Waking a Sleeping Bear

California is racing toward the less restrictive yellow tier; all around us we can feel the stirrings of new beginnings, as our world returns to taken-for-granted lives where we could hug one another and visit in-person. Closed down for fifteen months, I almost feel like a bear blinking her eyes open as she staggers out of a long, dark hibernation.
Last evening, my husband, Ken arrived home after a victorious night of wrestling in which his high school girls’ wresting team sailed undefeated to another South Coast League Championship. Their sights are now set on the CIF-SS Dual Meet Tournament. What seemed almost impossible months ago became a reality, the girls have been allowed physical contact. I have watched Ken and his co-coach struggle all year, trying to keep the teen wrestlers engaged in the combat sport when they only had imaginary opponents. The coaches used creativity and ingenuity to help pass the agonizing months of no contact, social distancing, and mask wearing. Somehow they succeeded.
How have you fared? Were you successful in holding yourself together during the deprivations of: no contact, no outings, no parties, no activities? About five weeks ago, fully vaccinated, my daughter hosted a belated 21st birthday outdoor dinner party for her son James. I was the beneficiary of my first grandchildren hugs in over a year; I felt embarrassed when tears appeared on my cheeks. It shook me to see how much those hugs meant to me. I had been practicing “a stiff upper lip” in the absence of physical contact with my loved ones.
Hopefully, such an event as a worldwide lockdown will not be upon us again. It has been such a complete time-out in our lives that there are lessons to be learned on how we can do better moving forward. What did you learn? Last week, I met with a much younger, single, lady friend for dinner. As we were seated, she removed her mask, and offered that the pandemic taught her that she is unwilling to live the rest of life single. She is going to start a dating campaign and find a life partner.
Well, that certainly opened a serious conversation on the important understandings we have gained from this crushing time. For a vast majority of us we had never heard of Zoom meetings before the spring of 2020, much less understood the advantages of them. We have learned that we can work from home. Probably in-person office hours will never be what they were in the past.
On a more intimate level I found that not being so involved out-of-the-home allowed me to have the zest to act on my creative thoughts. As you know, I woke up the second month of the lockdown with an idea to write about growing up in the 4th most productive oil field in California, on the beach in Venice. I wanted to preserve that piece of my lived history. The months researching and writing that book felt like a pleasure trip because I had the LUXURY of time. I was not trying to cram in writing between teaching college classes, raising a family, or leading tours at the mission. I had nothing but time, glorious time, and because I did not feel rushed, it was an extremely pleasurable writing experience.
Across my life I have not been a “foodie.” My son-in-law’s favorite story to tell on me is that upon all of us arriving in Rome one year, hungry and wondering where to eat, I pointed to a Chinese restaurant across the square. He is still laughing at the idea of being in Italy and me thinking of chow mien! Admittedly, I eat to live, not so much living to eat. However, cooking during the lockdown, three meals a day for 15 months got me more interested in things culinary. I bought an Instant Pot and fell in love with it. When I joined a Facebook Instant Pot cooking community, they welcomed me in as a fellow “Foodie.” I was beside myself with joy for this new designation in my life. I have thrown myself into it all; reading recipes, studying ingredients and how they relate to one another. All this has led to a new orientation toward mindful eating. The result, Ken and I have each lost more than 20 pounds during this lockdown.
Another thing I practiced was creating pockets of silence within me. I’ve carved out long moments of quiet where I let my creative right brain hemisphere have at it. The daydreaming and mulling have allowed me to come up with some new ideas for my art and writing. It has helped me to be still.
Excited about this topic of Lessons Learned from the Pandemic, I did a bit of research asking others what they too have learned. Some of the responses: “to recognize the value of the people that surround you. The pandemic really makes one think about what others bring to your relationship and how important they are.” A friend who lives alone reports: “I have learned even more than ever how important staying positive is and recreating your life in a way to stay safe and active.”
 “The pandemic has taught us that we are way more flexible in our routines than we imagine, but that we still want our routines back as soon as we can have them. We are all very resilient, but we really do prefer to be around people.”
Other insights: “If I can live through this, I can live through anything.” 
“I had to find my inner introvert because I love people.”
“I learned to do handyman jobs and how to prepare for on-camera Zoom meetings and that you can get a pitcher of Margaritas to go!” 
“Slowing down is important. Time with friends and family is most important. Work is secondary. Covid put a spotlight on our necessities and made everything else seem silly. Outdoor activities really are fun, and I don’t need to be around people all that much to be happy. Thank God for the Internet. Lockdown would have been a completely different experience without it.”
What have you learned? I would love for you to share it. Going forward I intend to keep more space open in my schedule. I think I will mark off days in my calendar and not fill my life up with quite so much doing, and aim for more being. I am waiting to hear from you. My best, donna