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The Simplicity of the Quarantine

Although I wish I were, I am not a person who strives to see the best in everything. I’m much more likely to be the one who looks for the fraying around the edges and worries that the whole thing is going to fall apart momentarily. But being forced to stay at home for several months and to reduce the number of things I try to accomplish in a day has actually been good for me.

In a recent Zoom meeting, one of the participants said that, without distractions, we have more time to be intentional about our actions. He was discussing something much more important than how I live my life, but the reasoning was the same. In normal times, my plate is way too full and, although I know intellectually that I can’t possibly be doing a great job with all that multi-tasking, I forge on, juggling clumsily.

The absence of the normal crazy rat race has let us all bloom in ways we needed to.

The act of actually working from home doesn’t really simplify my life in and of itself. What might have previously taken a few minutes—a short walk to someone’s office and a quick conversation—now takes several emails and a virtual meeting. Communicating anything to anyone seems indirect and inefficient. Still, there really is only so much we can do in such limited circumstances. And so, I find myself focusing more on what seems really important—both logistically and philosophically. Even though I rarely leave my house, I feel more committed than ever to the best part of the mission of my job.

But it’s really on a personal level that I most feel the simplicity that has come from being in quarantine. My routine is, well ... routine. Every day is pretty similar to the one before, but it’s comforting in a certain way. I have much more time in my head to practice being present, something I rarely did, if ever, during pre-COVID life. I read, I listen to music, I sit in my back yard, I talk to Jodi, and I laugh at my dogs. It’s kind of amazing to me how fulfilling this life really is.

I think I’ve been reminded of that—of what I really need—on a daily basis. It’s no doubt one of the reasons we’ve all taken to cooking and baking. We need comfort, creativity and sustenance. And it turns out we don’t have to live super-complicated lives to enjoy those qualities. Every spring on the canal by where I live, new families of baby ducks appear almost daily. This year, I’m out there more, going for walks or runs and taking photographs of the trees during the Golden Hour. I realize this year there are actually several rounds of ducklings and I’ve had the chance to enjoy them all. Now I see them become teenagers and grow big enough to move out on their own, none of which I focused on when there was so much more in my head.

This stay-at-home life has also made me think more, of course, about my next iteration, and how much I thrive when I have more open time. When I retired a few years ago, I didn’t know yet that, for me, that open time needed some structure, and I wasn’t quite sure how I would provide it. But this pandemic has given me the chance to experiment, and to learn lots of things about myself that I never have the time to learn when my days are full from morning to night.

More than anything, I’ve just had more time with myself, in my own thoughts and feelings. I’m so much more comfortable just being here with myself than I was when I retired, and even than I was six months ago. And the amazing part of this is that I don’t think it would have ever occurred to me to create an environment like this for myself to practice.

I will be very happy when we are free from the fear of getting the virus and when we feel more stable and supported in our political and social climate. Still, I am actually optimistic about what has come to be during this time. So many people are reaching out, speaking out, standing out, and standing in themselves. The absence of the normal crazy rat race has let us all bloom in ways we needed to. I will be so glad when we can be together again when this is over, but I doubt that any of us will be the same again. And that, I think, is absolutely for the best.

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