People keep calling this the new normal but it’s not. It is a short blip in our lives. But as anyone who's been through a life-changing event can tell you, it’s not how long the moment lasts, it’s how the moment changes you.
Over the past two months, I’ve been through a ton of emotions, and I know I’m not alone. I’ve felt scared, impatient, angry, and profoundly sad. I’ve also experienced delight, stillness and most of all, gratitude.
As social distancing orders relax over the next month, it’s a good time to reflect and make a plan for moving forward as better people because of (or in spite of) our quarantine. These are some of my takeaways and commitments I’ve made to myself. I hope they help you get started on your own gratitude journey.
Actions Speak Louder than Words
No nurse, farmer, pharmacist, delivery person or grocery store clerk offered me well-wishes in lieu of showing up. Though I was lucky enough to stay healthy, I know an army of front line workers ensured I had food, medicine, and supplies, and that there was a bed ready for me at the hospital if I needed it. They showed up, often at great risk to their own health. I owe them a debt.
I commit to continue wearing masks to protect them. When they ask to be heard about fair pay or fair prices for food, I will seek to hear their stories. When they need support, I will offer it - either by calling legislators, sharing what I learned from them with others, spending my dollars wisely and purposefully, or eating as a political act.
Shop Less, More Purposefully
For the past two months, we’ve shopped with a carefully planned menu that includes what we have in the cupboard, what we can get at the farm, and what we must fill in from the grocery store. We eat the menu in order of what will go bad first over two to three weeks.
When I couldn’t go to the store because I forgot something or because I didn’t feel like eating what we had, two things happened: there was almost no waste in our house, and I got more creative. I’ve tried a bunch of new recipes with ingredients that I had on hand rather than ingredients I bought especially for the recipe. I planned ahead to find uses for the spare bit of tomato paste or onion. I saved my peelings to make my own vegetable stock (it’s so easy).
I will continue careful planning for two weeks' supplies at a time, to reduce waste and environmental impact. I will continue to embrace the creativity invoked in restriction.
It's easy to get excited and expect things to get back to normal ASAP, but that can’t be. Supply that was spread out over time has been compounded or absent to make demand sky-high. There will be appointments and goods that everyone else wants, too. There will be times when I can’t have what I want and it might be frustrating, but It is not my right to have whatever I want immediately.
I commit to take only what I need. When I can’t get what I need, I will reset my expectations and be patient. This is especially important when supporting small businesses who don’t have the same resources as giant corporations and may take a little longer to rebalance. I will have faith in them and continue to go to them first. Most of all, I commit to consider “we” in balance with “me” and recognize that we are not all fighting the same battle.
For loved ones
For practicing new skills
If one can have a “favorite” result of a global pandemic, this is mine: gaining time and space. My family is highly overscheduled and at first, I was crawling up the walls without that calendar telling me what to do. Once I settled down, it was amazing. We went on walks every day. We had dinner together every night. I finally found the time to bake bread. My garden has never looked so beautiful. My oldest child created a “field day” for my youngest who would miss this 5th grade right of passage - and it was an absolute blast. None of this would have happened before.
In my new normal, I commit to leaving space in the schedule for learning, for each other, and for rest. I will remember that time is not a renewable resource, and will give my time judiciously.
More than a decade ago, I read Awakening the Buddha Within, by Surya Das. What struck me at the time was his claim that if we looked around, there were plenty of places where we could do altruistic things, but we had to open our eyes and hearts to see them. When I closed the book and disembarked my train, I saw a person who needed help. Had I not just been reading those words, I might have ignored him, or been afraid to approach him. Instead, I respectfully offered my help and he took it. It was amazing.
Our entire world was collectively and aggressively shaken, just as that book shook me. We faced a pandemic and made a collective agreement to be at least a little altruistic. We opened ourselves to possibilities - of doing something different than what we normally would, and of helping others. From staying home and checking on neighbors- to pivoting from leather goods to shields or from sheets to masks. I am grateful for this glimpse that humanity can come together and be innovative, brave and altruistic.
I commit to remember this time, to keep my eyes open to need, to ask myself, “how can I help?”, and to be unafraid to help.
Redefine “The New Normal”
This series has been about examining how things were before and how we can meaningfully adapt to a great challenge. Now, it’s time to take those lessons and create an action plan - one led by gratitude for those who sacrificed the most or answered a call to be more and do more. This is my list. What’s on yours?