In February of this year I went to our vacation home in Arizona to spend some time in the sun. It was after the new grand baby arrived and prior to the COVID-10 virus arrival. I always love it there and although we lovingly refer to it as our baby house, the outdoor living that is affords due to the beautiful weather makes it feel like I have a whole park to live in.
One morning while there I was enjoying the morning sun in the back of our house, coffee in hand, wearing my jammies, palm trees gently sharing their ‘song’ as the breeze rustled their leaves. It was gorgeous. I was in a blissful and wonderful place, very aware of how blessed I was. While in Arizona I had been continuing my quest for personal growth by reading, working out and walking daily. I had found a place to volunteer a couple times a week and I also picked up a new craft, dot painting, that was really fulfilling my creative appetite and that morning I was reflecting on the journey and the path and feeling incredibly grateful for it all.
As I sat thinking on the day, one of my back neighbors got a visitor and my ears perked up as I heard the visitor say, “Good morning. How are you?” A typical greeting and one we all hear or even ask many times a day. In our little village in Arizona, I am probably greeted 50+ times a day by someone outside or on their patios. Every dog walker, biker and leisurely stroller greets each other with a wave, a smile and often a comment on the day or a question of how you are. It’s so common as a matter of fact, that when someone fails to do it, it is out of the ordinary and honestly uncomfortable. Anyway, on this particular morning it wasn’t the greeting or the question about the day that caught me off guard, it was the answer.
When asked, how are you today the answer was…”Well, things could always be better.”
Wait, what? Things could always be better? While I guess that answer is true, it is also bleak and unsatisfied and depressing. I looked around again. Was this person, just 100 yards from me, not seeing the same things I was seeing? Was he not feeling the warm sun at 10am? Was he not aware that none of us wore a coat, a sweater or even long pants? While much of the US was under snow we sat in 70+ degrees, sun shining at full blast, people out living life in a resort community where four pools, live music and any number of activities were are our disposal 24 hours a day. How could life be any better?
As I have contemplated that conversation over the last few weeks, and as the corona virus has taken hold of the US, I have been considering my own outlook on things including many of the changes to my daily routines. I know the half full vs half empty idea and I know everyone gets to see everything through their own whatever-they-choose colored glasses, but it reminded me again that I have control of how I perceive things. I can choose how I see things, circumstances, even how I interpret the actions of the people around me.
Like many of you, I’ve read many of the encouraging blogs the last few weeks about things to try at home while staying in. I’ve seen the cute videos of kids building forts, moms and kids baking treats, and dad’s doing push ups with kids on their backs. Everyone trying to make the best of where they are. Because they have a choice, just like I do to make this time at home something amazing or something I just get through.
While I think about my journey and my path of leaving corporate America a few months ago, I am aware that the slowing down can be difficult, and even more so for those who are unsure of a paycheck or when they will be back at it again. We work at such a frantic pace sometimes that when we have the opportunity to slow down, it can be very difficult to know what to do with ourselves, with our thoughts or even our emotions. It takes time for our minds to come off the treadmill that has been running at full speed for sometimes years. I know when I stopped working it took weeks for me to realize I didn’t need to be watching the clock, preparing for the next meeting or scanning my brain for the details that made up my day. And it was uncomfortable. I had the fortunate opportunity to know my work days were coming to an end and was able to make some plans for how to fill my days prior to being home. I know that has not been the case for everyone with this pandemic creating change by the hour and that can make this all the more unsettling.
But here is what I learned and am continuing to learn daily. Every day is an opportunity and it all depends on how I look at it as to how it will turn out. One option is to decide that ‘things could always be better’ and to sit and wait for things to improve while narrating in my mind all the possible negative outcomes this down time might create.
But another option is to decide that this is the best day ever and make the most of it. How many times while working, I wished for a quiet day with no responsibilities to just have time to read a book, sleep late or spend time with my kids. How many times I would have been so grateful to not set an alarm, make the morning commute, meet with an angry client or let some one go. A one or two or three day respite would have seemed like a dream come true and I had lists of things I would do if I ever got the time.
By no means am I trying to say that this isn’t stressful. That not working doesn’t have a huge impact on families that are not only financial, but emotional as well. But, maybe, just maybe we could each use this time to do something we’ve been putting off for while. Maybe learning a new craft, reading a book that we’ve had on the shelf for years, creating a new dinner or calling a friend we haven’t heard from in a while. We don’t have control of many of the things going on in our world right now. We may not have control over when/where we work, what we can buy at the grocery store or who we can see daily, but we do have control over some other things. Our attitude. The thoughts we let ourselves listen to and believe. How we treat the ones we are housing with. How we spend the hours we are being given. We have the opportunity to really slow down and we get to decide exactly what to do with our time for a bit.
What if we used this time to come out on the other side better people? I have had the gift of being off for three months now, and have been thinking along these lines since late December. When I look back in a year, what do I want to know I did during that time? What new skills do I want to have? What things do I want to have given so much priority to that they stick when life transitions again?
As I started this year off, these are some of the questions I asked myself and continue to ask myself. I want to be a better me at the end of my time off and on a smaller scale I wonder if these same questions could be used during our ‘time off’ for COVID-19. Maybe its time to start a bedtime routine with our kids that we were always too tired for. Or maybe its learning that cooking is fun. Or maybe, its just time to rest for a while, to recoup from the high speed at which we notoriously run our lives.
Whatever it is or however we each choose to use this unique time, I for one want to look at every day not deciding it could be better but realizing I can make it the best day. What things are you doing that you’re excited to finally have time to try? Is there anything you have forgotten you’d like to add to your life but just couldn’t find the time? Today is our day! Lets agree to use this time in such a way that we look back on it and know we made the most of it.
Thanks for joining me on this journey. It has been an amazing 3 months and I know there is so much more yet to come. I look forward to the continued growth, the things I am continuing to understand about myself and the next grand adventure.
Until next time.