This pandemic is no easy thing. The economy is suffering, many of us are struggling financially, and some are impacted by mental health issues caused by extreme isolation. I miss my family and my friends. I haven’t been able to hold my baby nephew in over a month.
Like many people, I am working from home, attempting to juggle my children’s online learning, sharing devices between all of us, and feeling the pressure not to let this experience become my kids’ childhood trauma. Secondly, by no means do I mean to negate the sorrow and loss of those in our community who are ill or who have family members who have passed from this devastating virus. My heart goes out to all of you.
It’s just that I am a silver-linings-kind-of girl. It’s my nature to find the bright side in even the most challenging situations and to search for an inherent lesson. In the midst of such uncertainty, fear and stress, it can help to focus on the positives that have resulted from all of this.
Like many people, in the first few days of this pandemic, I was shocked by the drastic measures being taken all over the world. It felt as if the entire planet had lost its mind. There were videos of people fighting over supplies in Costco, advice to stock pile food, and school was cancelled. The overwhelming tone of our society, at that moment, was fear. How long will this last? The million-dollar question.
As we established a “new normal,” the societal tone shifted to one of compassion and need for human connection. We saw hearts in the window and messages of gratitude for essential workers. My own mindset began to shift through a series of conversations with my girlfriends. Here’s some of our shared observations:
Wisdom Bomb #1: We may never be blessed with this much time again. Being with your family 24/7 is no easy feat! I am currently locked in my bedroom as I write this, hoping my children are playing nicely in the yard without damaging property or arguing for all the neighbours to hear. It’s exhausting to keep up with their energy level, to keep them educated as well as entertained, and to encourage them to be okay with boredom. This. Is. Hard.
In a conversation where my girlfriends and I were airing our parenting grievances in this new and unusual situation, one of them made a comment which immediately allowed me to reframe everything. She pointed out that we will never be blessed with this much time again. When will we ever be able to stop our daily lives and focus on our families like we are able to at this moment?
Our normal lives include hectic work schedules and the chaotic chauffeuring to and from after school activities. On the weekends, our children are hanging out with their friends and not necessarily spending time with the family.
Most of us have not had the privilege of focusing on our family since maternity leave, which feels like a century ago. Now, in place of our rapid fire, overscheduled reality, we are baking, playing board games, going on bike rides and evening strolls. As a family. As in, all of us. Together.
Wisdom Bomb #2: We really don’t need very much. Normal life is full of distraction. For our children: sports, lessons, field trips, play dates. For us: fancy dinners, fancy cars, fancy clothes. We believed these were the things which made us feel fulfilled and brought us joy. It turns out, we were wrong.
Shortly before this pandemic, I splurged and bought myself a new car. The car I previously drove was embarrassing, all scratched and banged up. It broke down often. Driving a sleek, new car was incredibly satisfying. For all of one week. Then, social isolation. But, do you know what? As that car has sat in my garage, relatively un-driven for the past 34 days, I don’t miss it at all. I don’t miss driving to soccer games. I don’t miss commuting to work. I began to wonder what else I don’t miss.
I don’t miss my morning Starbucks coffee. I don’t miss my yoga classes. I don’t miss my beautiful work wardrobe. I don’t miss putting on makeup.
I am finding joy in watching my children play together, driving Hot Wheels cars on the carpet. I enjoy the sunlight streaming through my window as I listen to a meditation podcast. I love spending time cooking dinner, while enjoying a glass of wine.
This pandemic has taught me that I don’t need very much to be happy. I need my health, my family and some phone calls with my friends. I need a safe place to sleep and a good meal in my belly. There is still so much to be grateful for.
In recent weeks, I have heard many parents exclaim how surprised they are by their children’s excellent behaviour in light of this challenging situation. Sure, they miss their activities, their friends and their family members. But most parents I know have remarked at the calm and accepting nature of their kids.
The truth is, kids are often smarter than the rest of us. They are happy because they have the one thing they have always wanted: time with their family.
So, as we move forward in the world and eventually get back to “normal” life, I hope we carry forth valuable lessons learned within this pandemic. I hope we retain these newly discovered priorities and keep them in the forefront of our minds instead of diving blindly back into old habits. There is beauty and peace in simplicity.