Growing Community: Are we there yet?

Growing Community: Are we there yet?

By Shirley Ritter and Katherine Sand/Special to the Aspen Daily News

It may be something of an old chestnut, but nevertheless there is so much to value in the Ralph Waldo Emerson quotation: “Life is a journey, not a destination.”  As human beings, we are constantly striving and moving forward — we set ourselves goals and harness ourselves to outcomes. So too, in parenting. Whatever it is that we want for our children and ourselves, and however we were brought up, we all have lists of life experiences, accomplishments and achievements to tick off. Plans to achieve. Grades, GPAs, college, teams, victories. There’s always an end in sight.

Except, of course, there isn’t really ever an end — it’s just life, and as soon as you round one corner or summit one hill, there’s inevitably another one waiting up ahead.

In which case, and for better or worse, let’s remind ourselves of both the reward and the pain of being on this journey and suspend that desperate desire to get there. That’s not to say that good things won’t happen, just that there will inevitably be setbacks and bumps in the road before they do. And it’s probably best to be ready for them.

The biggest question of the year has been “when will the pandemic be over?” We don’t know about you, but it doesn’t seem to have happened yet. Sure, things are changing, freeing up, improving, but one of the hardest aspects of the pandemic — among so many — is that it may never completely end. This is the sad reality and very hard to wrap our heads around as we continue to get vaccinated, wear masks and grit our teeth in anticipation of still more quarantines and days of work lost with our children at home. Or worse yet, actually sick with COVID.

At Aspen Family Connections, and in the schools and preschools, we have definitely seen the impact of this ongoing pandemic stress in our schools and community since September. There have been many requests for connections to counseling and from parents looking for reassurance and advice for their children and themselves. And it isn’t just the pandemic — now we’re anxious about everything else, too. Some days it feels like a tsunami of anxiety and stress, with some antagonism and resentment too. It’s almost as if everything we’ve all suppressed for so long while we were in purely pandemic mode is now bubbling up and out of our control. Relationships are under strain. Employment is unsatisfying or, worse still, precarious. Many of our community members, of all ages, are understandably feeling stressed, exhausted and worried about the future.

As parents, we want nothing more for our children (and ourselves) than to be able to provide some certainty: a “normal” and predictable year without the disruption of the past one. And that’s not a promise any of us can keep. So here we all are, traveling on this rocky road. And most of us are, frankly, worn out. Fed up.

Our advice continues to be to urge kindness, patience, calm and strength. It’s a tall order because we’ve been through so much already. But the journey continues. We remind everyone that there are truly tremendous resources available to us here for counseling and therapy of all kinds. Talk to friends, find pleasure in small things, reach out to all your support networks and do anything you can to maintain a sense of perspective and peace. Breathe.

And we all need to stay busy and engaged as we head into off-season, via this spectacularly beautiful fall. Most of our kids’ after-school activities have re-emerged, and maybe it’s time to try something new?

And while we are on that topic (unapologetic ad coming up!), this could also be an excellent time to think about volunteering some time to help others? Trust us, there’s nothing that feels quite so good! The biweekly Aspen Food Distribution at Buttermilk Parking Lot — which continues to be much needed and valued by many families and individuals — is always in need of volunteers, including those who can speak some Spanish. It’s a lovely, warm crew of people and the work is a fun and rewarding couple of hours spent in the fresh air. Please contact Katherine Sand if you are interested. We need your help on this journey!

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