Tuesday, July 14, 2020

In the Year of the Pandemic

In the age of Covid-19, our lives have been turned upside down; mine included. As a person locked into routines and patterns of behavior, it means putting my life (as I’ve known it) on hold for an indeterminable period of time. Like most, I’ve had some challenging times adjusting to this new reality.

On the plus side, it has forced me into new patterns of planning and thinking, most of them pretty positive. Walking in the woods and getting lost among the sights and sounds there is certainly a good start. It also means holding cerebral salons on my back patio or some local park instead of a coffee shop nearby. But most fun of all it means spending time on our porch or kitchen island just watching the birds feeding outside.

This forced self-isolation among couples brings up some interesting questions such as: ‘Just how much do you like your spouse and spending an inordinate amount of time now with him or her?’ ‘Who do you really want to see again?’ ‘Can you safely see the grandchildren?’ The list goes on and on. With old routines so ingrained in our daily behavior, what do we have available to re-place the old with a new ‘safe’ patterns of daily living?

For the writer in me, it means creating a new daily routine and that’s been an adjustment. Experience has shown me time and again that if I don’t have a routine, things don’t get done. It’s what I preach in my writing workshops. To become a writer, you have to write. It’s as simple as that. I have to have a routine if I want to get my writing done on a daily basis. With my new plays on hold for now, I’ve had to refocus my energies on new writing objectives.

One thing bubbles up to the surface pretty quickly; an appreciation for the little things so often taken for granted. Cleaning out the garage or back closets. Reading that book you never had time to dive into. Taking a simple walk in the woods or around the neighborhood. Completing yard work that never got to the top of your ‘to do’ list. Appreciating all the ‘free things’ available around us. I think you get the point.

My behavior patterns began to change and evolve just as soon as I heard that our library would be closed indefinitely. That turned me on to buying books online and spending time on the porch reading them. Sharon and I couldn’t go to the gym anymore so we began walking around the block and using our treadmill downstairs. I’ve started to stumble through some rudimentary yoga moves and got back to lifting weights again.

Having said that, it’s spending more time on my porch just to sit and think. I’ve discovered that this temporary disruption is also a wonderful opportunity to dig through piles of old magazines downstairs, and company office files I haven’t perused in years. Its part house-cleaning, part discarding of remnants of my past life, and painting more clarity into future endeavors. At its core, it’s an appreciation for the simpler things in life.

Reminds me of a girl I met a long time ago after I got out of the service.

I can’t remember her name or much about her. Only a couple of things stand out. She lived off campus with a bunch of other girls. We met through mutual friends, none of whom I’ve seen in ages. She wasn’t particularly attractive and she had a bad case of acne. She slept in the nude (so she told me) which I thought was very titillating. She came from Chicago and she loved ‘walking in the rain.’

The first time she convinced me to go for a walk in the rain, I thought she was bonkers. But we donned our slickers and went out for a stroll during an afternoon shower. Her curiosity was truly contagious. She loved to see the rain collecting in puddles, droplets streaming off the rooftops and the greenery come alive before our eyes. She pointed out a dozen little things I’d never noticed before. She took off her shoes (braver than I was) and splashed in the puddles until her legs were brown with splotches of mud. She was in her element and I envied her wide-eyed enthusiasm.

It gave me a whole new perspective and appreciation for that aspect of Mother Nature. When my kids were growing up, I used to take them into the woods and find a spot to sit and listen. I told them to just listen to the sundry sounds that crept into our consciousness as we sat still and just listened. Walking in the rain was much the same experience.

If we’re not looking at life and just living it instead, our daily existence can get pretty complicated at times. Then unexpectedly it can flip around and become so simplistic that it dulls our creative juices. The trick is to see past the obstacles and recognize the unexpected pleasures just waiting to be discovered. Covid-19 did that for me. As the cliché goes, it’s the little things that count.

A lot of folks I know have slipped into retirement without a clue as to what might lie ahead. They let their daily lives dictate their future. Gradually the evening news, morning coffee, and grocery shopping dominate their time, their life, and their psychological mindset.

They become trapped in their own routine and aren’t aware that clichés dominate their thinking. It’s a sinister time warp of old algorithms with their daily life clock slowly running out without they’re even knowing it. A lot of them aren’t prepared for what lies ahead. The pandemic has caused a lot us to pause and rethink just where our lives are going.

In the end, it’s deciding what’s really important in your life. It’s taking the concept of retirement and tossing it out the window along with old assumptions, expectations and other people’s paradigms. Old is new once again and the familiar may need to be reexamined.

The fog of daily living is lifting if we’re willing to give it a helpful push. There’s still pastures aplenty if we’re willing to climb that fence and cross the fields of green.

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