Hard for me to believe, but this is my eighth consecutive month of March in New England. Even more surprising to me, I've come to realize that it's “March in New England” that actually offers us two important lessons to help ease our pandemic pain and struggle.
The first lesson is that the gap between our expectations and our reality is at the root of what causes us frustration and suffering.
The first few years that I lived back here in Connecticut, I spent much of March annoyed. Snow, bitter cold, and kids home from school due to snow days were for December, January, and February -- not March! It just wasn’t right. My expectations of being able to put away the woolly hats and snow boots were not met time and time again. I wanted to literally stomp my snow-covered foot at the injustice of it all. Somewhere in my third year of March, I realized the futile pattern of my thinking and instead decided that I needed to shift (note: not lower) my expectations.
I no longer let myself be lulled by the words “First Day of Spring” on the March calendar and instead look forward to spring-like weather in April as the norm. When those lovely days do come in March, they are unexpected and delightful. Shifting my expectations enabled me to move from annoyance to joy.
The second lesson is that growth and change are not linear.
Weather in March means that one day it is sunny and warm and you have the screen door open, and then days later you have to break out the snow pants for your walk with the dogs. Day-to-day we may be upset with our “two steps forward and one step back” reality, when we desperately desire a progressive, straight-line march. Know that it is normal to have starts and stops on our journey. When - and if - we step back, we gain perspective and clearly see the big picture and realize that progress is being made. April will be here before we know it and March will be a memory. For now, I take pleasure in seeing the piles of snow recede and the new shoots of green life erupt from the earth.
About the Author
Vanessa Elias is a mental health activist, certified parent coach, speaker, and writer featured on NPR, PBS, and in the WSJ. She is the founder of Thrive with a Guide, LLC and serves as a group facilitator for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Block Party USA is her passion project. Vanessa helps parents achieve healthier family relationships and lasting, meaningful connections.