Through all the ups and downs, trial and tribulations and sorrows of the last year how do we regain our sense of joy, laughter, and peace? Albert Einstein has said that “Peace cannot be kept by force: it can only be achieved by understanding.” So, the question now is “What do we understand?” I would also include “What have we learned from all these events of the last year? And “How do we move forward with peace, joy and laughter?”
The image of river rafting comes to mind. When you plan the trip down the river you make sure you have what you need: river sandals that can go in and out of the water easily, securely staying on your feet; a river guide to get you safely down the river, sunscreen for protection, food and sleeping bags wrapped type and waterproof for nights under the stars, oars to help navigate the raft through the rapids of the river, maps so you know what’s to come.
As you get into the raft and begin your trip you have a sense of anticipation and excitement; perhaps wondering what grand adventure lies around the next river bend. The river starts off smooth as you begin, gently moving you and the raft down the river. You can tell when the raft starts to pick up speed, so you get ready for what you know is coming. You do what you need to do to navigate the rapids and safely get past the boulders and rocks. Then you keep moving and are relieved to be in the peaceful part of the river. After a day on the river, you camp under the stars, grateful and at peace for this day, this moment.
This analogy reflects our ability to have resilience. There are some things that we can prepare for and there are things we cannot. You cannot get down the river by force, by making the river change to meet your demands or needs, the river will always win. Understanding this about the river lets you navigate through the rough parts intact so that at the end of the day you can find gratitude and peace.
I cannot answer the questions of what you understand from the events in your life. I can tell you what I have learned from the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. I have learned that we can be connected to each other in ways we had not considered before. I have learned that I am more adaptable than I thought and that I can withstand changes I do not seek out. I have learned to be grateful for all the little ways that joy is present, like a child’s laughter, a zoom conversation with someone I love but cannot be with, the smile in the eyes of those wearing a mask.
Peace comes at the end of the day when we look back and find gratitude for all that is and understand what we can change and what we cannot. We cannot force life to be everything we want it to be, but we can learn from what has been so that we can find peace flowing through us like a river that continually moves us to a new place, a new moment, a new experience. Look up at the stars at the end of the day, breathe in the peace, joy and laughter for a new day is dawning.
Mary Ruth Cross, MFT, NCC, RPT-S
CEO/Owner Treehouse Family Counseling Services