By Julie Mitchell – Special to the Navarro County Gazette

My whole world changed in a year that changed everyone’s whole world. My experience with cancer has felt like a microcosm in the macrocosm of COVID. I’ve felt like the tiniest piece of a 2020 Russian nesting doll, hiding in the dark of the bigger versions of myself – A pandemic hiding inside social and political unrest. Or is it political and social unrest hiding inside a pandemic?

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the vision of our world fell apart in 2020. I really do believe that we didn’t break, our facade broke. Our figurative masks shattered and a literal mask that is evidence of our deep and unrelenting vulnerability replaced it. Maybe that’s why so many people refuse to wear masks – they are so deeply uncomfortable with their own vulnerability.

To believe that Coronavirus is no different than the flu is a self soothing belief. The flu, though painful, is familiar. Everyone reading this has lived through many flu seasons. To believe in the danger of this pandemic, is to believe that you are vulnerable and responsible for others who are vulnerable. Who doesn’t want to be free from that kind of worry or responsibility? All you have to do is choose to believe what you want to believe to be true.

Life is so much easier that way. How many of us have known someone in a terrible relationship or a terrible work environment who is able to deny how bad it is? It’s a coping mechanism. We’re seeing a lot of that in politics too. A whole lot of us, maybe even most of us, are finding ways to believe that what we want to believe to be true is, in fact, true.

And, we’re so angry with each other for not seeing the truth as we see it. If, perhaps, we could try to see that we are all just using different methods of self preservation, we could forgive each other.

Some of us are trying to preserve our sense of control by controlling everything. Some of us trying to preserve our sense of control by denying everything. And most of us are furious that we can’t control each other.

Lots and lots of us are saying and thinking, “I can’t wait for things to go back to normal.” And lots and lots of us are saying and thinking, “We just have to carry on as though things are normal – business as usual.”

On a personal level, I was doing the former. I was holding on to the thought that once my cancer treatments were over, I could get my life back. Things would go back to the way they were before my cancer diagnosis in February.

A very wise doctor helped me see the flaw in my thinking. There is no going back. If I spend my life trying to get my old life back, I will be constantly disappointed. I’ve got a whole new life to explore, why waste my time lamenting the fact that I can’t get my previous life back?

My doctor said, “You’re in a new relationship.”

Suddenly, I saw the life ahead of me so differently. Cancer isn’t a bump in the road, it’s a detour to a different life. So is COVID-19 – it is a giant detour for this country and the whole world. I don’t think this pandemic is a “Let’s get back on track” kind of event. I think it’s a, “We were way off track and now, hopefully, we can see that,” kind of event.

We were full speed ahead in January 2020 and we’ve had a year long detour that has slowed us down, made us look around, made us really take a deep think about our lives, made us appreciate some things we’d taken for granted and made us reevaluate the importance of some things we’d taken for truth.

Cancer has put me in a new relationship with myself, my spouse, my kids, my family, my friends, my co-workers, my social media, my priorities, my time, my energy, my definition of health, and my purpose.

Perhaps 2020 has done the same for you.

Things aren’t going to go back to the way they were. If we keep trying to make them go back, we are going to fail, and (perhaps more importantly) we will have learned nothing from this incredibly trying year. All this pain will have been pointless. There is no point to pointless pain.

Our relationships will be different moving forward. Our life-style will be different moving forward. We are different moving forward.

Here’s to forward motion, detours, and forgiving each other for how we’ve coped with this hell of a year. May our 2020 vision show us a new way of looking at our lives.

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