Searching for Silver Linings

There are protests in the streets over police brutality, the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be dividing not uniting the country, and unemployment rates are still climbing. What to do?

No matter who we our, our lives are almost certainly different than they were just a few months ago. We might be working from home or out of work. We might have been easing into the outside world, but now our cities have curfews. We wear masks — or not, and some of us worry about getting sick while others brush it off. But still, we are all affected.

Through this, we wonder how will this end and what it will look like when it does? This is not a “new normal” because this just isn’t “normal.” We’ve gone from focusing on politics, to COVID-19, to the economy, and now racism and the police. What keeps our attention is a fast-moving target. Our lives are not like they used to be, and the change persists as our country struggles under the pressure — economic, health and societal.

And while it may seem counter-intuitive, this is the time to look after your well-being. The reason is simple: you cannot help others, unless you help yourself. It’s the same logic as the oft used cliché, put your oxygen mask on first. For your well-being, I have three suggestions:

ONE: Do you

We all have our own response to challenges and unrest; we are different personalities, coming from different perspectives and different situations. Some need to insulate from constant news and others will worry constantly if they don’t get frequent updates. Some will respond by protesting and others by donating to important causes. The point is to do YOU — pay attention to what you need, and how you want and need to respond. And do that. It’s important for your own peace-of-mind — you do you.

TWO: Search for silver linings

Try to find some good. Ask yourself, “what is better today than it was before?” This is what I mean when I say search for the silver linings. Near the beginning of the pandemic, I wrote about the importance of looking for these shreds of good. With all that’s going on, it seems even harder to find the good, but I’m convinced there must be some. And that good might uplift your spirits.

Years ago my mother had breast cancer (she’s a survivor, now almost 90). As she went through her chemo and recovery, I noticed a shift in her personality — a little more vocal and little more direct. At one point she explained, “life is just too short to put up with that.” Go, Mom! I’ve always viewed it as the silver lining of her cancer.

My instinctual reaction is that it’s not possible that anything good can come from the tragic death of George Floyd. There have sadly been so many others that preceded him, Michael Brown in Ferguson and Freddie Gray in Baltimore to name just two from the last decade. There have been so many, as detailed in the NPR’s Code Switch (“A Decade of Watching Black People Die“) that it seems hopeless — how is George Floyd’s death any different? But maybe his death will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back — maybe it’s the tipping point or the moment of critical mass. I struggle to imagine some good out of this, but it helps me to think that there might just be a silver lining here; maybe I just can’ t see it yet.

THREE: Give back

Doing something for others will help your well-being. Whether you are caught up in your own struggle, or not — do something for someone else. It could be checking on a neighbor, working as a front-line worker or delivering meals-on-wheels. These things still need to happen.

And if you’re able to lend your voice to the resistance, then there are many ways you can do it. I like the way Instagrammer @lindss_tastic phrased it: occupy your lane. It’s an echo of “you do you”:

So in these uncertain times, look after yourself (you do you), seek out the good (silver linings) and help others (give back). Remember that every bit counts — every meditation, every helping hand, and every voice.

Stay well.
Until next time,


P.S. A different version of this post with a more narrow focus on silver linings (much easier to write when there was only COVID-19 to worry about) was previously and generously published by Soul Food Salons as one of its Soulful Insights, a regular series featuring expert advice on matters relevant to health and wellness.