This time last year the phrase “social distancing” entered our vocabularies. We gained an understanding of pandemics beyond the frightening depictions in nightmarish movies. We hungrily turned to organizations, doctors we’d never thought of before. The CDC, Dr. Fauci. Some days I feel like a junior virologist after the amount of reading I’ve done about respiratory viruses and pandemics. Now, getting vaccinated has become a rite of passage.
As we cross the one-year anniversary of the first covid-related lockdowns, I find myself reflecting on how catastrophic events have a way of accentuating the best and worst aspects of our day-to-day lives.
In 1994, the Northridge Earthquake devastated many Angelinos, and left us nervous for days. I had a wonderfully supportive group of friends in the area. After the earthquake, we became aware that we needed each other.
Memories of breaking glass, damaged floors and the way my television flew across the room have faded. But sweet moments with my friends are still very clear.
I remember the stories we shared and the fun we had during the spontaneous weeklong “slumber party” as we waited for the earth to stop shaking. I didn’t realize it at the time, but those days I got to spend with my friends that week were truly a gift. As terrifying as it was, waiting to see if there was going to be another earthquake or aftershock, I was grateful to have an incredible support system.
Natural disasters, pandemics, and public crises are tragic. At the same time, they open an opportunity to connect with one another on a deeper level. It may be trite, but there’s something to be said about getting through hard times together.
When lockdown was announced, some dreaded the idea of staying home for 14 days. I actually looked forward to it. I thought: “how nice, a couple of weeks at home and then we’ll all be back to work. I can do this, no problem.” It felt like a much needed stay-cation after two major international trips in early 2020.
A year later.I haven’t seen an in-person therapy client in a full year. I spend most of my time at home.
As much as I miss seeing friends and loved ones, I have to admit that when I think about the “post-Covid world” in which Zoom meetings will be a thing of the past, I feel an odd, internal protest. I’ve been thinking about exactly what I’ll miss.
Spending time at home has been glorious. Cooking dinner is no longer an aspiration. I’ve learned 947 ways to cook chicken. We enjoy them together multiple nights a week, something I never thought would happen.
To be honest, Zoom meetings are totally fine with me. A commute that takes 1 minute and just a few dozen steps down the hall truly is the best kind of commute. Having the option to wear pajama pants during meetings feels good.
One of the most positive things that have come out of the pandemic has to do with my husband’s daughter, Julie. Things were rocky when she and I first met. She was a young woman whose charmed life had been abruptly interrupted when she lost her mother. Julie was forced to grieve the loss of her mother who had been taken too soon by breast cancer.
I understood her need to process this loss in her own way and on her own time. 25 years later, she and I have a sweet relationship. I enjoy a wonderful family life with my husband, his children, and grandchildren. I don’t have children of my own. So, it means a great deal for me to enjoy the connection I have with all of them.
Early in the pandemic as we became familiar with the disease, Julie announced that she would be picking up groceries for us once a week. She was concerned about my husband Alan and I facing a greater risk of contracting the disease. So, Julie committed to keeping us out of stores.
If you can’t already tell, Julie is no slacker. She has a full life of her own which includes running a high level law firm, maintaining a romantic relationship, and volunteering at a local church.
I tried to protest. I said Julie didn’t have enough time to shop for us. Then, I quickly realized that Julie was not willing to take no for an answer.
For the past year I’ve sent Julie a shopping list every Friday. Then on Saturday she delivers the groceries along with toys for the dog, coffee and cake for Alan, and a warm, cheerful smile. Saturdays feel like tiny Christmases and the best part is seeing Alan’s face each time Julie comes over. It’s clear how proud he is. He raised this woman who highly values service, family, and follow through.
This small detail of pandemic life has given me pause to reflect.
It’s the relationships that make our days matter. The moments of connection, the small acts of love that give our lives depth and richness in the same way salt brings out the sweetness in a dessert.
If only it were as easy as deciding one day that today is the day I’ll live a rich, full relational life, snap our fingers and poof! It happens.
The reality is that we have to show up day after day to create the life we want. One moment at a time. When we prioritize our relationships and show that in the details, I call that living relationally.
Many families appear to be strong and put together like a perfectly drawn map with neat, straight, predictable lines. From the outside they appear idyllic and better than our own. I’ve learned that’s not the case. Most families are more like a mosaic made of disparate jagged and colorful pieces that only make sense when they are consciously put together.
Many lives have been turned upside down by the pandemic. At the same time, there are silver linings. Our job is to notice them. The opportunity to spend time with my friends during the 1994 earthquake was invaluable. Now I smile when I reflect on all the chicken dinners and “Saturday Christmases” we’ve enjoyed during the past year.
We acknowledge and grieve the tragedies. But let’s not forget the good things that have come out of all of this. All those little silver linings.
I would love to read about small moments of positivity you’ve experienced during the pandemic. Has the Covid-19 pandemic lead you to more relational living?
Please share anything that comes to mind.