This pandemic has handed me a lot of things over the past 9 months (high stress levels, a renewed appreciation for teachers, and a headache to start). But the most surprising thing I have experienced has been the sudden urge to learn how to preserve vegetables and make homemade jam. To turn my entire back yard into an edible garden and save all the glass yogurt jars "just in case". These feelings were surely a reaction to the stress and fear generated by quarantine and the pandemic. But as I worked through these fear-based thoughts, positive ones began to blossom from those scary seeds. The idea of harkening back to a time when each family and homestead needed to be self-sustaining transformed from a panicked attempt at bread making into a sweet and humble desire to embrace simplicity. To find joy in having "nothing to do". And do you know what I have discovered happens when I have nothing to do? Everything.
Everything real and important to me has moved to the forefront. The people I truly care about are the people I have gone to great lengths to reach out to regularly and set up Zoom happy hours with. My oldest son and I have epic checkers battles. We have raucous family UNO games by the fire at night. The kids teach us all about Minecraft, and we teach them about Star Wars and Harry Potter. We spend real, quality time together. I know my kids so much better now than I think I would have had we had our usual year. And that's a scary thought.
Over the past two months I have found myself moving from being irritated at the disruption in our lives, to being thankful. So incredibly thankful. Being forced to slow down has earned me more time with my husband and kids and a renewed perspective on family time. Learning what I would truly do with my time if I was forced to stay at home (and then re-evaluating my decisions after the 10th Netflix binge) has been a really valuable lesson. And this is time we will never get back. The parties and soccer games and swimming lessons will eventually come back, but these times of having the kids at home while I'm working, popping into my video calls half-dressed and at the most inconvenient times will soon come to an end. And it will be a bittersweet day.
Like everyone else, I will be happy when things go back to normal. Happy when we can go on playdates and take trips to Disneyland; happy for the punishing days filled with my own work plus online elementary classes to come to an end; happy for everyone to get some space. But I also know that our new normal will look different than before, and it will be for the better. And this glimpse into what we could have missed out on over the coming years in the course of our "normal" busy lives is an unexpected gift from 2020 that I will truly treasure.