Carly Nevarez Q&A

I need to make a decision about seeing my family over the holidays, but there’s a lot to consider with the continuation of the pandemic, traveling out-of-state, seeing elderly family members, my own needs for family connection, etc. Do you have any suggestions for how to move forward in my decision-making this year?

First, I must say, you are not alone. Working through tough decisions begins with our ability to patiently remind ourselves of this truth. I am not alone. I am not alone globally and I am not alone interpersonally. When typed into Google, “Is it safe to go home for the holidays?” results in dozens of articles from virtually every major news outlet in the country. This is not a question that is easily answered. If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “everyone else seems to know what they should do but me,” I am here to lovingly remind you; Although they may say otherwise, our parents, siblings and friends are just as torn as we are. 

At its worst, this idea only serves to perpetuate our indecision. “Well, if no one else knows what to do, how am I supposed to?” A valid, yet, potentially problematic question. No one else knowing what to do is precisely what we need to remind ourselves of. It takes the pressure off and frees us up to focus on how we decide rather than what we decide. It’s no longer a matter of finding something that everyone else seems to have. It’s about getting to a place where you can look around and rest in a simple yet formidable truth.   

I have done what I can. Nothing less, nothing more.  

Doing what you can starts with the research. What exactly does the CDC and other health organizations say about getting together with people outside your home? How do they suggest you approach an upcoming trip or interaction with a high-risk family member? Under what circumstances would they suggest you stay home? As simple as it sounds, doing what you can do can’t happen without first knowing what you can do. 

Doing nothing less means we evaluate what we know to do with our capacity to actually do it. Are these recommendations achievable in my current circumstance? It also pushes us to be honest with our mental health. If what you can’t do is go another month without the in-person comfort of your family it’s time to do what you can do to make that happen. If what you can’t do is stand the thought of risking your family’s health, what can you do to connect with them? 

Then comes the most challenging part of the decision-making process. Doing nothing more is not a passive inaction. It’s a conscious decision. To take this step we must first recognize what we can’t do. I can’t prevent my family from contracting COVID. I can’t get rid of this nagging feeling of loneliness. I can’t solve my parent’s isolation. I can’t make my loved ones agree with my decision. 

We first recognize and then we participate. We take part in our non-doing. It’s not an ideal being taken away it’s a choice that is only ours to make. I cannot make my friends believe I am making the right decision so I will choose not to argue with them. I cannot guarantee the absolute safety of my family so I will choose not to prop this up as my goal. Anxiety at its core is the distress that comes from reaching for something that we cannot obtain. 

 It is in our nothing more that we have the opportunity to begin our search for peace. Peace in our powerlessness, peace in what we cannot control. It is in our nothing less that we find our strength. Strength in what is only ours to do. So, make your decision. Make your decision after having done all that you can do. Then begins the work of resting  

Carly Nevarez, MA, LMFT

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