All We Can Do

It’s day 43 of staying at home. I’m one of those with the privilege of working from home in this time when many are unemployed or working on the front lines. My heart is with those who are suffering. 

In the first week, I was determined to “make the most” of the extra time at home. I wrote out a daily routine to make sure I didn’t waste the opportunity to be productive. I made a list of projects to accomplish and hobbies to practice. 

I tried to maintain control in an uncontrollable situation. 

I crashed. My body told me it was time for a break.

We’re living through a trauma. The body’s natural reaction is a fight or flight response, but that’s not possible during a global pandemic. So…the body goes into protective mode and cannot function at highest capacity. 

This is not business as usual in a new setting. This is something altogether different. We cannot expect our minds and bodies to function normally. Even though I’m relatively safe in my home with a paycheck, my mind and body are stressed. Stressed about loved ones who are vulnerable, stressed about friends losing money, stressed about essential workers, stressed about what the future may look like…etc. 

So I gave myself a break. I spent two days with no expectations, no schedules. I watched movies, played video games, and slept more than usual. I fully expected to emerge ready to jump back into what I’d been doing. Instead, I came out of the break with the realization that I needed to make some adjustments. I wrote a list of things I must do, a list of optional activities, and a list of things to avoid.

I’ll include the lists at the end of the post, but I want to spend a bit of space writing about what the change has meant to me. 

This time at home is not a vacation or the extended productivity time you’ve always wished for. It’s a time of protection and survival. As someone who is still working full-time, I have to remember that my mind still needs to rest during time off as it did when I went into the office. 

Our society has taught us to believe that free time must be filled and justified with activities and projects. In reality, during the week my only “extra” free time during this season is the commute I’d usually spend getting to an activity. I still have those activities virtually, which takes time and brainpower. My weekends have more time because I’m not running errands or going on day-trips. I’m tempted to fill that time with projects and busywork. But you know what? Slowing down is not a crime or a failure. Sometimes it’s what you need. 

In the slowing down, I’ve come to cherish the peace and gentleness that comes from it. Not just peace and gentleness expressed to others, but the peace and gentleness I allow in myself. My mind won’t allow the copious amounts of reading I usually rely on for relaxation, so rather than forcing it, I’ve decided to let my mind tell me when it’s ready. I still read…but a chapter here and there rather than hundreds of pages. My usual tendency would be to try to increase my reading until I was back to “normal,” but not this time. I don’t need to “fix” anything because I’m not broken. 

I love that my friends have time for chats. We talk about our neighborhood walks and funny little things that we never really bothered to tell each other in the time before pandemic. The random bits of our lives are now worth sharing. Then again, they were always worth it…but we decided not to bother.

I love that bubble baths are now more than an occasional treat. 

I love that technology allows me to play games with my siblings even though we’re in three different states. 

I love learning that I’m perfectly content spending hours with myself. Y’all know I’m an introvert, but I’m not accustomed to long periods of solitude.

There are plenty of things that frustrate and discourage me – things are not rosy. But there is so much to love at the same time. 

When we come out of this time, I hope we don’t write up summaries of all we accomplished. I hope we talk about how we loved one another. I hope we share the joys we found. I hope we continue to cherish the random, small bits of life that were once things we hurried past. 

Must Do: May Do: Avoid:
Nourish body and soul Hobbies/Crafts Fixating on bad news
Stay in contact with people Reading Comparison
Take vitamins Home organization Focusing on the “cannots” of this time
Meaningful movement a few times per week. (but don’t try to become a marathon runner)    
Share joyful and encouraging content you find    

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