Hello faithful readers. How are you all? Life has changed since the last time I wrote to you here. There is isolation and alarm amidst a virus wreaking havoc the world over. A virus that toys with the end of world scenarios that, as children, kept us up at night and taps into our deep-seated fears of loss and death—there isn’t much beyond the threat of illness and death that could bring the world to a stand-still as this has. And if this pandemic hasn’t changed your life, you are doing something wrong.
Like many of you, my family is practicing social distancing—what is bound to be the top subject of all the 2020 year-in-review songs come December. An introvert at heart, I can’t say I mind being stuck at home. I haven’t fought with my kids to get out of the house in the mornings and since there is nowhere to go, I haven’t been late for anything in over two weeks. I also haven’t worn a real bra or opened my make-up bag and my hair has been in some variation of a top-knot almost constantly. In the midst of isolation I have reverted to my natural, slightly nocturnal state, in which my body and mind are both happiest. We are thankful to feel distanced from the pandemic so far, as though it’s just another apocalyptic movie.
Even with the stress of the world outside our front door, I have noticed positive changes in my own little family during this brief hiatus from life. Without school, social obligations or sports schedules, it seems we have been restored to our factory settings as humans—except, of course, with wi-fi… and wine.
Our home has been filled with creativity. We are reading more and connecting over the course of our limitless unscheduled hours. Toys and games left forgotten on a shelf have been pulled down and given new life. We’ve taped paper hearts to our windows and chalk drawings decorate our driveway. Our kids have been faced with true boredom and I’ve watched their imaginations spark ideas in ways their usually entertained selves haven’t had to do in a very long time.
Now don’t let me fool you. We feel the exhaustion and frustration of being crammed together for two weeks straight with no end in sight. My essential service working husband has escaped to go to work but it’s the four or five of us together all the time. There have been arguments, cries of needing personal space and disappointment to be dealt with over the cancellation of many things we were looking forward to. But those emotions existed here anyways. Without the added stress of keeping up with life, my patience also seems to have been restored to its former glory.
At some point we will all emerge from our homes and re-join the land of the living. When we do—when the grocery store shelves are well stocked once again and the collective anxiety level of society has abated—I hope we all will have changed. Definitely not in an I’m stocking up for the apocalypse kind of way but more of a I’ve reevaluated my outlook on life kind of way. We have been given an opportunity to discover life without all the extras—an opportunity we may never have otherwise been granted. It would be a shame to let the lessons within this pandemic go to waste and I believe I’m not the only one who has been struck by the positive outcomes of a pared down existence.
My husband however, tells me I’m naive. He says come this September or next, everyone will be registered for their activities and free-time will become a luxury once again. He says sports and other organizations won’t change and we will be forced to comply with their overly aggressive requirements and schedules for our young kids who just want to be involved—hint: if everyone only plays twice a week, nobody has an advantage.
I’m less of a skeptic. I like to believe we have been recalibrated to see the true benefits of a lighter schedule. But if he’s right, and everything returns to the status-quo, our family will be making changes. We will question the value of our time and the things we spend our money on. Do 8 year olds really need to be on the soccer field three times a week while going to the dance studio every Friday and playing piano? No. Do the chairs around my kitchen table really need replaced? OK, possibly—they are terrible. But I am determined to shift our calendar to reflect our mindset and declutter our schedules in order to provide our family space to just be.
We talk about going back to normal and if anyone understands a desire to find normalcy, it’s me. But we have choices to make. Now that our lives have been stripped to the bare minimum, we can get a sense for what was important. We can choose what to bring back into our lives. We have a say in what normal will look like. And for me, it’s less wants and more time.
For now though we must stay the course. Be sure to take care of yourselves and your family. Be kind and don’t be greedy. Keep the FaceTime calls flowing and have patience for all the teachers figuring out how to best support your children’s learning from a distance. Laugh at all the memes and parodies and don’t beat yourself up because you haven’t Marie Kondo’d your entire house or because your kids have watched a few extra hours of Netflix. And be sure to check in on your friends who thrive on having control—because they are for sure struggling right now.
But in the quiet moments, take a second to think about what this experience has given you and ask yourself honestly if you want to go back to life, exactly as it was.
I would love to hear your own experiences of these last few weeks. Have they changed you? Will you reevaluate or are you dying to get back to business as usual? Fill me in.