Updated: Aug 24, 2020
COVID has reminded all of us that there are no guarantees in life, including the gift of another moment as remarkable as how we live with intention to rise up and meet the challenge of the current one.
COVID has had a profound impact on all of us. While the initial forced shut down was abrupt, the transition to a new way of doing business and living life has had its share of modulations in recent weeks. What started as a sprint has become an ultra-marathon. Few among us had the proper training, conditioning, or support to understand the advent of, let alone deconstruct and manage, the full range of emotional highs and lows that ebbed and flowed with the advance of the virus throughout the U.S. Amid the fear, uncertainty, and involuntary changes in our lifestyles, COVID has brought about some unexpected, if not welcomed, outcomes.
Specifically, I’ve personally experienced, and have conferred and confirmed a similar experience among many friends, family, and colleagues, a net slow down to daily life. Simply put, COVID has caused us to slow down. Additionally, the virus has prompted us to take stock of what’s important and most valuable to us, translating into more quality time spent with ourselves and those we love. Many people I’ve spoken with have taken up new hobbies like gardening or have invested in improving their health with a daily walk, run, or other exercise in lieu of spending time toiling in transit, heading to or returning home from work.
Humanity has had to grow and evolve during this crisis. To enable accessibility to necessities like grocery shopping and picking up prescriptions, we’ve also had to put specific safety and security procedures in place. Initially these important safety measures took more of our time, but as we’ve become conditioned to new ways of living with COVID in our communities, we’ve adapted. Regarding the use of personal protection equipment, for example, we’ve become more patient with others and tolerant of situations that may have felt very stressful during the early days of the pandemic.
Managing uncertainty with proactive personal responsibility
The changes made to daily life have added stress and anxiety for many people, which has been compounded by the severe economic downturn and uncertainty surrounding family travel, children and schools, balancing work and childcare. Change is never comfortable, particularly when it is thrust upon us. Responding to a change as significant as the global pandemic takes resolve and vigilance. How we choose to meet this moment and every moment that ensues will dictate our well-being and future sustainability.
Taking the necessary precautions and personal responsibility to protect ourselves and others by wearing a mask in public has been a relatively minor adjustment to daily life in the larger picture of COVID. Wearing a mask was so foreign to most people that it felt difficult at first, but now that we are more than 180 days into this crisis, the mask has become socially acceptable and personally fashionable. I’ll admit wearing a mask still evokes anxiety and fear in me. But I proudly wear it as a responsible citizen among millions and billions of people, who recognize this is part of how we keep our communities safe and ultimately conquer COVID. While our reorientation to daily life has had its share of aggravations, we’ve been resilient and innovative in the face of this public health crisis.
Rediscovering the joy, awe, and wonder of life
Since the advent of COVID, every so often I’ve caught myself in a momentary pause of quiet introspection, caught up in a slurry of mixed emotions, concerned about the future, yet grateful for the present moment. Often these contemplation's are during a time when I’m alone or enjoying “stolen” time with family. Of course, we know that no time is ever stolen time, rather it is how we choose to value our time in any given moment that creates purpose and meaning to life. I have, like others, spent more time in my home and sequestered within my community. This has required me to reevaluate and optimize how I view and use my time.
During this time, I’ve been delighted to feel reawakened to the simple pleasures of life. The warm feeling of sunlight on my face, the sounds of children playing, the smell of barbecue billowing up from somewhere in the neighborhood. This feeling can also be found sitting in the sun, gazing at the clouds, or taking a deliberate moment of reflection with a coffee at the end of a workday. This is not to say I didn’t do or actively feel these kinds of things pre-COVID, rather, I have rediscovered the joy, awe, and wonder of the moment – the only time that matters the most. It is clearer to me know that pre-COVID I treated time as a commodity, a trade off between productivity and promises, to-do’s and tomorrows.
A few evenings ago, following dinner, my wife, two sons (ages ten and twelve) and I retreated to our backyard fire pit. This summer we have enjoyed each other’s company around an evening fire more times than all the aggregated fires we’ve enjoyed in preceding summer’s. This evening, we lit the fire a little later than we typically did. The late start coupled with the advance of fall and the fact that the sun has been setting sooner in the evening sky, meant that we would enjoy the glow of the fire against the encroaching darkness of night. With flashlights in hand and illuminating the way, I asked my sons to walk with me to “dad’s secret stash” of sticks used for kindling.
The air felt electric and the magic of the moment began to reveal itself. My sons helped me gather sticks from a pile of brush in the backyard and we walked excitedly back to the fire pit. After all, we were about to build a fire. We built a brilliant fire and began roasting marshmallows. The cracking of the fire was the only sound heard aside from the chirping crickets and cicada, and the occasional bark of a dog or car driving in the distance. With our attention on the fire, the night sky, and each other we were all immersed and enchanted by the moment. There wasn’t any thought or discussion on work, COVID, fears, or anxieties. We each simply sat in a state of being, wanting for nothing and feeling comforted and content.
In search of a universe in balance
As the flicker of the fire subsided, we decided to call it night. I looked at my phone. Like a time machine, the mesmerizing moment had transported us two hours into the future. This was the latest we had stayed up to enjoy a fire outside, perhaps ever as a family. Another benefit of the COVID slowdown has been rediscovering the joy of play. My youngest son had brought two of his Star Wars light sabers outside with him. Sharing the sabers between us, the family choreographed our own epic battle of good vs. evil against the silhouette of trees and the rising azure sky above us. The light side of the force won the battle, as my son thrust his saber into me.
With the universe back in balance another force drew us toward the driveway, heads cocked upwards, in awe of the stars. My wife and I gawked at the stars for another twenty minutes or so, looking up until our necks hurt, fielding questions from our sons ranging from the names of constellations, to the locations of planets, and the idea of life existing in another galaxy far far away. Our imaginations stoked and spirits stimulated by a starlit sky, we retired indoors for the evening. After a quick shower, my youngest son yawned and said, “dad, I had a great night, but I’m tired, ready for bed.” Me too! I replied and tucked him in and said goodnight.
Life can be rich and rewarding, full of possibility and play, when we let down our guards, step aside from the madness, and allow ourselves to be our “self,” present, awake, and alive in the moment. No one ever wanted to live during a situation like this. However, the pandemic has invigorated among us, a clarity to life and a reminder of the limited precious time that is bestowed upon us all. Current events have reminded us of the necessity to be resolute in our actions to meet our moment with poise, grace, and dignity. COVID has reminded all of us that there are no guarantees in life, including the gift of another moment as remarkable as how we live with intention to rise up and meet the challenge of the current one.