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What I'm Giving Up When the Pandemic Ends

If I had to think of something positive about the pandemic, one thing I would say is that it has given me time to appreciate (and long for) a lot of things I haven’t been able to do since the middle of March. My list is probably similar to most people’s, including traveling, having a long, delicious dinner in a crowded restaurant, and working in my actual office with some of my very favorite people. But, on the flip side, all of this time spent at home has also given me a chance to consider the activities and behaviors that may not make a comeback when the world finally returns to normal.

I’m not naïve enough to think I’ll never do these things again, but I’m seriously looking at the wisdom of how I have spent my time. From the very basic and concrete, to the much more general and esoteric, I’m ready to say goodbye to at least a few parts of my pre-pandemic life. I really don’t think, for example, that I will spend another noon hour eating lunch at my desk while I get ready for a meeting and talk on the phone at the same time. Since I’ve been home, I’ve actually learned to take a proper lunch break. I put my computer on “Sleep,” and Jodi and I sit on the back patio and visit while we eat. It’s a lovely way to catch up, and nothing seems to fall apart as I used to imagine it would if I just stopped for a while.

This huge change in our days has reminded me that there are richer ways to live, and so many small and lovely moments to treasure.

This has also been a great time to get back to some of the parts of my life that I’ve been kind of sloppy about in the last couple of years. Exercise and reading for pleasure quickly fall off my to-do list when I’m particularly busy, which is sad. These are both activities that bring me great pleasure and help to balance my life. And yet, because they are purely mine, and no one other than me is depending on me doing them, they’re the first to go. The pandemic has created such a different time structure that I really don’t feel as slammed as I do when I’m in the office. I still feel stressed about having a lot to accomplish, but I’m more in charge of when I do what I need to do. That helps me to build running and reading into every day, at the beginning and end respectively. Both have provided me with a sweet connection with myself that I don’t want to lose when things are more regular again.

In the frequent crunch of my normally busy life, I’ve also trained myself to look ahead—always. I’m usually way more focused on what I need to do next than what is right in front of me. It may be a hummingbird outside the window or just the cycle of the light throughout the day, but I’m ready to give up ignoring those small, brilliant moments that are happening before my eyes on a regular basis. Part of my wanting to hold on to those instead of looking past them has to do with getting older, I know. But I’ve also felt the power of those tiny occurrences while I’ve been home, and I want to stay awake to them moving forward.

Overall, I think it’s the ease in which the busy world lets me dismiss so many small things that I want to get rid of. It kind of breaks my heart to think about how many cycles of the moon I’ve all but ignored in my life—how many silly times with Jodi or my dogs I’ve only halfway noticed because I was trying to respond to an email. All of the business of our jobs and the outside world is important, too. I know that. But this huge change in our days has reminded me that there are richer ways to live, and so many small and lovely moments to treasure.

We are all probably trying to find meaning in this crazy time beyond wearing a mask and standing six feet apart. I expect in many ways we will be learning lessons from this time for years to come. But I’m already feeling the value of some of what I’ve gleaned, and I’m hoping I remember these when the race begins again.

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