It feels like just yesterday that we were hugging each other sans-masks and blowing out candles on birthday cakes without a COVID-care in the world. But doesn’t it also feel like it has been decades since two-way grocery shopping was a thing and sports teams actually lined-up to give high fives at the end of a game?
In years to come, we will speak of the eeriness that took over in March of 2020 and the changes that ensued— the days stuck inside and the family walks around the block to kill time; the binge-watching marathons and the endless hours wasted playing Roblox and scrolling Tik Tok; the removal of bedtimes and extra late sleep-ins because really, what else was there to do? We will tell our grandkids about the drive-by birthday parades and curbside meals as they listen in disbelief to stories about how we got an inside look at teachers in their natural habitats (aka their homes) via online learning! Stories of lawn signs with the words thank you written on red hearts will warm our hearts as we remember how we raised each other up and admired the heroes of the pandemic. We will giggle as we try to explain exactly why toilet paper was such a hard to come by commodity, too.
We won’t forget to share the pain and loss and heartbreak that accompanied the year of COVID, either. We will tell stories of how people worldwide made enormous sacrifices (for the greater good of humanity) and despite the effort and sacrifices and well-meaning intentions of humans everywhere, many were forced to say goodbye way-too-soon to their loved ones, who were taken by COVID. We will mention the grandparents who were isolated in nursing homes craving human connection and the loving touch of a son or grandchild; we will speak of funerals and weddings that couldn’t take place because it was just too dangerous. We will talk about holiday celebrations that took place on Zoom and we’ll discuss the depression, isolation and anxiety that abruptly took over. We will talk about the times where COVID brought us together and the times when it absolutely shattered us from the inside out.
We now know that life is meant to be lived one moment at a time and that we must take nothing for granted. It is our job to find the lessons amidst the darkness, to learn from them and embrace them so that we can take this nightmare and turn it into a life better lived. While I myself have learned a tremendous amount over the past year, here are a few of my favorite pandemic-lessons:
Today is a gift. Tomorrow isn’t promised. Seize the day. Yes, these are the oldest clichés in the book, but my God did this pandemic reinforce them. All we have is right now. Don’t waste it on regret or fear or anxiety. Plant your feet and your head in the present moment and soak it all the way up. Life is too short to do anything other than live, laugh, love and learn so if it doesn’t feed your soul or teach you a lesson or connect you to another human being, just skip it— without guilt, please.
Practice Self-Care (Without Guilt)
When you are stuck inside around the clock without an escape or moment of silence or your favorite yoga class, you really learn the value of a little me time. I recently got a much-needed, post-pandemic massage at the local Massage Envy and let me tell you it was the best thing to happen to me in a year. Did I feel guilty for leaving the kids behind to treat myself? Nope, not even a little. I have learned over and over and over again (and I have learned this the hard way) that I am my best self and the best version of mother I can be when I take great care of myself—even if my kids don’t like it! Sometimes that means getting an extra hour of sleep or leaving the dishes in the sink overnight, and sometimes—when the stars and my bank account and the scheduling lines up oh-so-perfectly- that means getting something extra special like the most amazing full-body massage to leave me rejuvenated, relaxed and grateful. And in case you’re wondering, I wore a mask for the entire massage and it was still a heavenly one-hour getaway; the entire experience felt safe and sanitized to boot! After a year of constant chaos and unknowns and screen time and at-home learning, I value self-care, alone time, balance and self-love more than ever. Bottom line? Do what you can to care for your own mind, body and spirit—because you are worth it, pandemic or no pandemic!
You know when your kids become teenagers (practically overnight) and suddenly saying the words I love you feels awkward because you know they don’t want to hear it and they never say it back anymore? And then you slowly-but-surely speak the words I love you less and less frequently to avoid the awkwardness? Well, cut that crap out. Say it. Say it now and say it before bed and say it first thing in the morning and randomly when they are brushing their teeth or even when they are mid-eye roll because you told them to clean their dinner plate. Say it every chance you get to everyone you love because as the cliché goes (yet again) life is short and our kids, now more than ever, need to feel unconditionally loved and worthy and loveable, and if they don’t hear it from their our own mothers and fathers, well, what message is that sending? Love is a gift and it is one we take for granted all too often. To have it to give and share is a luxury and to receive it is, too. Don’t take it for granted. Don’t guard it too much and don’t ever keep it a secret. Spread your love like COVID-19 in 2020.
The pandemic has certainly been a longer-than-expected and stronger-than-anticipated storm of challenges for all of us— but we have heads and hearts that can find the silver linings and emerge from the strangest, most challenging and unpredictable time in our lives as wiser, stronger, more grateful humans. So, let’s try to do that one moment at a time.