It’s day 1 of my county’s “shelter in place,” month 3 of watching the spread and effects of COVID-19, and nearly 4 years since my last post. Boy, time flies. (Except, of course, for those periods of life where time is more like molasses’ wrenchingly slow pour.)
It’s easy to think that this period of life is one interrupted, or even disrupted. Work is cancelled, school is cancelled, socializing beyond households is suspended, travel is highly discouraged, and we’re all mandated to leave our homestead only to care for our essential needs (which have been defined for us.) It’s enough to make a person irritated, nearly dreading what 3 weeks of “confinement” will do for us. One almost shudders with the thought, “What will day 13 feel like?” At least, I’ve had this thought and I’m an introvert. I love the notion of cocooning in my house and limiting social interaction by nature. Yet…
The predicament seems especially unnerving when we add in concerns about physical health for those most vulnerable, financial health for households across the nation, children’s access to quality of education (and the socioeconomic disparities already in place that can be exacerbated by a time like this), and the national and international economic outlook. Sigh.
So what’s a person to do?
I’ve come to the conclusion that sheltering in place is less about interrupting my life, it’s about the opportunity to spend time in it – to consciously be present with my life and my family. It’s a gift. A radical, unexpected, and sometimes undesired gift, but a gift nonetheless. And if I can let go of the friction that I’m placing around that gift (e.g. the above worries catalogued in the paragraphs above) then I’ll be able to find more joy, more peace, and more contentment.
This perspective doesn’t discount the above-mentioned worries. And it certainly isn’t meant to diminish the real struggles that families might be encountering because of COVID-19. But our perspective is key to how we navigate those worries and our relationships with ourselves and our loved ones. Choosing our perspective – our thoughts – is one way that we begin to insert some control or agency during times that feel uncontrollable. There is power here. And it’s not a power to be taken lightly.
If I choose to see this time as a gift, then it reorients how I approach things:
- My children: Beyond weekends and school breaks, my time with my children has changed substantially since I entered the workforce more intentionally. I can reclaim some of what their aging and my working has left behind – wild amounts of unstructured time that affords opportunities for one-on-one play, interactive learning (for us all!), and lots of time exploring nature, riding bikes, taking walks, and being active together.
- My house: I’ve had chores on my to-do list for at least 5-7 years, but I never want to dedicate precious weekend time to doing them because I’d rather be with my family. Now? I’ve got loads of time and some rainy days! I’ve already crossed two items off of my list and am ready to keep plugging away.
- My work: For years I’ve wanted to offer more online content. Well, now’s the time to create and share, especially since in-person teaching off the tables. Granted, this goal is more daunting for me enact, and I’m happy to use my children being home as the excuse that prevents it. BUT…we’re settling into a schedule, more formal schoolwork is coming, and I should have opportunities to finally record those meditations and a few online classes that I’ve been thinking about for the last 5 years.
These are just some of the things that I see when I look at this situation as a gift. I have opportunities to explore, to play, to emphasize the life part of the elusive work/life balance, and to be present with 3 of the people that I love most dearly in this world. What an amazing opportunity. And, while I still worry about some of the above, it’s modulated by the sense that this situation offers unexpected and untapped possibilities. I will figure out the rest; I have enough confidence in myself and my communities to believe in a more potent future than worry might depict.
So, my friend, shelter in place. And, as much as you’re able, dig into the notion of “shelter.” While our time outside the household might be limited, there is richness to be found within – less consumerism, more presence, more quiet, and more opportunities to commune with nature. Get out for long walks, explore nature (keeping the appropriate social distance with folks you may encounter), try out a new hobby, read, play music, learn a language, cook and bake, watch movies that make you laugh, sing out loud, FaceTime with a loved one, meditate, set up a home practice, watch the sun rise or set, and, most importantly, be present with yourself and your loved ones in loving-kindness. With any luck I’ll be here with some supportive content (but forgive me if I don’t…cookies may need to be made.)