If nothing else, 2020 has shown us that we can all do better. We can be better citizens, more understanding of those who seek equality and of those who are feeling the pain of the past and the present. We must learn how to disagree without being disagreeable. Here are some ideas to help make that happen.
1. Be more tolerant. To mask or not to mask is not the question, but it has become a political hot button. Those of us who want to wear a mask can learn to be OK crossing the street on our walks if some mask-less person is coming from the other direction. This is a very minor example of how to deal with the present and not get your knickers in a twist. If you are aware that you might have to take a few extra steps, make that OK. It removes any tension.
2. Do the right thing. Between the pain of the pandemic, unemployment throwing many families into food and housing insecurity, and the outrage many people are currently feeling about law enforcement, we have to get better at making the necessary changes and lifting one another up.
3. Keep your chin up. In one way or another, pretty much everyone is living out a battle scene from "Game of Thrones." This is not an easy time, but there is some good coming out of it, and those ideas, actions, and feelings need to be nurtured and held close.
4. Be respectful of other people's comfort levels. As some shelter-in-place rules lift, there's more room (pardon the pun) for negotiation -- How far apart is far enough? Should we bring our own food to your backyard BBQ? However you work it out is okay. There's no one right answer.
5. Treasure the time together. Families are getting closer in many respects. As we live this new pod-life (hanging out with just a few people we know very well), the depth of those relationships, blood or not, is growing, and that is a part of life we may not have taken as seriously before.
6. Lower your personal expectations. If you only survive this crisis, you are doing great. You don't have to come out of it with rock hard abs, speaking a foreign language, or creating the next big thing. Right now and for the near future, it is about making sure that you and those you love are doing OK physically, emotionally, and mentally.
7. Use the extra time on your hands constructively. We wake, we have coffee, take a walk. I then write and perhaps talk to someone. I'm usually done by early afternoon, and that leaves a lot of the day to be cherished in some way. So my wife and I do something small to improve the house, make sure the news is off by sunset, and find a show to watch (loving TNT's "Snowpiercer") or even do karaoke together.
8. If you are alone, be sure to reach out to someone at least once a day. People are calling, texting, emailing, Facebooking, to get back in touch with old friends or make new ones. If you are isolated, please know that there is assistance available but you will have to make some calls or send some emails to get it. And if you know someone who is alone, just say hi, it can make such a difference in their lives. Please don't be shy, because it will make you feel better too.
If we are all our best selves in a time of crisis, we will get through it with much less damage to our families, our neighbors, and our country. We all know we can do better. Taking the first step is to make that happen and walk on the positive side of the street.
(Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author of "The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time." Follow his daily insights on Twitter at @BartonGoldsmith, or email him at Barton@bartongoldsmith.com.)
(c)2020 Barton Goldsmith
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