Standing on the treadmill, scrolling through a library of podcasts, my eyes landed on The Ed Mylett Show and his latest episode, Mindset That Conquered Paralysis with Chris Norton. Truth be told, I had no idea who Chris Norton was; yet, without hesitation, I hit PLAY on the podcast and START on the treadmill, as I began to move one foot in front of the other.
It was the word paralysis that got me.
As we have been given the green light to slowly emerge from one of the most challenging years ever, I have noticed a reluctance and fear amongst many women. No matter the long-awaited vaccine, a newly elected president, the church doors that have swung open, the CDC dropping the mask mandates, or whatever else it is that had voices insisting “when this happens, then we can get back to normal,” many of us have yet to move forward. There appears to be this feeling amongst women of great overwhelm mixed with a severe lack of motivation—a paralysis, so to speak.
Be honest. Have you been knocked down hard by the pandemic and feel like you can’t get up? Despite the desire to get back to a life you love, are you feeling stuck in place, grieving what’s behind you, too afraid to move forward? If so, you are not alone.
Chris Norton was a college football player who was paralyzed when he mistimed his jump by a split second, and instead of being in front of the ball, he collided with the ball carrier’s legs. Told he would never walk again, Chris held on to his faith and family and defied the odds by regaining mobility in some parts of his body. He not only walked across the stage to accept his college diploma in 2015, but three years later, he walked 7 yards down the aisle on his wedding day. Does this mean that Norton’s life went back to normal? Absolutely not. But is he moving forward and thriving? You bet.
I can’t help but think about us—the women who have taken a hard hit this past year. Mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually tackled, leaving us numb from the neck down. We have been so focused on taking care of everyone else: turning our bedrooms into home offices, kitchen tables into classrooms, and putting on brave faces for children. It is no wonder we are in a mental health crisis. We weren’t asked to become stay-at-home moms but forced to become stuck-at-home moms. If the loneliness has not yet suffocated us, the anxiety has. And while not all of us feel this way, statistics are revealing that many of us do. And so, as women of faith, it begs the question:
How can we move forward in this time of transition, not just surviving but thriving?
Norton’s Netflix documentary, 7 Yards, impelled me to write down a list of three simple things we can do to increase our desire to move forward and step into this time of transition with excitement and hope.
1. Reframe what matters.
Norton says that too often we get stuck thinking about all of those “should haves.” As in, “I should have been doing this now,” or “I should have had this.” “It is very easy to start thinking about what should have been,” he says. “While it is natural to feel this way, these words can get us in trouble by focusing too much on what’s out of our control. When done too often it can distract us from the present and future possibilities. We must resist the temptation to dwell on what cannot be undone.” Norton also encourages us to focus on what we can do, not what we can’t.
Yes, go ahead and recognize what you have been through and acknowledge what’s been lost, but instead of it dragging you deeper into a pit of despair and self-pity, let it allow you to root yourself more deeply in Christ. Remember that the blessings you have received are probably someone else’s “should haves.” So, give praise and thanks to God for all of the lovely things He has given you. St. Paul encourages this mindset in Philippians 4:8, “...if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Paul was reframing what matters. We are called to do the same.
2. Be a gift to someone.
I love the saying, “If you feel helpless, be helpful.” And maybe you are reading this thinking, “I am so depressed and lonely that I can’t even help myself!” If this is you, listen up. God uses our loneliness and brokenness. Rather than see it as a defect, let it prompt you to do something beautiful for someone else. Drop flowers off at a friend’s door. Make that phone call. Check in on the one woman you used to see weekly at Bible study but haven’t talked to since quarantine. Invite your neighbor to go on a dog walk. And if your neighbor doesn’t have a dog, buy them one! (Just kidding. They can have one of mine.) It doesn’t take much to brighten someone’s day, and in doing so, you will inevitably brighten your own.
3. Do one more thing
Chris Norton had a simple but highly effective game plan for moving forward and thriving: Do one more thing. If he was scheduled for two hours of physical therapy, he’d ask for three. Perhaps one more thing for you looks like forgoing the online grocery shopping this week and walking into the store and smiling at real live people. Maybe it’s getting back to meeting your friend at the local coffee shop after daily Mass. For me, one more thing looked like getting myself an appointment with a trained counselor to help me navigate life. I share this with you in case you are like me—so consumed by the needs of others and getting them help that you fail to see that the reason you feel so stuck is that you are the one who could use the extra support! Sometimes the best way we help others is by modeling how we help ourselves. And for the record, seeking help outside of God and prayer does not make you a bad Christian nor does it mean that prayer doesn’t work. So you can shut those lies down right about now.
I am confident that while this past year feels like one enormous, out-of-control loss, God knows exactly what is up, and He is going to use every bit of it in glorious ways that we could never dream up or imagine. I know that this time of transition feels hard, but it is time to move forward. Not back into the life that we once had, but nonetheless, into a life that we love. To cope is one thing. To thrive is another. And we, my friends, were made to thrive.