Lately, I have been thinking a lot about all that has happened over the past year. Where we were a year ago. What I was thinking. How I was feeling. The anxiety that could overwhelm in a second and send me to my room in tears.
I felt anxious. A lot.
I felt anxious for my parents. Anxious for my children. Anxious for my husband. Anxious for myself. For my friends. And my extended family. For my siblings. And my nieces and nephews. Anxious for our city. Our state. Our country. The world.
As images flashed on the screen of people around the world suffering and dying. People in our country. Our state. Our city. Our town. I wondered, what will happen to us? Is this our forever? Is this our new normal? Or just a strange now?
As shutdowns happened around the world and people returned home to work and play and learn. As grocery shelves were left bare and I wondered when I would hug my parents and if it would ever be easy to find toilet paper or flour or yeast again.
I felt uncertain. A lot.
And at the same time, in the midst of my fear and my wondering and my uncertainty, I found a deeper appreciation for so many things I had otherwise taken for granted. I was very aware of every grocery item that came into the home. Every meal served on the table with my family gathered around. Every day we were safe at home with our needs being met took on a new meaning.
As we scheduled Zooms with friends, and visited with my parents in carefully crafted seating arrangements outdoors and as we watched Disney Sing-Alongs and learned to make fried chicken and finally pumped the tire that had been flat on my bike for years so I could ride along with my family, a feeling of deep appreciation began to set in.
I felt grateful. A lot.
And as the days and weeks and months went on and more and more decisions had to be made, I felt paralyzed to choose. Both felt right and both felt wrong. Over and over again. Decision after decision. And I would talk to my friends and family members and cry and wonder if we were choosing correctly. And as soon as a decision was made, another would come our way.
I felt confused. A lot.
And in the midst of it all, our lives slowed down. We began sleeping in and living more in the moment than ever before. With our calendar stripped bare, and all of us at home, I developed deeper relationships with my children and my husband and started to realize how little time we actually have with the kids at home, and what an unexpected gift it has been to be together. And I vowed never to be so busy again. And started to do things I hadn’t done in years. Like read books in the afternoon and lie down on the couch after dinner for the rest of the evening, because nothing was pressing. Nothing had to be done. Nobody had anywhere they had to be.
I felt relaxed. A lot.
And now, as my husband and I have had the first dose of the vaccine, and more and more people are being vaccinated, and the numbers are dwindling, a hope is beginning to set in. A return to our new normal feels closer than before and it seems that there may be an end to this time at home together. And I feel excited about the possibility of a return to normal, and at the same time a bit sad at the thought of us all not being here under this roof during the day anymore.
And I am reminded I don’t want to lose the lessons learned over the past year. I don’t want to return to the busyness that once was, or to lose sight of the gift of shared meals and bike rides. I don’t want to forget what it means to slow down, and relax, and that it’s okay to read a book midday just because it seems like a nice thing to do. i don’t want to say yes to something just because i feel like i have to, or slowly see our calendar return to full.
We are living in history. We have all felt a lot over the past year.
Our situations have been unique and for some this time has been much harder than for others. But in the midst of it all. In the uncertainty and confusion. In the fear and the gratitude. In the stress and the relaxation. We have learned we can face hard things. And that maybe we are stronger than we ever knew. We have learned the value of hugs. And have been reminded of the importance of looking out for our neighbor.
It is often in the most challenging moments that the best lessons are learned. And when I look back on this past year, I see so much strength and beauty intermingled with the pain and hardship. I see neighbors helping one another and friends encouraging each other in the decision making and in the struggle. I see teachers rising up to unprecedented challenges and students working hard in their new environments. I see health care workers being modern day heroes and grocery store employees staying late to stock shelves so that we can have the food we need to put on our tables.
I see so much goodness in the pain. I see valuable life lessons learned in the struggle.