Awakening through COVID: How Simplification Grew a Grateful Heart
My journey from stress, through silver lining, to moving forward well.
To say that every day in quarantine was easy would be a lie. To say I didn’t consider trading in my daily cup of coffee for a big glass of wine, while trying to do virtual learning, would also be a lie. I am happy to report that I did resist the urge. If I told you there were days when I felt like I was going to lose my you know what... That would be a very true statement.
In That Moment
Early during quarantine, I lay under a tree at the park by myself and let loose. I cried. I cried with everything I had, laying there on the grass and dirt. I looked towards the heavens, asking God to give me strength as I emotionally just fell apart. So much confusion; so much mourning for what wouldn’t be; fear of this virus; feeling helpless and powerless; a painful concern that I wouldn’t be what I needed to be for my children during such a strange time. How would I help them deal with their confusion, fear, loss and inevitable cabin fever that would ensue over the next several weeks?
As I looked up through the trees, the sun shone brightly, splintering in all directions in such a lovely and hopeful appearance. I felt His presence in that moment, reminding me that there is always light through the darkness. With hope and gratitude, we can face these uphill challenges.
In that moment I learned; quickly; I saw many things I could be grateful for during quarantine.
The Shift: Gratitude
Like so many single mothers, I was exhausted from running around non-stop, constantly rushing here and there, feeling like every minute wasted would put me behind schedule. I am a wellness professional. Right? I should know better! I have even studied resilience professionally and have applied this with others.
But when life came to a halt and everything shut down, I found myself even more stressed, at home and with nowhere to go. My employer would not approve working remotely. I had to take leave to be a virtual learning mother to two young children. At first, I felt like I was completely lost. But all that changed quickly.
Just after a few days into quarantine, it occurred to me that dinner would be more relaxed. With nowhere to go, not only could we better plan meals, but we could actually sit down and eat together. I’m thrilled to report that my incredibly picky eater has significantly expanded his palate for healthier food.
Florida weather was incredible during this time. Cooler temperatures and less humidity made it more than pleasant to be outside. We took walks all over the neighborhood, noticing all the home renovations taking place and dreaming of what we would like in our house one day. These long walks involved lots of talking and sharing. I once heard that if a child can talk to you about the little things, one day, he or she will share the bigger things. I know he and I will always cherish these moments.
While I cannot say that virtual schooling was a permanent solution for my daughter and me, I did get to be an integral part of her school year. I learned more about her teacher, and my level of respect and appreciation for all teachers deepened as I watched and heard her teach 33 first grade graders over Zoom for 90 minutes every day. From there, it was my turn to work with my daughter to complete the rest of her learning.It was not unicorns and mermaids as she would have liked it to be, but we prayed together. We submitted videos together as I tried to give her the experience of public speaking. We read books and worked through quiz questions together. There were definite moments of tension (like trying to teach math the way I learned and not today’s method) but there were also moments of laughter and pride as I watched her get excited or interested in a certain subject.
The down time was also an opportunity for me to think and reflect about my own life. Am I really where I want to be? What does the next year, or five years, look like for me? What do I envision for my future professionally? Am I fulfilling my purpose, or is there something else out there that I am being called to do? Growth can be uncomfortable and change can be scary. When we are so busy, it can be easy to ignore these questions. However, when the world has somewhat shut down, you have time to quiet yourself, ask these questions, and then just listen. If we can sit with openness, I find we often have many of the answers within us already.
Quarantine has been a challenge in so many ways. But that silver lining remains; one that I can so appreciate. When life slows down enough that you can sit outside and notice the brilliance of the blue jay that stops to sit on your swing set, you have the chance to really live in and savor the moments that we so often take for granted.
When I started this journey, I questioned so much: How am I going to make it through all of this? How can I care for my kids? What about my job? Now, I know better. There is a better question. How do we all emerge from this pandemic better, and what will we all take as move forward on our journey of resilience?
Regina’s courage in sharing her vulnerability shines through this post. The take-away message? Sometimes, we need external circumstances to help us stop, pause, breathe, and evaluate our life. We can take time to learn this “stress-evaluate-cope” skill proactively through resilience training. But, no matter how much education and development we receive, life challenges are our best “in the moment” teachers. The beauty of the light splintering through the trees. That is one such unforgettable moment. Watching her child get excited about a topic. Another moment. Tuning into one’s purpose. Another moment. A blue jay. And another. And another.