During each liturgical season of Advent and Lent, I make an effort to journal every day on a specific theme.  This practice has been a part of my wellness routine for several years as a way to make sure I take 15-20 minutes each day to slow down, calm down, and reflect on the goodness of life around me.  I believe this practice helps me stay in a good mental state and helps feed my soul amidst the hubbub that life throws at me.

My theme for this Advent is what is one thing I have learned during this Pandemic that I would not have learned had this experience not happened?

This has been a most difficult year of cancellations, disappointments, unfulfilled goals set against a backdrop of death, illness, suffering and economic hardships. But like many things in life, there is a delicate balance between good and bad, sadness and joy, weeping and dancing. It is always easier to dwell on the negative, especially this year, than look for the silver linings.  The practice of writing about one good thing each day during this month has been challenging and invigorating.

I invite everyone to take 15-20 minutes each day to write or list a few things that this pandemic experience has taught you.  The start of a new year or new month works well for trying out this practice.  I always find that it is easier to start writing if you approach the exercise as simply trying to answer a question.  Here are just a few of the questions that I have been trying to answer and I invite you to think about how you might answer.

  • What has challenged you about living through the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • What has surprised you about living through the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • After making it through various Netflix shows, obsessive news watching, jigsaw puzzles and crossword puzzles, baking and cooking routines in the last year, what activity still gives you joy and why?
  • How do you assess personal risk?  What is safe for you to do that others should not do?  Why?
  • When is the last time you have laughed out loud?  What were the circumstances, and does it make you laugh now when you remember it?
  • Who are the first people you want to invite over to your home when we can safely do so again?  
  • Is this anything you won’t take for granted after this year?  Why?
  • What is the practice or habit that you have now that is sustaining you through this time?  Would you need this practice during non-pandemic times?  If yes, why?

The purpose of these types of open-ended questions is simply to capture first thoughts and impressions.  After all, one way or another, we’ll be living into the answers.