A Reflection in the Mirror: An Intimate Date with Ourselves at the Invitation of COVID-19

By William D. Parham, Ph.D., ABPP

A once heard mantra, paraphrased, proclaims that “the meaning of life is to find your gift … the purpose of life is to give it away.” Nearly two months into this unrivaled pandemic, the initial commotion, confusion, and chaos brought on by the coronavirus seems to have calmed somewhat, at least for some. This pause has provided a moment for us to catch our breath, gather our thoughts, and cautiously plan for next steps. For others, while the initial sting of COVID-19 may have subsided, the real work of rebounding from this unparalleled event has only just begun. The longing to return to familiar routines is unabated. Opportunities to engage face to face with colleagues, friends, and family are as real as now wanting to see and acknowledge people who entered our personal spaces to whom, heretofore, we never gave a second thought. So, for your consideration, in the rush to return to normal, can we use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.

Has the time come to look in the mirror and ask and answer difficult questions about ourselves? For example, despite personal and professional successes, are there still unreconciled areas of our lives to which we can now turn our attention? Questions about relationships with family, friends, and colleagues might include asking about ways to be “better” and more present. Reflections on our careers, our physical and emotional health and wellness, and how we practice our faith might be equally important to examine. Honest self-reflection might surface yet another question: To what degree was the control we had over our lives actual or illusionary? If the illusion of real control has been shattered, what new truths about our life’s meaning and purpose have been revealed? And, do we really want to know?

In any given moment we have two options: We either step forward into growth or step back into safety. Arguably, of the two options, stepping back in safety represents the more comfortable road to travel. We know all the signposts of routine, regularity, and predictability. Traveling on the road moving forward into growth, however, is likely to trigger fear of the unknown, uncertainty, even a measure of self-doubt. These feelings, as it turns out, are identical to ones that surfaced when COVID-19 emerged on the scene. And, for the most part, we are succeeding at finding ways to respond to the challenges that the coronavirus continues to present.

Apropos to this observation, I am reminded that sometimes when we are in dark places, we begin to feel like we have been buried. Perhaps, we just have been planted. Our growth through COVID-19 represents a snapshot of our individual and collective drive to break through the soil of dark spaces. What if now we are positioned to grow differently? And, is there comfort to be found in stepping forward in growth?

One final reflection is offered for consideration. When going through hard times and feeling alone in that journey some people ask, “Where God is?” Let’s keep in mind that during a test … the teacher is always quiet.

Until next time …