March 2021, and I realize I have lived through an entire year that proved to be a perfect storm of joy deprivation. I bring this up not because I am special in this regard, but quite the opposite. I imagine most of us are writing our own version of the same story.
Last March, my husband was retiring, and we were planning a move north to Vermont. We’re both avid hikers and found a home where we could skip out the door with the dogs and walk in the woods. This was a dream scenario to outdoorsy New Englanders. (So what if everyone else seemed to retire south?) As the world began to shut down, though, we packed our things and moved three months early. Why not? It’s not like all our good-bye rituals and last visits could happen anyway. Yet somehow the isolation landed with a thud.
It’s hard to make new friends and find community when no one can leave the house. And while summer brought us visitors in the gorgeous outdoor weather, once fall fell, that all but stopped. Then winter came with its abundance of gray skies and a thick snow cover that shut down our beautiful woods hikes for months. I have met some new people here; I wonder if we will recognize each other’s smiles when the time comes.
I watch folks on TV programs not cast during the pandemic. Their closeness feels dangerous. I realize I am changed; we are changed.
So here I am. The sun is out, it is nearly 60 degrees. I am getting my first Covid vaccine this week, and just yesterday took my first hike in the woods for the year. It was tough going, as the snow is still over a foot deep in places, but I got there. I am sure we can begin to welcome visitors again soon. I finally think it’s okay to hope freedom is around the corner.
For now, though, I miss spontaneity, I miss my kids, I miss people of all sorts, I miss the energy of a crowd. I find I have developed a sad habit of saying no to myself. Those moments when I would normally have run to the store, gone out to lunch with my husband, for drinks with a friend, or strolled through a local fair – they have been absent. For a year. And in this no-saying process, I find my connection to my intuition has shriveled a bit. Those little sparks that would come up proceeded by, “Hey let’s go …” had to be extinguished. It felt too sad to indulge them before ultimately turning them away. Far from thriving in this time of solitude, I’ll admit to spending far too much time distracting rather than creating. I hear a lot of us have done the same.
I’m beginning to see articles from mental health folks about the challenges of reopening. It seems we all need to be extra kind to ourselves and each other as this unfolds. This past year has been traumatic individually and as a society, and so healing will take time. I suspect we have an entire generation of children whose lives have been forever transformed. They will surely need our support.
So, dear friends, as we begin to climb out of this joy-deprived trip around the sun, I want to challenge us all to begin to elevate the little joys, the nuggets of life we may have taken for granted in the past, to make this very re-awakening powerful enough to infuse profound meaning into what we have endured.
The Guides have reminded us about this time of transition; about how things have been being brought to the light to be re-known in a higher way. Perhaps as we reintroduce ourselves to places and rituals and people we may have once thought routine, perhaps it is time to see them with fresh eyes. Let's step into this renewal through life's little moments.
My fresh joy list includes:
- Making new friends near my new home.
- Smiling at a stranger.
- Full, spontaneous hugs.
- Unexpected stops at unexpected places.
- Dining someplace bustling and then chatting with the next table over.
- Getting stuck behind a school bus.
- Walking in the woods; (and next year buying snowshoes!).
- People-watching in wonderful and unexpected places.
- Live music.
Maybe you can make a list, too. I’ll bet you’ll be surprised at the simplicity of the wonders you’ll be seeking. Wishing you a year of joyful re-awakening.
Word I am Word