Trauma upends our lives. There’s no getting around the fact that when we experience trauma, whether it’s the trauma we suffer as individuals or the collective trauma of a global pandemic, our lives are turned upside down. The routines we count on to give our lives reason and structure cease to exist. Going to school, to work or to the local grocery store are no longer simple tasks. Activities that bring joy to our lives are now on hold.
Although we don’t intend for this to happen, when we move through traumatic times like the global pandemic the values we rely on to be a container for the image we hold of ourselves – the values that shine a light so that others can clearly see us – are superseded by the immense energy needed to adapt to our new and unfamiliar conditions.
The current pandemic is a universal stressor. As individuals we are navigating through the viral quagmire to the best of our ability. Factor in our own, unique stressors – like chronic pain – and the constant pursuit of balance and equilibrium can drain our energy. In our mental and physical exhaustion what happens to the values we treasure? Are they smothered in the cacophony of endless news bites and daily pain flares? Or are they forgotten as we stumble our way through the crazy shindig into which our lives have devolved since the world shut down?
The beauty of remembering the values we hold dear is found in the way they help us to carve a unique path forward.
Values are more than goals. Goals have a finish line. As a life long goal setter and resolution maker, I’m accustomed to the rigidity of goals, the frequent concessions to failure and, when a goal is achieved, the empty sense of wondering, “what’s next?”.
Values are not about accomplishment. They are about who we want to be in the world. They are not about what we want from life but about what we can offer – even in the middle of a pain flare happening in the middle of a pandemic. Values are not rules but qualities that resonate from a place deep within. Knowing what our values are brings life into focus and empowers us to choose how our witness-selves behave when we are challenged.
What are your values? Here is a typical core values table. Which ones sing your song? Are there any missing? What other values might you add to the list? In the face of everything, what truly matters to you?
This week, let’s choose three values from the list that hold for us heart and meaning. I choose compassion, creativity and learning. As we move through the next week, can we set aside a few moments each day to notice these values at play in our lives? Can we consider ways by which we can let these values shine?
When the values we choose to live by shine, then we shine, too.