets... think about the Sun. Now tell me.
How big do you feel?
Contrary to some, I don't believe that my 'smallness' in comparision to everything and everyone else equals insignificance. I believe there is freedom in understanding our place, in knowing that life is temporary and we can't see the beginning from the end.
So, where do we put our trust?
In the media, who spins the facts to fulfill their own agenda?
In celebrities, who, despite seeming larger than life, have their own issues and imperfections?
In our loved ones, who are just as flawed as us?
In a job we may not have at the end of the year?
Or, should we trust that something is holding everything else together? Forces working beyond ourselves? Should we trust in the fact that the sun rose every morning before we were born, and will not stop shining just because we're gone?
Life is bigger than just me.
How I Found My Peace
So far, I haven't given you any cut and dry advice on how to find that inner-peace because I'm not coming from a place of pretending I have it all together. I don't. All I can do is to share with you, what has worked for me.
Before I get into some good advice, let me tell you where I'm coming from. I am a woman of faith, so what I share today will align with timeless Scriptural wisdom, passed down through the ages. Whatever you believe, wherever you come from, I'm here to share some things that you can implement into your daily living that will help, no matter where you stand.
With each point I make, I will link Biblical passages that will go with each topic. I won't quote them in this article, but they'll be only a click away for your convenience, should you decide to investigate any further.
So, let's dive in.
1. I Disconnected from Social Media
Hello? You still there?
Oh, good. Thought I lost you for a minute.
I know, I know. Disconnecting. Seems impossible, right? Well, let me tell you, it's not. At the end of October, I deleted every social media account I had. And it hurt. For a minute. I had over 500 friends on Facebook, a couple hundred on Insta, and a few thousand followers on Twitter. That's where I did most of my writing stuff.
Don't freak out, I'm not telling you to do what I did, I know it's drastic! Again, this is what worked for me. I can only speak to my own experience, but there are other ways to take a little break from your socials and trust me, the benefits far outweigh the sacrifice.
But, what makes social media so hazardous to my health?
There's lots of information out there about the dangers of social media. Things like how addicting it can be, how it's bad for your brain, how there are so many online predators and privacy concerns, and so on. Those are not the biggest reasons why I walked away from social media.
It's silly when I think about it because by now we should all know that the version of ourselves that we post out there for everyone to see, is often our best. We want validation, we want our old classmates to think we have it all together. We want to be applauded for our accomplishments, and to be flooded with "Happy Birthday" messages once a year. Don't we? So, what makes us think, that everyone else isn't trying to do the same?
I've heard it said that comparison is the thief of joy. I agree. It's hard to be happy when you're so focused on what you wish you had, how you wish you looked, and so on. It's too much pressure!
This is not me trying to tell you to bury yourself under a rock. I'm all for staying informed about current events. However, how much bickering, debate, and bad news can we really process? How are those things beneficial to our lives?
It's difficult to find peace when you're too busy scrolling through ways to distract yourself, instead of being focused and actually doing something about your unhappiness!
Once I cleared the fog brought on by my social media accounts, I was able to really look around and analyze where I stood.
Maybe, your problem isn't Facebook or Instagram, maybe you spend too much time on Netflix, or playing video games. It's all the same. Those forms of entertainment are just that: entertainment. They hold your attention, give you a way of escape. Substance abuse does the same thing. For some people, it's the gym. Whatever it is that you're indulging in too often, is that thing that is keeping you from reaching your goals.
This brings me to the second way I found my peace.
2. I Took Inventory of my Life
I had to have a "real talk" with myself at the beginning of this process to figure out where I found my identity. I wrote down all of the labels that I had subscribed myself to over the years; you know, the kind of adjectives you use on a social media bio. My abilities, my accomplishments, and so on.
The only problem with finding your identity in what you do is that there's no guarantee you'll always be able to do that thing.
I should know.
Four years ago I was in a car accident that messed up my back. I came out of it with few outward bumps and bruises, but the internal damage, disc herniations, and so on, caused my life to change drastically. I was only twenty-two when this happened.
I was a newly-wed with a new job at a private school, and every hope and dream for the future, not knowing that the next four years of my life would be full of challenges, medical procedures, and doctor's visits with little improvement in sight.
The physical pain I endured often left me breathless, feeling hopeless, and in tears... but it wasn't just the pain to my body that had me wailing.
Once I realized I couldn't continue to measure myself based off what I could physically accomplish, I had to take a good look at the content of my character.
3. I Let Go of the Reins
Not what you expected? I'm not surprised.
We're constantly being told to make goals and take charge of our lives. I'm not saying I haven't organized myself, but I've let go of the illusion of control and I've learned something else.
I've learned to trust beyond myself.
I don't trust my own heart, because it's often led me astray. Instead, I lead my heart.
In the same way we wouldn't know North without a sense of direction, how can we trust our heart, if it's aimless?
Don't look inside yourself for the answers, look outside. Look up. Seek wisdom. Seek understanding. It's okay to not have the answers. It's okay to not feel okay. Wherever you are, whoever you are, we're all on this same road called 'life.' If you don't 'got' this, then join the club!
I found the example of who I wanted to be by looking into a very old book written by many authors over thousands of years, but each of these authors worked with the same mind, led by the same spirit. Through this very old book called the Holy Bible, I learned about the importance of wisdom, and the value of virtue, kindness, love, and compassion. I also learned about my shortcomings and my tendencies to do wrong. I learned about the law and used it as a mirror that would expose me for who I was, in all my imperfections. Finally, I learned about the mercy, love, and grace extended to me in the midst of my mess.
This is where I chose to anchor myself.
Some Final Words
While you can't control your circumstances, you can find hope. Your life doesn't have to look as put together as your Facebook feed. When you need help, ask. Seek, and you will find.
Money, prestige, and power will only take you so far. Don't compare yourself to others and their toys, instead, examine yourself.
Get rid of the noise, take inventory of your life, and find your true north. Peace is not the absence of turmoil. Joy is not the absence of sadness. Courage is not the absence of fear.
It's possible to have all of these things, and for the pain that has brought you this far, to turn into the very soil from which you spring up to face the rising sun.
Now tell me...