It’s taken the world by storm, the novel virus known as COVID-19 has leapt continents and infiltrated cities faster than Gangnam Style back in 2012. We sit, binging every news source available to get the most accurate and up to date information and yet all many of us are left with is confusion, questions, and conflicting data despite our efforts to stay informed. It’s becoming increasingly more difficult to stay calm and suppress the fear that the public chaos is creating with rumors, hoarding behavior, and downright hysteria.
As a psychology professor and wellness coach I am blessed to be able to conduct most of my work from the comfort of my home, to which I am now bound along with my two kiddos and our two dogs. Currently it’s Thursday, day 4 of this new “school” routine at home. The walls seem to get closer each day but I’m breathing through and making the best of it. Baking tons, cooking and feeling overall a sense of achievement (most days). I’m currently teetering between the roles of 5th and 2nd grade aide (not teacher), professor (to my own 150 students), health coach, mommy, chef, and cleaning person. I refuse to use the word ‘teacher’ because I, in no way, compare to what these humans do for my kids daily. I’m learning this more and more, hour by hour, and have an entire new appreciation for our primary and secondary school teachers. I’ve come up with a daily schedule, win on my part, I think to myself. I even typed it out into a fancy table, extra points for that one. Now to just get them through it. And myself. In one piece.
As they complete assignments I feel waves of accomplishment. “We are doing it! We are doing this homeschool thing! This isn’t so bad. I can handle this.” And I too am learning. So far today I have learned that the way I do things “is not how my teacher does it”, that work is submitted on GoogleDocs nowadays, not like the “olden days, Mom”, and that I clearly cannot keep up with 5th grade common core math. It’s been an ego boost if nothing else. As I wipe the sweat from my brow after arguing with my 7-year old on how to properly use an eraser (again, another one of my apparent shortcomings), I think “oh shit I’ve touched my face again” and proceed to wash my hands for the 648th time today. While washing I focus my gratitude on the invention of soap and glance at the clock. It’s only 11:20am.
A short while later the doorbell rings and a package is left on my doormat, which fittingly states, “If you are Amazon, Tacos, or Dave Matthews, we’re home.” I know what this is, I’ve been waiting for this gem for months and months. It’s Glennon Doyle’s new book UNTAMED and the sustenance my soul needs at this very moment. That or a bourbon. I choose the book. I figure the booze should wait until at least five o’clock. Or four. But I digress… I rip open the box just in time for our “silent reading” half hour, sit down with my kiddos, and dive in. A few chapters in she introduces the term “selah”. A Hebrew word that for as much as anyone can gather, means to take a break, or pause. To be able to stop in the in-between land just…be. To exist. Like all of her literary works, this sparks something inside of me and I wonder… is the outcome of this nasty virus/quarantine/safer-at-home business perhaps the selah the universe needs?
Our world has been breaking for a while now. Between the excessive pollution, drought situation, global warming, and poor leadership, to name a few, we are in dire need of some rehab. Simply put, we need to start showing this world some hardcore love. Like a broken bone or an injured ligament, one has to rest it to recover. Our bodies force us to do this as well. When we push ourselves too much and find ourselves run down, what happens? We get “sick”. A bug knocks us down and our symptoms force us to rest and take care of ourselves – to pause and show tenderness to oneself instead of venturing on.
This virus is dangerous, there is no doubt about that. But it’s also forcing us to pause as a collective whole and look up. Commands are in place causing businesses and schools to shut down temporarily and people to stay home. The outcome? Families are suddenly spending a great deal of time with each other – sharing meals, playing games, taking walks, having conversation. The irony, right? That an order of “social distancing” has been the one thing that is essentially bringing us closer together.
Inside most of our homes the environment currently lends itself to time. In a world where we are constantly moving from one obligation to the next, we have been gifted this additional time with our loved ones. Hows that for perspective? Hours a day that kids would normally be at school, we now spend together. Is it exhausting? Sure. But it’s time nonetheless. In between completing assignments and learning new things we are having discussions we might not normally have, and working problems out. Together. We are laughing more and playing games. Together. Yes, there is still TV, devices, and the occasional video game. But I have to say, these several days at home have been less of that and more of us.
Social media and technology are a suddenly a core focus but in a different light, allowed time to rebrand some of the negativity they represent. For kids, preteens and teens, social media and access to the web has had many negative outcomes. Too many to name. And there is often the conversation that technology is pulling people away from each other, setting screens up in front of eyes instead of faces, so much so that even our brains are rewiring and failing to recognize social cues. But at this moment in time I am consciously and thoughtfully grateful for the use of technology and social media. It has allowed me to connect with my family, friends, students, business parters, and clients while staying safe and maintaining the integrity of my work. And for that, I am thankful. I’ve been able to stay in the know with updates from schools, work, and any ordinances our city may issue. Online applications allow us to place orders virtually and avoid stores to the best of our ability, again, ultimately helping to keep us safe.
My hope is that we figure out a way to spend this time at home getting to know each other. That this time spent “locked up” wasn’t in vain. Utilize the hours in the day creatively. Yes it’s important for our kiddos to remain focused on school and complete assignments. But it’s also important for them to learn how to garden, or do their laundry, bake a pie, or even try building something. We need to start worrying less about perfect GPAs and more about raising well-rounded humans to one day launch into the world. Asking questions and waiting for answers, no matter how long the uncomfortable silence lasts. We’ve got the time! Pick up some crayons and draw. Go through old photo albums and introduce your kids to their relatives. Send video messages to family and friends, write letters to older adults currently in nursing homes that are not allowed any visitors. Brighten someone else day. I promise that what our kids will remember about this slice of history is the impact they made and the time they got to have with us. Not how to divide fractions or conjugate verbs.
As I dive deeper into my book, slowing as I go, not wanting it to end, I look up and out of my window and suddenly realize I have been seeing more and more people lately out for walks or on bikes. I sit-in this moment of conscious awareness. Now that the rain has dissipated, families are getting outside and moving their bodies. They are putting their phones away, looking up and walking, together, while also maintaining a cautious distance of others. Doing their part. Some hand in hand, others on bikes, strollers, or wheelchairs. They’re stopping to let their toddlers pick flowers, smell them, and reach a chubby hand up to their parents nose so that, they too, may stop and smell the roses. It’s a change. And it has a powerful ripple affect. It’s connection – the lifeblood of what makes us inherently human. And one of the core essential pieces we also need to maintain our mental and emotional health, especially within this unknown.
As I was finishing this article, my own little girl was hollering for me from the backyard. I had asked for a few minutes to write without being interrupted so, annoyed, I trekked outside. After letting my frustration out I asked what was so important that I had to come out “right this second!”as she had, of course, demanded. She looked up at me, with her big, beautiful doe eyes and her missing front teeth and said “I found a flower growing by our garden Mama, and it’s so pretty with lots of colors I thought you would like to see it, but I didn’t want to pick it because then it would die.” I shrunk. I was getting caught up in exactly what I was busy writing about! I quickly apologized, hugged and smooched on my baby, breathing her in, and then walked hand in hand, giving her my full attention to marvel at this gorgeous piece of nature. After all, what was the rush really?
Please use this time inside to your advantage. Do the thing(s) you’ve been putting off for lack of time. Perhaps this will be a moment we look back on when our perspectives shifted and our minds widened to the possibilities and limitations of our mere humanness. A time in which the world stopped to say, “That’s it, time out” and commanded its humans to take pause and fix what’s broken. What WE have broken. What we have overlooked. My prayer for us is that we each come away with the light and knowledge of something we’ve been missing. And it’s usually something that’s right in front of us. For instance, the way your child’s face is starting to change, becoming more angular as they grow up and how the light bounces off their smile, or perhaps the sweet aroma of that first cup of coffee in the morning – close your eyes and sip it, let it light up your senses… or the feeling of your lovers arms around you after a long day. Pause in their hold and take this time to fall in love again… with them, with life, with laughter, and with yourself.