Well, here we are: We got through the longest Lent, we endured an Easter Sunday when nobody could go to church or a community egg hunt or a big family feast, and more than three weeks later most of us on Earth are still staying home most of the time. You might think it’s not Easter anymore, but Easter is a seven-week season in the Episcopal Church! Maybe by May 31, the coronavirus will have calmed down a bit….
A lot of people are eager to “get back to normal,” to go back to whichever track of the rat race they were running to earn the money to go places and buy things and do activities. They want everything to be open again so that they can choose where to go and what to do, so that they can live their normal lives!
Well, I understand that. I miss the excitement and richness of an everyday life that included many neighborhoods, bus rides, shopping, restaurants, visiting friends and hugging them and sharing food, mingling with strangers and seeing what they do. I’m feeling bereft in a springtime with no school musicals and no Spring Carnival, looking ahead to a summer when there may be no travel, no swimming pools, no escapes to the air-conditioned museum.
But at least we can go outside! We aren’t literally trapped in our homes! We can go out into our own tiny yard, and it’s a paradise of ever-evolving beauty and wonder. Would I really rather go to work in an office than watch my newly six-year-old Lydia explore the many worlds her imagination creates in tiny pockets of our own property?
Our homes are our castles, right? Our independent, private domains, where we can have everything just as we like and do whatever we want to do? Staying home, we can wear what we like, eat what we like, set our own schedule, play our music, read our books, play our games, use our technology to communicate with all our friends all over the world! Is staying home really such a deprivation?!
And we don’t even have to stay on our own property! Here in Pennsylvania, and in most places on Earth, we aren’t and never were forbidden to go out for a walk, in the neighborhood or in the park. There’s so much to see! And so many of us have time now to get out of the car and wander through pleasant places!
Some people advocating an immediate return to crowded public spaces say, “We can choose to live in fear, or we can live our lives!”
Well, I’m not all that afraid, and I am living! This is my life, right here, every day. This season in my life is different in some ways, but it is still life, and there’s still a lot in it, a lot of things to do in a day and a lot of experiences to soak up. This is just one chapter in each of our stories.
If what you’re learning in this chapter is that you live in a terrible place that doesn’t suit you at all, then it’s time to plan where you’re going to move in the next chapter. If what you’re learning is that you’re enormously relieved not to be going to work, then it’s time to think about what kind of job you’re going to find in the next chapter. If what you’re learning is that you don’t know how to clean your own house or teach your own kid or cut your own hair, then this is the chapter in which you try to learn–and maybe the next chapter is about your new self-reliance and family harmony, or maybe it’s about how much more you appreciate professional help after being without it, but at least you’ve had some character development and some experiences that make good stories!
We don’t have to “get back to normal” in every way. We might be able to see, in this season of rebirth and renewal, that some of the things we’ve been doing are twisted and wrong and killing us slowly, and we just didn’t notice because we were so busy getting through each day. Some of those are little things one person is doing that rub her individual temperament the wrong way. Some of them are things we as a society are doing that make life too difficult for too many of us. Maybe there’s a better way.
Do we really have to send 1,700 teenagers into a big building to take their assigned seats by 7:36am, five days a week–or do we want to keep some of this “distance learning” and have each group of kids come to school just one day a week? Do we really have to cram so many people into buses and elevators and cubicle farms to get all the work done–or could some of them keep working from home? Do we really need to sacrifice human lives and health to save “the economy”–or could we have an economy that doesn’t treat “human resources” as just another material to harvest and process?
This season of social distancing is a perfect time to think about what we really need, what we can live without and hardly miss it, and what we wish we’d never been doing in the first place. It’s an opportunity to reinvent our lives, individually and societally, to become better and happier people making the most of our time on Earth.
I was text-chatting about this with some old friends the other night, sitting on the kitchen floor with my apron on, in between washing dishes and washing produce, at almost 10pm—and it was just obvious: This is my life. The technology and the specific chores change, but I’m very familiar with this feeling of catching my social moments in between all the other things I have to do, and even when I’m home all day, there’s always plenty to do around here.
Going to the grocery store is more complicated than usual, but the store is still open, we’re still allowed to go on whatever day we decide it’s time, and there’s still lots of food available. Daniel had brought home sweet peppers, apples, raspberries, mangoes, and two kinds of pears. I’ve started washing all the produce before I put it away–and that’s something I should have been doing all along, because it’s ever so pleasant and convenient to choose a pear from my fruit bowl knowing that it’s already clean and ready to eat. Like so many of the lifestyle changes that reduce our environmental impact, we may find that habits we changed because of the pandemic become permanent changes because they make our everyday lives better, happier, safer, even easier.
This isn’t prison. This isn’t life during wartime. This was just staying home sick, and as I recover, it’s slowly moving toward not even being that! This is the time when we all wear masks and stand six feet apart, which is weird, but in many ways this surreal vacation is pretty sweet–and I’m looking forward to finding out what happens next, knowing that life as we planned it isn’t necessarily perfect. Come on, Earth–we can get better!
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