What a Year in Quarantine Has Taught Me

This week marks a whole year living in quarantine mode. Although I still found periodic ways to get out of the house and out of town, I spent the majority of it rarely leaving our 1400 square foot home. I had it easier than many and was able to continually feel that despite the virus, despite the death toll, poverty, and civil unrest, it has been a good year full of joy and silver linings. A necessary year in many ways. For all its struggles and forced adaptation, it prompted reflection and reevaluation of what I believed to be true.

  1. We can survive without even our most beloved places and routines. While I still feel the disappointment and allure of coffee shops and bookstores I can’t frequent, I have learned to replicate as much of those experiences at home as possible.
  2. Regular date nights are still important for a marriage. Stephen and I maintained weekly dates even if it only consisted of takeout, streaming a movie, or a game of Scrabble, but those dates reinforced the importance of quality time together.
  3. The idea of freshly ground coffee is much more enjoyable than actually needing to grind coffee beans each morning. I don’t mind brewing coffee, but I’m seriously contemplating buying pre-ground coffee from here on out.
  4. Zoom fatigue is very real. While I enjoy working from home, I’d love to have a day each week to squeeze in as many face-to-face meetings as possible. I miss the human connection lost through the internet ether.
  5. A school building provides the emotional buoy our children need. Weston’s attitude, energy level, and class productivity gradually sank the longer he remained in virtual school at home. I’ve witnessed more smiles, laughter, energy, and school work results since returning to the building two days per week.
  6. Bras, makeup, and painted nails are terribly overrated. I have cherished each day that I can forgo a bra because the computer camera only captures from the collarbone up. It’s liberating to remember we can be low maintenance and still accepted.
  7. Spending time outside is a mental health saver. Most days my walk was the only time I left the house. One or two daily walks to fill my lungs with fresh air instead of stale indoor air, to catch the light on my face, to look around at trees and shifting skies maintained a steady rhythm of normalcy and sanity in my life. 
  8. In the absence of control, we will create new ways to feel in control. For me, I carved out new routines like morning coffee and toast in my rocker or eating the same exact lunch every day while working on a puzzle.
  9. We didn’t spend enough time as a family before quarantine. I love how much more time I’ve been able to spend with Stephen and Wes since we moved to telework, virtual school, and a lack of other places to go. There is time to soak up their sparkling eyes, their chuckles, and their hugs.
  10. Slowing down has been an incredible gift. I’ve had more time to journal, to stare out the window, to meditate in the bath, to play long games of Uno while we eat, to snuggle on the couch by the fire because there really isn’t anywhere we can or should go. Of course, new challenges surfaced, but overall I felt a diminished sense of stress or compulsion to run errands and fill every minute of the day. It finally feels acceptable to sit and breathe. Breathe deeply until the pulse slows. 
  11. The absence of former habits, expectations, and obligations has created space to cultivate new opportunities for learning and growing. I have completed a dozen or more jigsaw puzzles, worked multiple crossword puzzles each week, started a website to more fully engage with my creative side, watched more TED talks, and opted in to personal education of relearning world geography, refreshing my French skills, and reading fascinating articles every day. My outside world may have temporarily shrunk in this year of COVID-19, but my inner world has expanded exponentially. 

This list could go on, and in my mind, it might, just to remind myself further of the blessings in disguise and the ways in which I and my family made the best of an unprecedented situation. There is so much to learn in reflecting back, and I’m grateful for the slowness and lack of running around that has afforded me the chance to do so. As quarantine life continues–and even as it gradually transitions into something else, something likely quite different than the life we knew before–I hope to hold onto the slow pace, the freedom of permission to stay home and savor quiet time, the room to grow in new ways.

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