On March 5, we gathered with friends at a local coffee shop to listen to some of our more musically inclined friends play a show they had been working on for months. Afterward, we moved to one of those friend’s homes to visit with a friend who had come for a visit from her fellowship in Germany. Coronavirus was a topic of conversation, but one that we mostly joked about (albeit a little nervously). Over the next 11 days, life went on more or less as usual. We went to church, went to trivia, played board games with friends, visited family, grocery shopped, visited the library. On March 17, I have marked on my calendar “isolating started.” From that day forward, almost every social interaction we encountered was marked. They increasingly shifted from somewhat normal things (grocery store) to very specific (saw so-and-so outside, more than 6 feet apart). We began to get our groceries using pick-up services, talk-yelled to a select group of friends from opposite sides of the yard, and organized movie nights and trivia nights over Zoom, Discord, and GroupMe. I cried the weekend of Easter because I couldn’t go visit my family. We went for terribly long walks around our town because there was little else to do. I started blogging again.
On April 27, the lockdown measures in our state began to lessen. Between then and now, things have progressively opened up. Restaurants are open. Masks are encouraged, but no longer required. We’re still supposed to limit gatherings to 10 people and my town has a 10 pm curfew. Things are weird, but slightly more normal. I’m still bouncing between comfort and anxiety.
One thing that has definitely come of this weird time is opportunity for reflection. I know not everyone will say the same – some people that I have talked to are busier than ever, and none of those individuals are in fields such as medicine, who are obviously not taking it easy right now. Others are obviously facing great hardships, including loss of family members, loss of jobs, etc… We’re in a fantastic situation and for that I’m incredibly grateful. Rather than feeling guilty for our good fortune or ignoring it altogether, I want to recognize it and take advantage of it as a force for change. And so, I will reflect and I will share just a few thoughts on what I’ve learned through quarantine – about the world, about myself, about what I want for the future.
1 | Limits are a good thing.
When stores and restaurants begin to close, I started to understand the old war-time messages of reducing, reusing, making do. In our effort to take this very seriously, we picked up our groceries and then made do with what we bought. We became pretty creative and exploratory in the kitchen, creating new dishes, new sauces, new combinations to make the best use of what we had. We even started to have fun again while cooking! In our avoidance of stores, we also found ourselves walking so much more when we just needed to get out of the house, as opposed to meandering through bargain stores and, inevitably, buying things we didn’t need just because we were there. We spent a bit more on groceries, but we weren’t eating out at all, so in the end we saved money on food. With hard limits in place, these practices were easy and even enjoyable. With just a few days of more flexibility, we’ve already noticed a slide into old habits, but are noticing quickly that we don’t enjoy it.
2 | Solitude should be protected.
I’m around 75-95% introverted according to various personality tests. In the months leading up to the quarantine, our social life had become much more diverse and busy. Several of our closest friends were preparing to move at different stages of 2020, leading us to soak up all of the time we could with them. March brought that all to a grinding halt, and although we kept up with Netfix parties and group chats and virtual trivia games, we found ourselves spending more time in quiet than we had in quite some time. While many of our friends were twiddling their thumbs and bemoaning the lack of -face-to-face time, I found myself thriving. So many old habits and hobbies that had long lay dormant began to resurface. I found myself taking classes, reading more, and writing again. And, best of all, I felt I had the time to do it, without guilt of who I should have been visiting.
3 | The earth can rebound. Humans are the problem.
All of the many, many stories of water running clearer, mountains being visible, birds signing in once-bustling cities… these things remind me of the resiliency of earth. I’m reminded that God created the earth first and he created it good, with its own cycles, patterns, and processes that are capable of producing, reproducing, and sustaining itself. Humans, of course, were also given a task :
God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.”Genesis 1:28
And humans, of course, have botched that task. We either misconstrue it or forego it altogether. Too many people today look at the earth as something that owes us its bounty. We wonder why the ground doesn’t produce enough food, why oil prices are so high, and why the smog makes us sick. We may lament the choices of some corporations or governments that seem to be harmful on a large scale, but we neglect to look at our own, seemingly small, choices and how they impact the world around us. And so, convenience wins. Consumerism wins. Discontentment wins. And the earth suffers.
This weekend we celebrated both the easing of the lockdown measure and J’s birthday. We socialized some and ate out a few meals in order to spend the day not cooking and cleaning. Noticing the gnawing pains in our stomachs who have enjoyed freshly cooked meals for weeks now and the pile of plastic bags and styrofoam take-away boxes that wouldn’t fit in our trash bin, I lamented how quickly I look away from what was good. I wonder why, without government-enacted limitations, I fail to hold to my own values. Rather than despair however, I double-down and decide to not let one weekend deter me. I remember what I found good during quarantine and I make a conscious decision to infuse those qualities into the rhythms of non-quarantined life.