I remember the early weeks of the pandemic when New York City, and the country at large, began shutting down. I can distinctly recall the last “normal” weekend in the city. We had dinner, saw friends, caught a show, and stayed out way too late for 39 years old. Covid was but a cautionary news conversation over dinner with friends and family. By the following week, we wouldn’t be allowed out of our apartments except to buy food, and all intimacy with friends and strangers would be limited to an invisible boundary of 72 inches.
Firmly into the lockdown, we gave up most of our normalcy in day-to-day life. No more gym, no more yoga, no more coffee or concerts with friends or wandering the halls of museums. We all swore we would take this new, undetermined amount of time to learn something new. Some of us claimed we would be bilingual by May (*meekly raises hand*), and others had a pile of books to get through.
I didn’t learn any new languages, or how to knit, or all of the moves to Janet Jackson’s If (that last one was a true goal). But I did learn a LOT about myself in the 28 weeks since the pandemic inserted itself in my life.
The pandemic broke down almost all barriers that we maintain in our normal daily lives. There was suddenly no work/life balance, as they slowly melded into one strange universe that existed in the same place and same pajamas. For some, working from how was always our normal, but for a large majority, this was a new environment to navigate with homes full of children, spouses and barking dogs to contend with.
The new at-home dynamic was (and remains) tough, but Covid had even deeper impacts into our lives, beyond inconvenience. In just the first few weeks, my partner lost his job, my parents became stuck on a cruise liner for weeks, and I had several friends and family hospitalized with the viciousness that would become associated with the new virus, and some even pass away from it.
The lockdown had a very acute way of making us feel *very* alone. What I realized quickly however through friends, family and colleagues was not only was I not alone, but nearly everyone around me was also battling with some terrible outcome or tragedy from this. I began spending less time on “how does affect me” and more time on “how has this affected you”. Remembering that others may be suffering unbeknownst to us is an important lesson to take with us, whether in the throws of a pandemic or not.
Oh lord. Patience. Heaps of patience. I’m already a very patient person, but nothing will test patience like months of lockdown in 600 square feet with your partner or standing in line for hours to buy one roll of paper towel. For those of us with more impatient tendencies, the pandemic created forced lessons in getting over that trait. In no uncertain terms, we were told daily that “we don’t know when this will be over” and, to some degree, we still don’t when it will be normal again. While news of the pandemic came at us with lightning speed every day, life in the pandemic moved a bit slower.
We decided to buy our first house. What would be a major stress event in any normal time, was magnified times infinity. We couldn’t even see most houses in person – most were virtual affairs that were equal parts online dollhouse and video game. And when we did find houses we liked, they were quickly snatched up as mortgage rates fell to record lows. Through it all, I used patience to fight patience. We had patiently saved up for this moment from the day we met 10 years ago. Through set-backs, cross-country moves and job losses, our goal of owning a home was continually pushed back, so what was another few months of waiting when we were *so close* to our finish line. I will not soon forget this reinforced value of patience as we continue to tackle projects in the new home we’ve created.
It’s Okay to Find Happiness in Tough Times
No doubt about it, there was tremendous stress and sadness over these last few months. We saw direct impacts in each of our lives, whether financially or maybe the loss of a loved one. We saw our cities shutter and go silent, and the country take a combative “us vs them” stance on nearly all matters.
It was easy to commiserate with others over stress and sadness – it had become a new commonality between friends and strangers alike. What was harder during these times was feeling that it was okay to be happy or celebrate moments when so many others around us were sad or suffering. Whether it was an accomplishment at work, finally buying a home, or being able to run consecutively for more than a mile, it’s hard to be proud or happy when others are suffering. But, we have to. We all need to find the moments of celebration, big or small, even in hard times. The light in the darkness, if you will.
Leaning into the Quiet
You would think a lockdown would create endless moments of quiet, but I don’t think I need to tell any of you how untrue that statement would become. Our thoughts of tackling reading lists or writing while watching spring emerge outside of our windows quickly faded into the constant news reports, divisive social media, and *so many* Zoom calls.
I quickly made it a point to take quiet moments to myself. My usual quick morning walk with Marla turned into a twice a day (at least) 1+ mile stroll through Brooklyn and Fort Green Park. These moments outside to freely and quietly move about became my saving grace away from the noise, as well as much needed exercise.
I also backed away from social media a bit. While I enjoy contributing and writing, social media can so quickly take a toll on our psyche even in the best of times. So, I incorporated a few breaks, and made it a mandate to put the phone away early each evening.
We need quiet moments to check in and converse with ourselves. We can’t be compassionate with others if we can’t take the time to be compassionate with ourselves.
So, while I didn’t learn a new language, a Tik Tok dance or how to cross-stitch (sorry mom), I do feel that I am a bit better prepared when it comes to life’s unexpected twists and turns. And if 2020 has been anything, it’s a twisting turning road in bad weather with one headlight. Take it slow and safe y’all.
If you learned anything these last few weeks, whether it be personal insights or a new hobby, I would love to hear about it.