Learn the lesson and you don’t have to repeat the class

By Shannon Lelievre

In my early days of therapy for anxiety and depression I learned to stop asking why: why I’m the way I am and why bad things happened because my therapist helped me realize that I will never find a satisfying answer.

While listening to Jay Shetty’s podcast episode about the twenty lessons he learned this year, I was inspired to create my own list to attach some purpose to all of the chaos and despair 2020 brought.

(I am not diminishing the extent of the loss so many have experienced, this is a coping strategy for me to keep myself moving forward without losing the will to get out of bed each day.)

In no particular order…

  1. Certainty is an illusion. Nothing is guaranteed to anyone at any time.
  2. The arts are critical to our survival. So many people sought refuge in music, art, poetry, and dance while in lock down.
  3. What we do matters to others. Whether it be an act of kindness or a blatant disregard for the health of others, what I do has an impact on those around me.
  4. People can respond to a situation very quickly with creativity and ingenuity. Businesses reacted almost immediately to the change in the world as we saw masks on the market, restaurants shift to take out, and fitness classes go online.
  5. Hugs matter. Even if you’re not a big hugger, you soon realize how important physical contact with another human being is when you’re not allowed to touch another person.
  6. The ability to run and exercise is a gift. After being on bed rest for a month, I am grateful for the privilege of being able to get up and move around. This body was meant to move!
  7. Exercise is not an option. Exercise is as essential to my mental health as taking my medication everyday is. Some many think I’m addicted to running, but I understand how dark my life is without it so I’m going to keep running until I can’t.
  8. Rest is not a four-letter word. Pushing your body is good at times, but knowing when to rest is just as important to your fitness.
  9. There is so much good in the world. There have been so many stories of extraordinary acts of kindness, videos of neighbours dancing while socially distancing, people finding love, and new life entering the world. People will always show up with love and compassion.
  10. The world at large got a peek inside the life of someone living with chronic anxiety and depression. I’m not happy so many suffered what we know all too well, but I am hopeful this year has opened the eyes of others.
  11. As a Canadian, I have taken our healthcare system for granted. I needed the services of specialists and the hospital more than once this year and I’m walking away from it all with a bill of only $110 (for the balance on my semi-private post-op hospital stay.) I am grateful for the ability to access the amazing level of care I received over several visits/appointments.
  12. I learned to ask for help. I needed more help more often  this year than ever before:I needed someone to drive me home from surgery, I needed help carrying groceries and laundry, I needed time off work, and I needed therapy for trauma, and the list goes on.
  13. Being alone is ok. There are times I’m lonely, but there are moments when choosing to do something alone is absolutely necessary. 
  14. Not everyone needs to know everything. It’s ok to keep some things (even big things) to yourself to protect yourself from more drama or trauma.
  15. I need at least one person. I don’t need many close friends: I can survive as long as I have one safe person I can go to when I need them, but I can’t get through this life all on my own.
  16. Dealing with your tough stuff is harder than the stuff itself. We all have tough stuff in our pasts or present, but we don’t all have the strength to face it head on and wade through the muck of it all. 
  17. I don’t give myself nearly enough credit. I worry I’ll appear self-indulgent if I acknowledge my accomplishments or progress when I deserve some of the compassion and slack I show to others. 
  18. Life will happen the way it does. I am a Type-A recovering perfectionist, so this lesson is still very much a work in progress. It’s ok to take a break from trying to direct the course of everything and I’m learning to be happy I’m just headed in the right direction.
  19. It takes less to be content than expected. Being locked in my very small house with my two children showed me that I really only need the basics to get through. A roof over my head, food in my belly, clothes on my back, people who checked in on me, and two kids kept me going. 
  20. Connection is everything.  I cannot exist completely on my own and genuinely connecting with others has become more important to me than ever. Knowing there are people out there who care about me and that need me to care about them is purpose enough to get out of bed everyday. I don’t need to be surrounded by crowds but I need to interact with people to remember why I’m here and who I am.