Ask Amy: Pandemic experience calls for resilience – The Denver Post
Dear Amy: I think this is a tall order, but I am asking for your thoughts about how to process the experience of the last couple of years.
I am overwhelmed by all of the sadness, division, dislocation, and loss, and I wonder if the pandemic has scarred me permanently.
I’m curious about your perspective on this.
Dear Distressed: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to try and tackle your very big question.
In response, I’m offering up two of my favorite modern philosophers: Viktor Frankl and Dolly Parton.
Frankl, a psychiatrist, was imprisoned at Auschwitz concentration camp, where all of his captive family members (and over 1 million others) were murdered. He survived.
His important book about this experience, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” (current edition: 2006, Beacon Press) offers indelible lessons about resilience.
Boiled down, Frankl’s belief is that human beings can find meaning and the motivation to persevere through suffering by unlocking their sense of purpose, and by developing a rich inner life.
On to Dolly, who said, “Storms make trees take deeper roots.”
At some point, we in North America seem to have absorbed the belief that life was supposed to be easy for us.
It is not.
Surely the pandemic experience has connected us to other humans throughout time, who have experienced war, hunger, trauma, and dislocation.
This is tough, but it is not the worst.
Personally, you can see your scars as evidence that you cannot heal, or you can emerge wounded, but determined to grow.
I say — lead with your scars; they are proof of your humanity.
Dear Amy: Six years ago, after a gathering with my husband of 30 years, his mom, his two sisters, and a brother-in-law, one of the sisters wrote me a scathing letter.
In it, she enumerated all of my faults as she perceived them, said I do not contribute anything to the family, and said that she and the rest of the family despise me.
She admitted that I have a wonderful marriage, although she didn’t understand how that was possible.
The letter felt so toxic, so vicious and so unreal that I shredded it immediately.
But its impact has lasted.
It showed signs of different writing styles and voices, so I’m pretty sure more than one person contributed to it.
My husband’s mother has since died. He and his sisters speak on the phone a few times a year and communicate on social media, but we haven’t visited.
Suddenly, after six years of silence, the sisters-in-law have started sending me birthday cards and messages as if nothing happened. They say they want to get together.
I’m fine not having a relationship with them. That includes not expecting an apology. I am also not apologizing for all the perceived wrongs I was accused of so many years ago.
Is the letter something to be swept under the rug and forgotten? Am I being unreasonable?
Since my husband doesn’t really care one way or the other, am I OK to maintain my silence and distance?
Or should I forgive and forget?
— Still in a Quandary
Dear Quandary: These in-laws have opened a door, and I suggest that you walk through it.
You’re already happily estranged from them, you don’t expect anything specific from them (good for you), but at this point you might receive some clarification or explanation over this choice they made six years ago that continues to bother you.
And so — ask about it! You can respond to a bid for contact by saying, “I’m completely baffled. Six years ago, I received a letter, signed by you, that spelled out in detail all of my flaws. It also said that your family despises me. I completely accept that. If something has changed, you should let me know.”
There is a remote possibility that you will receive a response that is authentic and surprising.
Most likely, you can expect something along the lines of: “Wow, that was no big deal. I can’t believe you took that so seriously!”
If so, that’s when you’ll know that keeping your distance is the wisest course.
Dear Amy: Many people suggest that those who are isolated or alone over the holidays should volunteer.
This sounds like a great suggestion, but organizations are flooded with requests to volunteer around the holidays. Many need to prescreen and train volunteers, which is time-consuming.
However, during the rest of the year, especially the winter, many such organizations really need more volunteers.
Maybe you could suggest it?
Dear Volunteer: Absolutely! Thank you.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at email@example.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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