Now that we are months into this world pandemic, do you remember life as it was before? Are you yearning for contentment, and things to “get back to normal”? Or actually (dare you admit it) enjoying the slower pace we were thrust into?
I’ve been giving a lot of thoughts to life then as compared to now.
Before COVID-19, I traveled frequently. I am based in New Jersey. With elderly parents in Florida, and a daughter living in California, family visits had me flying throughout the country often. A yearly coaching conference in Boston and a few business conferences scattered throughout each year added to my frequent flyer miles. And in good years, a summer or winter vacation took me to the Caribbean or Europe.
There were years when I was on and off a plane almost every single month of the year. And I loved it!
I know lots of folks hate flying, but not me. I always enjoyed the forced uninterrupted hours on a plane to either read or write. Waiting time in airports was a great opportunity to people watch. It was mostly the anticipation of what was on the other end when my plane landed that filled my heart with a sense of adventure and excitement.
All of this travel along with a workweek filled with client appointments, networking meetings, and speaking engagements had me living by my calendar.
I am very much a planner, so the hours not committed usually got filled with necessary chores, visits with friends, seasonal holidays, and the many family celebratory occasions.
It seemed I was always preparing. My waking hours were hectic, “doing.” Crossing stuff off the list, packing or unpacking bags, shopping for groceries or presents, making reservations—dinner, plane, theatre, etc.
My days were chock full. I kept to my schedule, stay organized, and was continually checking my watch. Along with so many others, I was always lamenting “there are not enough hours in the days to get it all done.”
Mind you, I am not complaining. I thrived on this crazy, busy lifestyle. Seeking contentment was not something I needed to give much thought to.
But the world pandemic put a giant stop to all the running and moving around. Suddenly, all plans fell by the wayside. Plane flights were canceled. My home would not be filled with company for the upcoming holidays. Theatre and concert tickets were rescheduled for 2021. Even my daughter’s wedding was postponed.
Already a work from home professional for many years, my working hours felt no different. But all the hours outside of business…well, that was another story.
At first, like everyone else, the shock of the world situation had me overwhelmed. All my energy and concentration went to staying safe and healthy.
My mind was busy worrying about my family members who were far away. On a daily basis, I reached out for friends, relatives, and business colleagues to assure they were OK. I needed to get used to my husband being home all day since his office was shut down. We spent a lot of time juggling and figuring out how to get groceries stocked, handle our finances, and all the other significant tasks with as little movement outside our home as possible.
Then life settled into a new “norm.” Zoom became my lifeline to not only business associates, but to my family members as well. Banking was done online, Amazon left packages several times a week. Groceries were delivered.
Once my workday ended, I got used to not having errands to rush off to complete. It seemed I went from so very much to do, to very little outside of my work responsibilities.
Initially, I felt adrift. This was not my usual MO. Rather than run off to complete a chore after work, I took to walking my dog. Not just for him to do his business, but for me to unwind and relax. I found myself not worrying about the time. Chatting with neighbors (six-feet apart, of course) became a new past time.
In good weather, I would sit with a cup of tea on my deck. Doing nothing. Just looking at nature, allowing my mind to drift. Rather than planning the next activity I needed to accomplish, I found myself quiet, calm, and content.
Don’t get me wrong, I, like the rest of the world, was stressed by what was happening around us.
Concerned and frightened by the coronavirus, worried about our nation’s economic future, and later in the spring, the social unrest that erupted. I grieved for friends who lost loved ones to the disease. I desperately missed seeing my family and friends, socializing, and getting together.
However, I was one of the fortunate ones, having an online business that continued to thrive and kept my workdays busy. My children navigated the changes in their employment and were fine for the time being. And by the end of the spring, my husband was re-opening his dental practice.
As for my personal life—well, I was actually less stressed than pre-pandemic. With less stuff to get done, I have allowed myself the luxury of sleeping in a bit later. I linger over morning coffee. When I chat on the phone or see my family on FaceTime, I no longer rush to get off and go on to the next scheduled activity.
Without realizing it, I had discovered that “being” was just as meaningful as “doing.” And equally OK.
Despite the world turning upside down, I have learned an incredibly valuable lesson. I learned to find contentment in just being. I learned to be more mindful of my thoughts and my surroundings. I learned to be OK with not planning and not being able to predict the future.
Like everyone else, I wish this virus was behind us. I pray for a vaccine to be discovered and quickly administered to all. I brace myself for the up and downs of the economic recovery and look forward to greater stability in our social and political world.
For the time being, I will enjoy the new ways I have found to socialize and stay connected. Zoom cocktail parties, socially-distant walks with friends, daily FaceTime calls with my far-away family. I even celebrated my birthday with a six-foot table set up on my driveway!
I will stay optimistic that my daughter will have the wedding she has been dreaming about. I will look forward to when I can travel again. And I suppose I’ll go back to shopping in stores one day rather than ordering everything online.
But for now, I will continue with this new way of being. And when life returns to that crazy, busy, running, and planning, I will make sure to schedule for some time to just “be.” It is a lesson I want to hold on to.
So what about you? Did you shift the way you approach your days? Have you learned a lesson or two you want to hold on to once this pandemic is behind us?