The Lessons of COVID: An Exercise in Observation

This morning my inbox produced the following article from Barbara O’Neal: A Writer’s Sacred Task to Observe

I loved reading it. The peak into one person’s introspection about how a changing, uncertain world has changed and solidified themselves was such a breath of fresh air. I enjoy reading things that provoke questions, and challenge me to answer them from myself if not for anyone else.
How many of us have really tasked ourselves with observing the changes in our landscape and ourselves? Given ourselves time to reflect on the pivots that have taken place in our homes and heads? Internalized lessons learned?
As I pondered what I have seen in myself I have come to some (at least I think) interesting revelations.
I can tell you that I will never again feel pressure to accept a social invite I don’t have the energy for. My time is my own and I don’t owe anything to anyone who I don’t feel is fully invested in my well-being. My list of “friends” has gotten smaller and more precious. I know which people I have tremendous love for, but it’s cool that we don’t hang out. And I’m pretty sure everyone else doesn’t care how I feel about them one way or another so peace out and no hard feelings.
I know I will never (I hope?) let myself go a whole week without some good exercise. Being active, intentional about that activity, and prioritizing sun and fresh air have been a tremendous part of me successfully not killing my children in these last few months. And not just walking/cycling/hiking/livingroom dance parties. Weight lifting and body weight strength training have been crucial to me feeling like my best self. Endorphins are no joke, and even if I can’t keep all of the comfort eating at bay, I can make sure it doesn’t become a sustained state of affairs. I still fit in my pre-covid pants. Boom.

I just want to increase badger representation on the internet. Go Hufflepuffs!
I will, someday very soon, stop telling myself the lie that I don’t have the time to do things. If something is valuable to me, then I will make time. If I can rerelease one novel while finishing and editing another, learning how to do Amazon ads, revamping the blog, etc. during the “Time of Covid,” then I have no excuses about time when my kids are in school. If I’m thinking, “I just don’t have time for that,” it probably means I just don’t want to do that. In which case it’s either suck it up, buttercup, and get adulting or let it go.
And if there was any question about it, I am a died in the wool introvert. I’m not shy or quiet. I am not just a “home body.” I need solitude. I need everyone to go away so I can replenish my well-of-personal-awesome. Right now I am running on emergency fumes as I haven’t had more than a few hours at a time to sit in silence, to turn over my own thoughts, to feel the safety of my own presence without expectations or demands. Quarantine is nice for many in the introvert camp, but with 6 kids at home, for me it’s been an energetic nightmare. Those outside walks mentioned above? They are what has prevented world war III I’m the Arrington house.
While my relationship with my kids has become a tightly scheduled dance that I brace for each day, my love for my husband has overrun my anxieties about most other things. His care and compassion, the talks we have, the way he makes me feel seen and precious and even pretty have become my daily elixir. I have the best husband in the whole world, and I think after nearly fifteen years of marriage I am really understanding what that means. He is also another impressive bulwark against me running mad and doing lasting damage to property, persons, or self.

My hubby sneaking a kiss as I try to get a selfie while we visited the Garden of the Gods.

My yard (in comparison with Barbara’s) is nothing glorious. Burn out among my own small garden boxes has been intense in this heat, but I have trees ordered and on their way in October. I look forward to seeing my roses bloom again, and afternoon hikes become a thing for me and mine once more. It’s an odd feeling as many folks are drinking in the sunshine as much as they can right now in the anticipation of autumn’s chill and winter’s cold, drear days. while we obsessively count the minutes to October’s relief and December’s brisk invitation outside. Arizona, am I right? But we in the desert southwest got a boost that most of the country didn’t this year. When lockdown went national in March we all went hiking. We bounced on the trampoline and took bike rides. The 110+ degree days of summer have been like the winter to come for the rest of the US. I envy no one in the central and northern states the onset of winter, but I’m ready to be outside watching things grow again.

I will make one outwardly facing observation: people want to be listened to. Not just heard. I hear things I don’t really process or pay attention to all the time. The dryer, the AC, one child screaming at another over who picks the movie. It’s all white noise. But people want to be more than white noise. And they don’t necessarily want to be capitulated to, all their concerns met with immediate action. They just want to know that someone is really focused on them. Understand them. And is willing to acknowledge the validity of their needs. Social media lets us talk all we want into a digital vacuum that sucks in all our sincere, thoughtful expressions of self and churns them into a din that can scarce be paid any attention at all. More and more we feel our voices are just more wind in the tunnel. I can’t tell you how refreshing it would be, how soothing, to have all the talkers sit down and for just a few moments really try to listen.
I can tell you I miss the library heartily. I miss sitting in Starbucks or other cafes allowing the ambiance to fuel my work. I do miss the casual, naive way we would gather together and not think about the pathogens in the air. They just were. We’d respond to them if and when we had to. Cold and Flu season was what it was, and you took your vitamin C and got on with it. I’m not belittling the current circumstances, just mourning the loss of those carefree days when my health was my own concern and no one else’s. I didn’t owe anyone any behavior I deemed unnecessary or spurious.
But I don’t miss busy-ness as a metric of worth. I don’t miss the pressure to do more with less time. I don’t miss the sense of exhaustion that never really left me from day to day.
I love the luxury of sitting with a mug of cocoa or herbal tea in the morning while I read my scriptures and a passage from Seneca. The early morning walks my husband and I take together before he has to be available to his students are a treasure I will not part with until January when we move those walks to the afternoon.
Some folks want a return to normal, and I’m DYING to go to the movies again, but I’m not super eager to take back all the baggage that normal brought with it. A little normal coupled with more nature, more sunshine, and more reflection are my ideal going into the weeks and months ahead.

One thought on “The Lessons of COVID: An Exercise in Observation

  1. Loved this read! 💗
    I too have loved learning about myself during this time where we have been forced to look inward. Lots of time to focus on family. It has been hard, yes.. but also extremely rewarding.

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