Coping with the Madness of 2020: List It

I woke up this morning with thoughts of an eight-year-old boy, the nephew of one of my kindest friends. He woke up this morning for the first time without his mother’s embrace. She passed yesterday after a very lengthy battle with cancer. Though I didn’t know her or her little boy, I felt myself spiraling for my friend, for her family, and especially for the little one.

As if the out-of-the-ordinary madness of 2020 isn’t enough, unfortunately we also have to deal with dreaded realities like illness and death. The everyday concerns and these hardships  combined with the abnormalities of this year can create a perfect stew of unmanageable anxiety and grief.

So how do I cope when life feels impossible and the emotions are too big to manage?  In addition to prayer (which we’ll save for another day), I make lists.

Lists, you ask? Not a typical task list but a lists of things I can’t control alongside a list of things I can control.

I can’t bring back the little boy’s mom. I can’t stop the hurt or grief, but I can pray and offer support.

I can’t singlehandedly eradicate the coronavirus, but I can do my part to stop the spread and protect my family and myself by wearing masks and avoiding situations in which social distancing is challenged.

I can’t control how the vote goes tomorrow, but I can control how I participate in the democratic process by exercising my hard-won right and responsibility to vote.

I can’t take away the abuse a friend suffered as a child that continues to hurt and traumatize so many decades later, but I can listen, affirm, pray, and hug.

I can’t make people not be racist, but I can educate and choose to operate from a place of love regardless.

When I was a teen, I encountered the “Serenity Prayer” on the front of a church bulletin, and the first part has been a mantra ever since:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference. –Reinhold Niebuhr

The lists help me confront the big scary things in black and white, and then, determine my response to them. More often than not, serenity is the welcomed outcome.


About the Images: The images in this post are the full color versions of the grainy black and white photos in the previous post. I’d mentioned in my latest #treelove post that for Creative Auto shots the camera shoots an original color photo AND processes the “creative photo” at the same time. I don’t like these as much, but this is what happens when I don’t remember where I put the images I’d planned for today’s post. :-/

18 thoughts on “Coping with the Madness of 2020: List It

  1. Janet from FL says:

    I think these pictures are beautiful – Vivid colors! I also love your idea of making the list of what you can’t control, and what you can do. I will be using the list for this week of election news, for grief over a friend who died, and for the anxiety over the Corona Virus and people who won’t wear masks. Perhaps the list will help reduce my exasperation and anxiety. I have been praying a lot! But your list can help me think of other ways I can cope. Thank you for an insightful and beautiful post. (I shared it on FB and Twitter. That’s something I can do to help others cope.)

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Claire 'Word by Word' says:

    Sorry for your loss, in these challenging times. The hidden healing of list making, when things feel out of control, such a beautiful insight. I just read a beautiful work of creative nonfiction, in which a struggling mother shares her lists that get her through her days, even when the tasks are the most mundane, that sense of fulfillment.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Akilah says:

    Yes, excellent strategy and one I employ often. I like the list of things I can control because it often moves me to action and that helps me more than just sitting and cycling through all my thoughts over and over again.

    I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. Lots of love to you and her family.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. franhunne4u says:

    “but I can do my part to stop the spread and protect my family and myself by wearing masks and avoiding situations in which social distancing is challenged.”
    Don’t forget to wash your hands for two Happy Birthdays.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. JoAnna says:

    Excellent suggestion! I used to do with with my clients when I was a counselor, then found it very helpful for my own personal use. There is always something we can change or do something about, even if it’s our attitude and actions like taking a slow, deep breath before responding to someone.

    Liked by 1 person

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