As we enter the holiday season, are you feeling like a Bah Humbug? If so, it’s understandable. The past year has been quite a challenge. In fact, I’m pretty sure it will not win the Best Year Ever Award. I don’t even think it deserves a participation trophy.
Between COVID, the economy, the elections, and the unrest throughout the country, we’ve had a lot on our collective plates. And as we now experience less light, lower temperatures, and more time stuck indoors, it would be easy to slip into even more grumpiness. But as my father used to say, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” I’m not exactly sure where the tough went but it sure sounded inspiring to me.
That phrase made me think about all of those adages we’ve heard throughout the years. Are they really true? Do they really work? Or were they designed by ancient motivational speakers looking for potential book titles? As we leave a rough 2020 and head into an uncertain 2021, let’s take a look at how we might embrace a few of our favorite adages.
There’s no place like home. When Dorothy Gale uttered those endearing words at the end of The Wizard of Oz, she had been trapped in a seemingly insane faraway land desperately trying to return to the normalcy of Kansas. OK, is it me or does that sound hauntingly familiar? Jeepers. The only thing missing is a virus that is more menacing than flying monkeys. Well, here’s the ironic twist on 2020. Being at home has become a seemingly insane world and we all long for a return to the normalcy of faraway places—away from our houses. However, since we’re not there yet, we truly need to embrace Dorothy’s sentiment and find ways of feeling content, safe, and fulfilled, even though we’re fed up with crossword puzzles, Netflix series, and Zoom calls.
Waste not, want not. When it comes to raisins or liver, I do not embrace this adage. I could waste either of them and not experience one moment of want. But as a general rule, this is a prime example of how we often live for the moment without considering the impact of that moment on the future. If you’ve ever unclogged a toilet that was packed with too much toilet paper, you understand this philosophy. As someone who is a bit OCD, I know the exact number of squares one needs to adequately attend to their personal hygiene, and I don’t waste more than that. Thus, in the early stages of COVID, we were sitting pretty (so to speak) on a supply of toilet paper that lasted well beyond the empty store shelves. But from a broader perspective, when we waste less of our resources such as food, time, or money, we have more available when we run into challenging times.
Necessity is the mother of invention. Well, this could be the adage of the year! When many businesses ran into trouble as the virus devastated their customer base, some had to close their doors while others invented new approaches. In the speaking world, we went from live, in-person events to live virtual events. We had to deliver our services in new ways and in my case, become comfortable when hilarious humor generated no laughter. Similarly, I read about a farm in New York that had been a locally-grown food supplier for high-end restaurants in New York City. Instead of shutting down the business when COVID hit, they became a home delivery service bringing the same fresh fruits and vegetables to individuals rather than to restaurants. Sometimes it takes a problem to make us think more creatively.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Most of us who grew up in a faith community heard this adage for much of our young lives. Ironically, it wasn’t until I went to social work school that I learned a different way of interpreting it. Rather than assuming that others share our preferences for how they want to be treated, we should approach them in a way that they prefer. This suggests that we take more time to understand the needs of others rather than making assumptions. I think our elected leaders could spend some time contemplating that concept.
As you sow, so shall you reap. Someone once said that if you want to see what your thoughts were yesterday, look where you are today. This is a principle that applies to our health, our jobs, our successes, and our failures. In other words, our past behavior and the thinking that led to it directly affects our future experiences. Oh sure, we can’t always control what happens to us but we can have an impact on the outcome. In golf, it’s immediately apparent whether a shot is a good one or not. In life, sometimes the effect of a particular behavior takes years to show up. That’s why we should take the time to pay attention to our behavior and to make the best decisions we can.
There is no time like the present. This is my favorite and probably the most important adage for the holidays and beyond. As we realize that our gatherings might not be the same, that we can’t travel to the places we normally go, or that we won’t get to enjoy time with certain loved ones, perhaps we can take a moment to appreciate what we do have. Any given moment is all we have at that time and regardless of whether it’s what we want it to be, it’s what we have to work with. If we embrace the moments in our lives and look for the positives rather than just the challenges, we may just discover more joy than we expected.
When it comes to adages, they might be a dime a dozen. But if we don’t cry over spilt milk, we look before we leap, and we realize that actions speak louder than words, we might be able to have our cake (or pumpkin pie) and eat it too.