All of us have spent over a year now dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in our own ways.
Perhaps like me, you have watched others—from a safe distance—in order to gauge how they have coped compared with yourself. I know I have learned some new, beneficial habits from admirable neighbors, family, and friends that have helped anchor me amidst the chaos and tragedy that have unfolded worldwide.
Thankfully, this past year has also allowed me to rediscover my inner strength and develop some good habits, just by going about the business of living healthily day in and day out. And most of us have been so lucky because we’re still here. What’s the saying? When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Or, as my daughter would say, “There goes Mom, making lemonade out of lemons.” Yes, sour to sweet.
I would like to share with you five of my sweet habits that I plan to keep post pandemic. I’m interested in yours, so I hope you’ll share. Do we have some overlap? I suspect so.
- Make Do. The images of empty food shelves are etched into my brain from scary visits to the grocery store last spring. Masking, disinfecting, distancing, and panicking are words that describe those times for me. We were like ghosts, weren’t we, floating among the aisles, looking for our favorite brands of whatever that weren’t there? And such joy when during the next visit, there they were on the shelf! But I didn’t starve. I adjusted. Ultimately, there was plenty. Those events taught me never to complain again when the store is out of something. Better yet, I will never take a grocery store for granted again. I have learned to compensate and be happy doing so. There is some honor in such sacrifices, I feel. This must be what my parents and grandparents did successfully during World War II.
- Practice Ethical Actions and Random Acts of Kindness. I’m a bleeding heart. For me, it’s incurable, but that’s fine. I had just released my first book right before the Lock Down occurred last year. No book signings, no school visits, no traveling to conferences. Instead of feeling sorry for myself that my debut book was missing vital exposure, I devised a plan. Kids were out of school and needed books! I put a huge poster in my front room window and wrote a message in colored chalk (a product that enjoyed renewed popularity) in my driveway: FREE books for kids and teachers! I gave away hundreds and had the joy of safely meeting and talking with neighborhood children, their families, and teachers as they picked up their bagged books and book swag from my front porch. It was synergistic: I gave to them. In turn, they gave my dog and me valuable human interaction and my book a chance. I still get young visitors knocking on my door, asking when the next book will come out. Ah, music to any writer’s ears. And those sweet, innocent faces make my day.
- Revamp the Exercise Routine. I used to go to the Y twice weekly for yoga, strength training, and cardio. Then, it shuttered. Undaunted, though it took me a while to figure out, I joined a group of neighbor women in the nearby park for outdoor, socially distancing workouts. I also upped my walking route, adding miles and hills for a thorough workout. And the lovely fresh air, trees, birdsong, flowers, and sunshine. I doubt that I’ll return to the Y. Exercise takes on new meaning and with a blue sky, not a steel roof, overhead.
- Remain Good Friends with my House. I’ve loved living in my nearly one-hundred-year-old house for three decades. But did I really know it down to its nook, crannies, and floor boards? No. The stay-at-home orders were such a gift for me! The house wrapped its vintage arms around me and hugged me tightly, gifting me with comfort, security, and calmness. I have found that I am cleaning more often, not just because the cleaning woman disappeared, nor to ward off the virus. It’s my loving my house back, making it shine and filling it with flowers. It’s almost as if my Home has become a member of the household, along with my dog. So now, we are three.
- Embrace the Writerly Solitude. I have gotten comfortable with the stereotypical solitary writer, holed up at my desk, with my dog and my house cheering me on. Ever hear of FOMO—“Fear of Missing Out”? I had a bad case of that pre pandemic as I stayed home to write while simultaneously wondering what fun I was missing by doing so. Not anymore! The stay-at-home orders were a blessing. I could hunker down guilt free because everyone else was doing likewise! That may sound self-centered, but it came at just the right time to teach me a valuable lesson: Be happy where I am, with who I am, doing what I want to do. Embracing this lesson also gave me more time to write, learn new technology (like Zoom), and save gasoline and the environment. What writer doesn’t need or want all of that?
As the pandemic ends, I know I will continue to fine-tune my new habits. But for the most part, I believe they’re here to stay. Lemonade, anyone?