Digging deep to find your silver lining in 2020

Nine months into the pandemic I found myself no longer annoyed by the little things; I was bothered by EVERYTHING. It wasn’t until I had a breakthrough (aka a breakdown) that I was able to find the silver lining I thought was lost. In a year filled with disappointment, setbacks, miscalculations, and failures, I discovered a mantra that speaks to me. Now, in an effort to chill out, I repeat, ‘at least we didn’t get lice.’ I say it again and again until I feel like I can almost crack a smile. Yes, it is in the absence of insects that feed on blood from the human scalp, that has brought me joy this year.

On a Wednesday at 1:00 p.m. in the middle of the work day, my eight year old wanted to play legos. It was my husbands ‘turn’ to work and my turn to manage the children. My daughter granted herself ‘free play’ putting together whatever legos she wanted, while assigning me to the task of building the Lego Friends Heart Lake City Hair Salon. I hadn’t been to the hair salon since March and there I was on all fours, building a beauty parlor so a lego friend could enjoy herself. I stared at the colorful pile of legos. All of the sets dumped together onto a bedsheet covering the floor. Searching for a turquoise piece the size of my pinky nail, to build the awning, I scanned hundreds of pieces. They were everywhere but for less than a minute I found order in their chaos.

Unexpectedly, my two-year-old came running into the room and jumped on my back to ‘go for a ride’ pushing the bone of my knee into the corner of a lego, collapsing my body to the ground on top of what I built, like a wrecking ball to the salon sending legos in every direction. I saw red. But then something happened. My hair itched from the legos beneath my head sending my mom-brain into high gear- self-protective mode- all wires crisscrossed. We haven’t had head lice in nine months. The realization came just when I needed it. Not one blood-sucking critter has found its way into our home.

In an unpredictable year, updates from the school district are now predictable.  “Nope, the school won’t be opening any time soon,” the emails might-as-well read. My young children (ages 2, 6, and 8) have not been in a classroom since March of 2020. They haven’t seen their classmates and their school district has no plan on reopening its public schools for this entire academic year. I miss everything school offers my children. Beyond a place to learn, it’s a place to be a kid, to play on the blacktop, dress up for spirit week, celebrate read-alouds, perform in variety shows. However, of all the things I miss about in-person school, lice is not one.

“It could be worse,” my mother said over the phone, when I complained about the stay at home orders that meant five of us in a 900 square foot space.  Does it have to be worse to throw yourself a bone of compassion? No is the answer. My husband and I switch off between work, school, and basic living needs.  Unrealistic expectations clash between our employers, our children’s teachers, ourselves, and the number of hours in a day needed to manage young children.  It sends me into a whirlwind of mental anguish when I try to grasp it all.

To stop myself from a downward spiral, I desperately needed a silver lining. What I found I was actually a change in my perspective, based on my own reality. My mantra doesn’t remind me- it could be worse. Yes I know it could be worse- but that doesn’t make me feel better. In fact hearing someone say, “It could be worse,” doesn’t make anyone feel better.

It shouldn’t have to be worse. We need to meet ourselves where we are at, in our unique realities.

This year is all about silver linings, and finding joy amongst the chaos. Discovering unique ways of being grateful. I get it. We are adjusting and readjusting this year. Navigating our ways through new normals constantly challenging our perspective. What makes us smile this year has changed. It’s in the little unpredictable elements that have the potential to offer disproportionate amounts of joy, when compared to previous years.

Did you ever think the absence of lice could make you smile? Nope? Me neither. But the little things are now EVERYTHING. Amongst the chaos there is joy in 2020. But let’s be real- this year we have to dig deeper to find it. It’s worth searching for delight in the little things… even if it’s in the absence of microscopic tiny blood sucking ever multiplying little critters.


Jessica Keith is a professional lecturer at San Diego State University.  When she’s not busy saying, “don’t make me repeat myself,” to her young children (ages 2, 6, and 8), she is getting paid to discuss the diverse implications of repeating oneself, teaching Cross-Cultural Communication. Currently, her favorite pastimes are sitting in a room by herself, and guessing what day of the week it is.


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