When I was about 10 – 12 years old, possibly the biggest worry I had was whether my transistor radio had enough battery left to get me to the end of that night’s baseball game. I shared a bedroom with two brothers, so the only “safe” way to listen to the game was to put the radio under my pillow and listen. Many times, I fell asleep with the radio on and awoke with dead batteries. Life was so simple in those days.
Living during the pandemic of 2020 makes me recall those simpler days. Here we are in the ninth month of shutdowns, slumps, sadness, worry, protests, and hardship. Add to that the disappointments of what might have, could have, should have been. And, to top it off, we are merely hours away from what some are calling “the most important election of our lifetime.” Our kids are struggling to be in school, our businesses are barely staying afloat, and our emotions may be at the ragged edge. Yet, here we are on the cusp of what some have called “the upcoming long, dark winter.”
How can we stay optimistic at a time like this? Where is the light at the end of the tunnel? Can I just put a transistor radio under my pillow and everything will be alright? What can we do to press on and finish the course ahead? How practical advice can help us remain resilient during the next few months?
I have been trying to answer this question for myself as the weather has turned from perfect to chilly these last few days. My default is always to just trust the God that holds my life in His hands. However, I also think there are actions that He expects us to take that allow us to be brightness in the dark for others. There are 5 things I think that can help… if we’ll just do them:
- Keep things simple – I think that often I become stressed because my mind is working too fast on too many things. Right now, there are many things that can clutter our thinking. And, for the most part, you can’t even find an escape in mindless activities like television because of the political advertisements. Find ways to simplify your life. Turn off the TV. Instead of surfing the internet, try putting on some nice music and enjoy the autumn sunshine. Take a walk with someone you love. Clean out some clutter and give away what you don’t need or want. Watch an old, fun movie. When life gets too complex, find a way to make it simple. You don’t have to be accomplishing something 24/7.
- Stay focused on the most important things – Sometimes we become stressed because we are trying to do too much, too fast, for too many people. One of the tricks I have learned is to stop and ask, “What problem are you trying to solve right now? Will this matter tomorrow, or next week, or next year? Is it imperative that this get done right now? Can anyone else take something off my plate?” We need to focus on doing the most important things, so it is essential that we identify what those things are and spend our time accomplishing those. We can’t solve every problem today, but we might be able to make a dent in one or two.
- Let darkness be your friend – Back to my radio under the pillow… The other thing that I learned back in those days was that nighttime was a great time to think about the important stuff. It is a great time to think about what was good about the day. And, what I have to look forward tomorrow. It is a great time to plan. It is a time to smile. Darkness can be a scary, uncertain time. But, when you use that time to clear you mind and focus on positive things, just before sleep, you’ll awaken with a new attitude.
- Focus on the facts, not your emotions – People often view their lives as a mess because they have too many emotions tied up. They see everything through a lens of good, bad, hurt, happy, up, down, etc. When you are dealing with difficulties or complexities or frustrations, I have found it best to get back to the facts. “Just the facts, Ma’am,” as Sargent Joe Friday used to say on the show Dragnet. As difficult as it is, set aside your emotions and focus on the things you know to be true. Get a notepad and write down the facts. Then, use the facts to determine your next steps. Many times things can become so complex that we feel paralyzed and unable to act. Rather, get to the point where you can say, “What is my next step? What is the next thing I will do to move forward?” Identify the facts, then take a step of action.
- Think of your favorite things – Do you remember the song from the Sound of Music called My Favorite Things? Here are some of the lyrics:
When the dog bites;
When the bee stings;
When I’m feeling sad.
I simply remember my favorite things,
and then I don’t feel…. so bad
When life gets you down, when you lose hope, when you think that bad times will never end… remember your favorite things. Some of the things from just the last several months that I remember include:
- Eating powder donuts in the morning sunshine at my grandson’s baseball game
- Kayaking on the mirror-calm lake with my bride
- Watching my grandchildren play in the water at the lake
- Playing golf in the cool autumn morning sunshine with good friends
- Playing table games and eating junk food with best friends
- Seeing the beauty of the fall behind our house
- Watching the night turn into day in the woods while deer hunting
- Enjoying my wife’s terrific cooking on the deck overlooking the lake
- See my grandson accept Jesus as his Lord
- Having all my children and grandchildren under the same roof
- Experiencing good health
- Seeing a good friend get stronger after a health scare
When you need a boost, stop long enough to remember your favorite things… and why they matter.
Yes, these are difficult, challenging times. But, it is possible to stay resilient. It is possible to finish strong. It is possible to be the light someone else needs to make it through. Someone else may be counting on you. Find a way to keep going.