A Journey of Thank-Yous

By Deborah Matthews

My pandemic journey began at the end of February when I anticipated a two week shelter-in-place.  After four months of near total isolation, my head spins at how much things have changed. Like many of you, this has been a time of shock, sadness, and reflection.

I see not only the impact of the coronavirus, but the deep cultural and political illnesses our country is dealing with. I can easily get drawn into dark despair. However, some mornings I am able to drink my coffee in silence before I teach and feel light in that darkness.

I listened to a Ted Talk recently given by A.J. Jacobs. He is an author who has committed to finding and giving thanks to all the people who participated in his cup of coffee each morning. 

From the farmers, to the shippers, to the roasters, to the truck drivers, he made a journey across the world and learned a lot about humanity and himself.

A group of yellow flowers in the sun.
Photo: Joe Raedle Getty Images

That shared web of experience and giving resonated with me and the struggles that I’ve had during this pandemic. 

I have always struggled with anxiety. 

One of my self-care practices is to remind myself of how I am safe and who I feel safe with. I joke that my “circle of trust” begins with my cats 🙂 For years, my circle expanded as my work and social community grew. 

A group of yellow flowers in the sun.

This pandemic supercharged my anxiety and it grew exponentially, despite my best efforts.

To come down off the ceiling, I needed something more. I needed to redefine safety in a larger web of connections and reflect on the vast number of people including strangers that help me feel safe every day. They might not even know they are on my safety team, but I can cultivate feeling their support. I know complete safety is an illusion, but I can practice feeling safe.

A group of yellow flowers in the sun.
Photo by Susana Vera.

Reflecting on and actively sending gratitude towards those that deliver my groceries, pick up my medications, care for my cats, support InsideOut, protest for human rights, oversee my health care, and send happy notes “just because†gives me hope.

So many people engage in acts of kindness, generosity, and fearlessness every day that benefit all of us.

A group of yellow flowers in the sun.
Photo: Al Bello Getty Images.

I cannot say that I am not anxious anymore with this Ted Talk inspired practice, but I have another tool in my tool belt. (And you know how much I like tools!!!) It’s a tool that let’s me feel the light and hope that’s deeper than my physical isolation and mental distress.

There is no sugar-coating the individual and social tragedies we are currently living through. They will continue to create anxiety.

But gratefully, we are in this together and we can practice feeling that through a journey of many Thank-Yous.  

Thank You for your courage and acts of love and kindness.

Podcast: Ted.com  


Book: Thanks a Thousand by A.J. Jacobs


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