It Took a Pandemic To Make Us Slow Down
ere I am almost ten weeks into this new way of living.
Living socially-distant, isolated in our home, leaving only to get groceries and one urgent visit to the vet. There has been no need to dress up, so comfortable, casual clothes are now the mandated fashion and referred to as #WFH (Work From Home) attire. Makeup has been limited to my daily SPF, mascara and maybe a bit of gloss.
Admittedly, those trips out have been a fine reason to exercise my fashion cravings and so yes, I put on my button-up pants and applied my makeup.
Meals have been cooked at home and we have used up all foods purchased and the staples that I stock my pantry with. My teenager has even expanded her cooking repertoire of fried eggs and Mac & Cheese, growing more confident with each successful meal. Without outside help, we’ve shared household chores, inside and around the home. We’ve completed many projects that have been on the never ending to-do list.
We’ve played games, we’ve watched countless movies and other TV, we’ve lounged outside reading, listening to music or just talking and we’ve gone for walks. Social contact has been limited to phone calls, FaceTime or the newly-discovered, ZOOM. Most recently, we’ve been able to have in person visits sitting the requisite 6 feet apart.
Overall, perhaps because I am an introvert by nature and being in this middle of life chapter, I have not minded this situation. I have cherished the time spent with my daughter. I have noticed a sense of peace and relaxation around us that is normally lacking as I am always rushing to complete tasks or get somewhere, not a minute to be wasted. Jam-packed schedules made my days full and long so not having to rush anywhere has been incredibly peaceful and stress-free.
However, I have missed some things. There have been instances where I have missed, even longed, for the companionship of certain loved ones. I have missed dinners out and I have missed the freedom and convenience associated with being able to shop at leisure.
I read a great article in The Atlantic, “The Virus Is a Reminder of Something Lost Long Ago” by Alan Lightman. He writes about how perhaps, we have been “living too fast”, where our values include “speed, efficiency, more money, hyper-connectivity, progress”. Judging by my own lifestyle and those closest to me, I agree. Smartphones are everywhere and are constantly in use; in restaurants, coffee shops, movie theaters, even in church people are rarely not checking their phones. Schedules are full and the more we cram into a day, the better.
What has resulted is, a society of disinterested, unengaged, over-scheduled and stressed out people who are constantly seeking more. That more is supposed to satisfy or fill some void that will ultimately make us more happy, content or satisfied.
Lightman writes about how times of adversity often lead to innovation. Responding to a need, innovators will always find a way to do things better or to find solutions to resulting problems. We have seen this as we have seen teaching and meetings go on-line, appointments with doctors on-line, groceries ordered on-line and then available for curbside pickup or delivery, and what about the international co-operative efforts of the scientific community to find a vaccine for this virus.
People are working from home so there has been an increased need for internet but there has been a resulting significant decrease in road traffic and travel has been sidelined so the positive environmental impacts have been an environmentalist’s dream.
What most resonated with me in this article is Lightman’s discussion of how this pandemic has allowed for “innovation in habits of mind”. The meaning of this being that this time has made us slow down. It has given us opportunity to spend time in personal reflection, to consider that maybe we have been going too fast and that our priorities were all wrong. Maybe, having time to be quiet in stillness and in privacy, doing less and having less, will bring us to those elusive feelings of peace and joy?
I can’t say that I have this all figured out but I do recognize what makes me most happy. I was already on the path to change but the pandemic has more clearly brought that to light. The challenge will be how to take what we have learned about ourselves and how we can live in a way that is simpler.
Have you thought about that? What has the pandemic show you? How can you bring the good personal effects of this time into life post Covid-19?