During this unique time of the Covid-19 “pause,” life as we know it has come to a halt and our world has been turned upside down. While staying at home for weeks on end is not without its challenges and the very real accompanying financial anxieties, there are also some benefits, including ample time for thought. Whether they are anxious, fearful thoughts, or lighter, happier thoughts, the pandemic is a thing that is happening–to all of us–and it’s bringing up a lot. While I’m still struggling to wrap my head around how we ended up here and what the future may look like, it’s also been one big teaching moment, and I’ve learned a lot.
Prior to Covid-19 there were many mornings when the alarm went off and my first thought was dread. Life felt like a rat race, beginning with the morning Olympics of getting kids ready for school, followed by a long day of work, plus driving, making dinner, and a million other responsibilities. Today during this scaled-back version of life where I’m not supposed to leave the house at all, I’m able to approach the day with a vastly different attitude. I thrive with a regular routine, so I still get up at the same time, but instead of the morning commute, I light a candle and begin the day with meditation. The world is so peaceful in the early morning hours before the sun comes up; soaking it up within the quiet repose of meditation feels like a gift.
Here in California we’ve been ordered to quarantine to safeguard our health and well-being, and the health and well-being of others. Ironically, health and well-being isn’t typically our highest priority, but it should be. Having more time at home has allowed me to cook healthy food, create a peaceful sanctuary in my home, and explore other creative pursuits. All of it feels soothing to my soul.
As often happens during a crisis, I find myself considering some of the deeper, more fundamental questions of life: What kind of person do I want to be? How do I want to show up for others? While it’s easy to fall into the trap of negative thinking when things are difficult or don’t seem to be going our way, I know I have the power to choose my thoughts. In fact, choosing how I think and react to a situation is the only thing I have control over. It feels better to be a person who keeps a good attitude and uplifts others. We are all interconnected. Our actions matter. Helping others when I can– buying and delivering food for elderly neighbors, talking friends down off the ledge when they’re feeling depressed–it all feels good.
Going back to the basics has shown me what really matters in life; connection with family and friends is at the top of the list. I feel this more keenly with the loss of our ability to gather with others. It’s inspired us to come up with creative solutions for how to be together. Virtual game and craft nights with friends, meetups with family members scattered across the country, where we’ve celebrated two birthdays, had dinnertime chats, and played improv games. The quality of our interactions is different than our normal, in-person dialogues, and in many ways, it’s better. I’ve had deeper, richer conversations with my college-age nieces and every minute I get with my eighty-nine-year-old-father, who was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer, has even more poignancy and meaning. We’ve spent more time as a family in the past few weeks than we have in the past several years, and we’ve all enjoyed these gatherings so much, I’m amazed we never thought to do them before and grateful that the current crisis has brought us all closer together.
Now that we’ve been forced to stay home, I wonder if we should stay home more often. Ours is a culture of busy-ness; we are always hopping into our cars and running off to the next thing. Got a spare moment? Cool, where can we go next? But is this good for us? For our environment? After all, it takes a lot of energy, both human and fossil-fuel, to get from place to place, and for most of us, down time almost never happens.
There’s a part of me that yearns for a slower pace of life, something that hasn’t happened since I was a kid. Life during Covid-19 feels a bit like those long, luxurious days of grade school summer vacations where days were filled with baking, reading, doing art, and spending lots of time outside. It’s only now when I have the opportunity to live this way again that I recognize it as a gift. Slowing down and relaxing is potent medicine for stress. We all have a vital need for stillness and relaxation.
For one thing, when you stay home all the time, you notice things about your house that you wouldn’t otherwise ordinarily notice, like grimy handprints on the closet doors, or the mold growing at the base of the shower. How is that we spend so many hours working each week to keep a roof over our heads but never stay home to enjoy it? I’m finally getting around to fixing up the garden, making it into the oasis of relaxation I’ve been dreaming about for years, but kept putting off because I never had the time. Because my business as a wedding photographer isn’t deemed and “essential business,” I now have plenty of time. It’s very satisfying to work outdoors and see the landscape transforming under my hands, becoming a tiny, personal paradise. I like to think that once quarantine is over, I’ll stay home more often and enjoy what I’ve created.
For years I’ve known time in nature is my anchor, the thing that keeps me grounded. This is more apparent to me now than ever before. Nature abounds with things to explore! I’ve found that once I start looking–really looking– there are worlds within worlds to discover. Just the other day, while I was marveling at tiny wildflowers along the trail, I had a Horton Hears a Who moment when I noticed there were microscopic yellow bugs leaping out of the flowers as I walked past. Most times I might overlook something so infinitesimal, and yet my walks during quarantine have become more spacious, meandering explorations. I’m constantly discovering new, hidden gems.
There are gems, even in the midst of a situation that seems so overwhelmingly desperate. But we only see them if we are willing to slow down and notice.
Slowing down also allows us to think things through. I look at the current situation and ask: What is the opportunity here? How do I make the best use of my time? Most of us struggle to find a balance between time and money; there’s always that List of Things We Would Get to if We Only Had the Time. Well, now we have the time.
Ultimately I’ve realized I’ve needed this time and space to pause and reevaluate life. To dream about where I want to go from here, and what life will look like in the future. While I know I can’t stay home forever, I’ve realized I’d like to stay home more often, and incorporate the serenity of a slower pace into my daily life. Incredibly, it took a global pandemic to help me remember to prioritize peace.