What habit or attitude did you develop during the pandemic that you would like to hold on to?

That was the question posed to a group of women meeting for the first time in person in over a year. What a thought-provoking question!

A shock of any kind makes us recalibrate. We have to sift through and find what is really important in the big soup-pot of what we thought was important. A break-up, a lost job, a death of someone close, a medical emergency. Any kind of shock stops us in our tracks, and we question the reality we thought we could count on.

We are currently going through a world-wide jolt that affects each person differently depending on dozens of circumstances, stages in life, personalities, health, etc. etc. Although we may not have experienced many of the shocks over and above the quarantine, we read enough stories, knew enough people, had enough compassion, that we were affected. What we didn’t experience personally, we experienced vicariously. Like it or not, there was the challenge to keep simmering pots from overflowing, and the choice/responsibility/reality to change the very recipes and ingredients of our lives.

What habit or attitude did you develop during the pandemic that you would like to hold on to?

There were certain things we could all agree on. Like not taking anything for granted. Like treasuring our relationships. And then knowing we each had a different story to tell, and it might take years of reflection to see the threads of our own, we each answered the best we could with where we were. Not with what we had lost, but something we had gained. Something we wanted to hold on to.

For me, what came forward was this:

Gratitude. A good part of my life I have longed for more, or other, or different. There was always another achievement, another goal, another something out there that was enticing. I rarely stopped to recognize what I had right at hand. Rarely stopped to celebrate any accomplishments. But now, forced to stay home and make the best of it, I found the best right at home. All around me, a lot to be grateful for, to celebrate even. Of all the situations to be in, we had it easy. That was the first thing I recognized. Retired. Steady, adequate income. No kids at home to worry about schooling, or personal and social development. No jobs to fear losing. In good health. Yes, yes, of course we could complain about not being able to do whatever, but, in the big scheme of things, was whatever crucial?

For me, it came down to two basic choices. I could rant and rave about something I had no control over, something no one had control over, or I could accept reality and make the best of it. When I could see that so many people were in such difficult situations, it seemed pretty insensitive to take the rant and rave approach. I had to accept and make the best of it. And dang. I had so much to be grateful for! Right here. Right now. That’s not to say I never ranted and raved. Oh, yes! I most certainly did. I would be lying if I blew it off. Denying ranting and raving is as much of a denying of reality as ranting and raving. What can I say? Some of it doesn’t make sense and never will. All I know is that I felt gratitude in a more profound and peaceful way than ever before. Even in my letting off steam, even in my ranting and raving.

I would like to hold on to gratitude.

Priorities. How many times have I complained about not having enough time? If I just had more time, I would learn to watercolor, write a book, study mythology, read certain books, clean the closets, bake bread. Yep. I had a whole lot of things I would do if I only had time. Well, shoot. Someone sure called my bluff. All of a sudden, I had more time than excuses. What happened to all those things I said I’d do with more time? They didn’t seem all that interesting or important anymore. More than any other time in my life, I had to be clear about my priorities. Not because I didn’t have enough time, but because I had all the time in the world, and whatever I did needed to feel interesting and nourishing to me. It needed to be important to me, not to anyone else, not for anyone else. There was nothing to prove to anyone anymore. Everyone was caught up in their own challenges, their own new perceptions of time. Most of my life, I realized, had been so much directed by external forces – jobs, groups, family responsibilities, societal expectations. Now it was me, my spouse, this house and whatever resources I already had in this containment. Anything I did was up to me listening to an internal voice. Longing for direction and turning to an internal teacher.

“Tell me,” Mary Oliver asked, “what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

It was time to answer HER question. No excuses left. This was my time and I had no one to answer to except myself. I couldn’t go anywhere. I couldn’t do anything “productive.” I found some answers. I did. And I’m determined to hold on to them. But I also know how easy it is to slip back into old habits, to be pulled and cajoled in so many directions. There are so many demands. But no. They are not demands. They are invitations. I simply label them as demands so I can take back my excuse: I would, but I have so many demands on my time. Nope. It no longer works. My choices are my own. My time is my own. The still quiet voice inside has become louder. This is my one wild and precious life. I have certain things I would like to do, certain gifts I would like to develop. It’s not being selfish or self-centered. It’s learning about priorities and boundaries. It’s taking stock of who I am at the core, and what I have to offer the world. For me, all I have to offer is my artwork and my writing. That’s it. That’s all. It’s mine to develop, mine to offer. And maybe, it took the shock of a pandemic to understand that diving deep into my passions and capabilities is the best thing I can offer to the world.

There is still something that feels unfeeling for me to own my own life at this time when so many lives are out of control. To say that this is my one, wild and precious life, and I will go paint in my studio all afternoon, sit at my computer and write all morning, walk the trails and forget about the world for a full day – it can seem unfeeling. But what does it serve the world to not do those things, not develop every ounce of potential gifted to me?

I would like to hold on to my own priorities.

What habit or attitude did you develop during the pandemic that you would like to hold on to?

Maybe in a year or two, I will have a clearer perspective. Come back. Let’s talk again then.