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  • Writer's pictureKathleen Choe

What Did You Do With Your Dash?

What did you do with your dash?

I recently heard an interview with the Reverend Michael Curry, where he described the engraving on most headstones in cemeteries being composed of the year and date the deceased person buried there was born, and then a little dash, followed by the year and date that they died. He said, “the question is not, when were you born? You didn’t have anything to do with that. When did you die? You probably didn’t have much to do with that, either. The question is, ‘what did you do with your dash?’ That’s the question.”

A year like the one we just finished can leave us in survival mode: depleted, exhausted, and overwhelmed. While there are hopeful signs that there may be some developments in the new year that could bring relief from the social distancing and safety measures we are having to take during the ongoing pandemic, the country remains more divided and polarized than ever, and many of us are entering 2021 grieving unexpected losses and facing uncertainty in various areas of our lives.

While we can’t always control the stressor, we can influence and manage our stress response. We can choose self-care that helps regulate our nervous system, practice compassion for ourselves and others, and set small manageable goals to help us move from a position of feeling helpless and powerless to one of empowerment and even peace and joy amidst the ongoing challenges.

Take some time at the beginning of this new year to reflect on how you would like to answer this question someday: “what did you do with your dash?”

Journal your reflections and/or share them with someone you trust who will support and encourage you on this journey. I want to be able to say I lived a life congruent with my core values of practicing kindness and respect to all, regardless of the ways their beliefs, values and practices might differ from mine (I have a long way to go on this one!) What would you like to be able to say? I would love to hear from any of you who wish to share your responses with me!

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