Most would call 2020 a disastrous year, with no real end in sight even now that we’re in 2021. I’m counting my blessings and challenges, and feeling so grateful.

I don’t mean to diminish the bona fide pain and suffering that is occurring around us. I too have had my share given I’ve lost 3 immediate family members in a 2.5 year period since 2018. I don’t feel sorry for myself; there are others who are much worse off than I am. 

And while the losses pain me, sometimes still even acutely, I’m also grateful for the challenges they brought.  

Oh wait – grateful for challenge?

The old me would never have said something like that. I would not have been grateful for tragedy and trauma. I’d be angry, frustrated, and feel as if life were not fair.

That belief, while possibly true, also did nothing to help me get through difficult times. Dealing with reality does.

The reality is that everyone will eventually encounter situations that we are unprepared for. If it feels like a challenge or trauma, it’s because there’s a gap in knowledge and skill set, maybe it’s partly because we just haven’t been through that situation before. That gap creates a sense of loss, obstacle, or unfairness, and how we respond makes all the difference in the world.

If we approach the challenge with a fixed mindset, i.e., the belief that we cannot learn, grow, and improve, that gap will feel, and therefore be insurmountable. Anger can turn inward causing depression, or outward causing rage.

If we approach the challenge with a growth mindset, i.e., the belief that we can learn, grow, and improve, then the gap will feel close-able. We can become more competent and capable, turning challenge into opportunity, and thus a blessing. Growth mindsets are important because according to researcher Carol Dweck, author of Growth Mindset, people with growth mindsets are more likely to be successful and less prone to depression. It helps us become resilient.

For those with a growth mindset, the bigger the challenge, the bigger the blessing that’s available.

I know, I wish there were some way we can experience such learning in the absence of traumatic life events. Actually, theoretically, we can learn anything in the absence of trauma. We’re just not motivated to do so. I mean, there’s a lot of new shows on Netflix to catch up on instead, right?

Also, are our lives really supposed to be trauma-free? When did that become a thing?

It’s easy to believe that life should be easy and catastrophe-free, especially from the perspective of the middle-class, educated suburbs. It’s a place of protected privilege, where we can be blissfully unaware of the daily obstacle course of threat and stress that much of the rest of our country and even world experiences. We take our safety, comfort, conveniences, and entertainment blissfully for granted… until 2020.

2020 has been slowly pulling the proverbial band-aid off of that life of ease (for many people). We’ve been feeling the slow, excruciating pain of the process and facing what’s underneath.  

But remember, with the right frame of mind, it’s really a firestorm of gifts, opportunity, chances for redemption, healing, and grace.  

Or we can just feel angry, broken, and irreparable in the face of hardship. 

It’s a false choice because America, and the world, are strong and resilient. We always bounce back better than before. And we will again.

The sooner we decide to learn, grow, mend, heal, and expand, the sooner we can create the future that we all are longing for.  

I know we’re ready to put 2020 in our rear-view mirror, but to really do so we have to deal directly with the challenge and harvest the many gifts from it.  

Let’s get on with it, shall we?

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