During the pandemic, I’ve been hunkering down at our house in southern California with my husband and dog. We’ve spent many weeks at home since the Governor effectively closed the state in mid-March. Adjusting to this quieter life took a while – there were some tears along the way as I lost things that I loved to do. But now that I’ve adjusted, I have to admit that my new life isn’t all thatbad. In fact, I really like the slower, less-complicated pace.
I realize that millions of people have lost their jobs and are facing unprecedented hardship. Nearly everyone is under immense stress. Most of us feel scared or anxious about the future. Hundreds of thousands of people have been sick, some really sick and many have passed away. The burden on our health care heroes has been unimaginable.
But there are also a lot of us that have been impacted more subtly. Most of the time, I think I’m doing alright and then out of the blue, I will hear a beautiful piece of music on the radio and start crying. This isn’t normal for me. Other people tell me they’ve been having bad dreams or problems sleeping. I know some parents with teenagers at home 24/7 that are ready to pull their hair out. It’s a hard time.
But this pause in life has given me a chance to reflect on my “regular” life. As the country begins to open up, I don’t want to unthinkingly go back to my old way of doing things. Instead, I want it to be a hybrid of my pre-pandemic life and this quieter time.
What I Miss from My Regular Life
Of course, there are some things I miss from my “normal” life. I miss the ease of seeing friends in person. And while my husband has done a great job giving me haircuts, I can’t wait to have my hair professionally cut and colored. I look forward to going to the grocery store without having to wear a mask and gloves or standing in line outside, as they manage the number of people in the store. I also look forward to being able to attend meetings in-person. (Zoom meetings are surprisingly tiring and can be frustrating sometimes.) And it seems like ages ago when we could get on an airplane without thinking twice.
My Pandemic Life
Most of the time, I like my current life. I’m still plenty busy, but I’m not overwhelmed. I wake up and first thing, I find a way to get in some exercise. I love to work out, so it’s a super way to start each day. I’ve gotten back into running and I’m thrilled to be able to make it up hills that several weeks ago were daunting. Recently, I made it up a steep hill without walking and at the top, I raised my arms to celebrate like Rocky Balboa would have.
After my run, I walk the dog, then make breakfast for me and my husband and then my day begins. Often, I have conference calls or Zoom meetings. I’ve also been taking individual Spanish lessons, so I have daily homework preparing for my weekly class.
My husband and I eat lunch together every day. We also excitedly plan what we will have for dinner. Meals have become very important! On the weekends, we make special dinners – ones that require more effort and give us something to look forward to.
Most days, I meditate and do yoga online. Both of these things keep me calm and help me sleep well. I also have some strength training videos that I try to do a couple of times a week. I cook and I clean.
My friends and I are making more of an effort to stay in touch. And unlike in regular life, we are all fairly available. It’s fun to feel so close to them, even if we’re not seeing each other in person. I take socially distant walks with them too.
I spend way less time running errands these days. In fact, I haven’t been shopping for anything other than groceries since mid-March. I did buy some new pajamas online, which I look forward to wearing every night. I have also started putting on the goopiest, thickest, old-school body lotion before going to bed. I think it helps me sleep well. It’s a new ritual that I may not have valued or even noticed in regular times.
For the most part, I like this life. It’s simple. I feel calm and satisfied. I like to be busy and I am, but it’s not crazy.
I Like Less Busy
As the country begins to open up, I’m cautiously optimistic about the future. I do want more freedom. But I also don’t want to unthinkingly go back to my normal routines, where I’m scheduled within an inch of my life, hurrying from here to there. I’ve now learned that I don’t need to go to the grocery store a few times a week. I also don’t want to feel like we “should” be social and go out for dinner, when we’d rather enjoy our evenings at home. I don’t need to play as much tennis as I was used to doing.
There are a lot of things I like to do, people I want to see and goals I want to accomplish. But those came at a price. And thanks to the pandemic, I now think that the price was too high. As a friend of mine recently asked, “Why have we been worshipping the busy?”
Exactly. Why was I? And now that I’m at a more reasonable level of busyness, there’s no going back. I don’t want to rush from one thing to another, day after day. I don’t want to have very little unstructured time. And while I will have to give up some things in order to pare down my schedule, I think I’m ready to do that.
Saying no to things will be hard for me. But I’m going to try. Just this week, I declined an opportunity that pre-pandemic I would have seriously considered. It’s a baby step in the right direction.
I Dreamt of Doing a Handstand
A few nights ago, I had a dream that I was easily doing a handstand in a yoga room. I was straight and steady, an upside-down pillar. People came and went around me. I was thrilled and shocked that it was so easy to stay upright with almost no effort.
I think my dream was saying that I can make some changes. I may need to turn my world upside down (and the world certainly has turned upside down!), but I believe the steadiness will be worth it. I want to try.
How about you? Have you learned anything from this pause in life? I look forward to hearing what you think.