Q: How do I navigate the new year?

5 min

2020 was HARD to navigate, to say the least. Looking towards 2021 and what it will bring can be quite frightening. However, we know deep down we all have what it takes to make this year the best yet.

Dear Ellie,

It’s the end of January, and we’re basically still in lockdown. Where do we go from here?

Like most parents, last year was one of the hardest years of my life to navigate. We powered through and did our best, but if I’m being honest, I’m threadbare. I’m burned out. I don’t have much more in the tank. I’m not happy with how I’m showing up with my family, and I know I’m not showing up for myself.

I don’t know why, but I just thought the new year would somehow mean things would go back to normal.  Our kids are about to have their second isolated birthday in quarantine. For some reason, it’s just hitting me extra hard.

What’s your advice for navigating this next phase of the pandemic?

~ Feeling Blue Betty in Bay Area

Jay, today’s Dear Ellie columnist, helps us remember what it’s all about:

Hey there Sunshine,

Let’s begin with this: I see you. I hear you; as do hundreds of thousands of other parents, so to whomever is reading this, if you share Larissa’s sentiments, please take a moment to see yourself as well.

If I can commiserate for a minute, I think I speak for most pandemic parents when I say that it’s not any one day in particular that breaks us, but rather it’s the enduring, unending heaviness of all of it, with no clear endpoint in sight that makes navigating the start of this new year so challenging. I miss restaurants and bars and friends as much as any of us in lockdown. But if I could have a genie produce the one thing I most long for right now, it’s that I just need a break. Like, I. Just. Need. Time. To. Stop.

I want to go full-on Peter Pan and liberate myself of all responsibilities. Just for a little bit.

Let me catch my breath, let me refuel, let me heal.

For most of the parents I know, self-care was the puzzle piece that many chose to sacrifice in order to meet the myriad of unreasonable demands that were placed upon us in 2020. Many of us tried to muscle through the year, drawing on grit, enduring long days with little sleep, putting on a good face for our family when it felt anything but good inside, and so much more, all to be the glue holding the familial sh*t show together.

I think we can all feel that exhaustion, and while we don’t know how much longer we’ll have to navigate this craziness… this much is certain – we’re not out of the woods yet. However…there is much movement going on right now. You can feel how change is underway – we don’t know when, but it’s happening. This has many of us excited, but it has me concerned. I’m concerned because this bizarre, destructive, cathartic, weird blip in time and space is going to be closing soon. This introspective opportunity to rebirth is coming to a close, yet many of us are so eager to get back to Kansas that we might miss the lesson – effectively walking over dollars to pick up dimes.

I think we could fill this column for weeks to come on strategies and tactics to keep your head and heart above water until we get back to normal, but today I want to focus on helping you see that while you/me/we hanker for relief, the greatest opportunity of our lives sits before us.

The relief you seek will come – don’t miss your opportunity to learn the lesson. I can almost hear it like a whisper through the winds passed down by our guides: don’t miss your opportunity to learn the lesson.

Many of us feel this invitation on a cosmic level, where it feels like time is accelerating, catching up to the present, and that soon much commotion will be underfoot. Even if you don’t feel these things, if you look at society, commerce, politics, the vaccine, etc., there are many external indicators that this new era is soon to be ushered in. It’s prescient.

Remember that wants are different than needs. Right now, we WANT the bubble bath and glass of wine with the kids at their grandparents. But what is the lesson that we NEED to learn before we get there?

By all accounts, let’s hope this whole pandemic was a once in a lifetime experience. And what if that’s true? I know it was certainly like no time period I’ve experience in 43 well-lived years on this planet. If you never get this moment again in your life, did you squeeze everything possible out of this pause and period of transition?

I invite you to navigate and maintain your indomitable nature for just a bit longer, and use these (hopefully) final months of the pandemic to ask yourself: where was my gift in all of this?

While we all suffered and sacrificed to varying degrees, I don’t know of one person for whom the pandemic wasn’t a wake-up call to recognize that at least one – and for some of us, many – aspects of our lives were out of alignment with our values. I don’t know one person who hasn’t sat with themselves over the last twelve months, and saw a potential version of themselves, and a vision for their life that was different than the life they were living in January of 2020.

I always marveled at the bravery of students who took a “gap year” to work or travel before they went to college. This same admiration can be applied for studying abroad, or nomading for a year, and on and on. Contrary “wisdom” was that it was irresponsible to delay one’s education, and to promptly start a professional life. Yet my peers that had pursued those experiences were more mature, stable and navigated life at a different level. Any of us with some grey in our hair know that those opportunities are life’s moments of gold. We ignore them at our peril, often forgoing adventure for lesser gods like money, materialism, keeping up with the Jones, etc.

The pandemic represents one of those moments; one of those invitations to leave the known for the unknown, with nothing other than the hope and faith that what lies next may serve us more.

I trust in my heart of hearts that you learned something very deep during the collective traumatic awakening of 2020. Heed the invitation.

You may have heard the message whispered, but did you integrate it? You may have heard the message whispered, but did you scream it? Is is your hill to die on, or is it a wish you hope someone else fulfills?

When things go back to normal, will you emerge a new you? Or will this envisioned “new you” be consumed by the old inertia, and soon become a memory, like a new year’s resolution long-surrendered?

There’s a different life experience waiting on the other side of this for mankind. An opportunity to release unnecessary suffering. To shape a life that works for ALL of us. To begin a new dawn of humanity where we lead our families by living our lives in alignment with our values as parents. Period. No compromise.

Remember: you may never get this opportunity in life again. Make the final months work FOR you. Lay your foundation. Pay attention to it. Cement it in. Integrate. Solidify your new tribe. Speak your new truth. And involve your children in your process, because modeling is the ultimate form of parenting.

I’ll end with this: if you still need some relief, I would say a bubble bath and a glass of wine is an excellent way to spend some time reflecting on the new truths you’re locking in before the gates open back up 🙂

Until the next time, may you manifest your opportunity to navigate this year and learn the lesson. And in doing so, be the inspiration to uplift others to do the same.

Much love,

Ellie + Jay

Jay Rooke

Jay doesn’t fit neatly into any category — he’s an entrepreneur, an “idea guy,” and a crazy creative father of twins that is woo-woo and spiritual, but still grounded in practical solutions. Think East Coast pragmatic meets West Coast progressive.


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