I realized that in the last few months I've been sitting in limbo, waiting for the pandemic to end, for the world to reopen, for everything to return back to normal again. But the truth is, I've used this as an excuse.
Pandemic or not, all of us put certain things on hold and maybe never even got to them for one reason or another. And we all know what they are.
How many times have you told yourself:
I'll exercise more when...
I'll eat healthier when...
I'll follow that dream when...
I'll spend more time with my loved ones when...
I'll be less busy when...
Did I make you cringe? Don't worry. This is my list, and I am not pointing fingers at anyone but myself. This whole post I actually wrote to get myself in the right set of mind, but you're welcomed to take a peek. Maybe you'll find something useful as well.
So, let's call it -
My Pandemic Survival Guide
Here are three simple truths I discovered:
1. Stop waiting for a better time.
The other day I caught myself thinking:
"It's just a temporary thing. I will get back to my normal routine once this is over. It's not going to hurt anything if I don't do a thing or two for now."
"I will do this later. Maybe, next week. No, on the first day of the month. Or maybe I should wait until this craziness is over. Next year would probably be better."
Do you still remember your New Year's resolutions by the way? Those went down the drain really fast, did they? Mine were: to be more social and to join live events to promote my books. Ha! Now I have a legitimate excuse to remain my good old introverted self.
But in reality, there is never going to be a perfect time to start. The best time is always now. And if I don't do something now, no matter what the circumstances are, I might never get to it. Slow bumpy progress is always better than no progress at all.
So, I want to ask myself:
What is really important to me right now?
Where do I want to go from here?
What little step can I take right now to get me there?
Yes, I can still go places without leaving my house. I can at least turn in the direction of my dreams. Well, my dream of traveling more would have to wait, but I could still prepare for it and work on something else in the meantime. Life is not static, and I need to be able to adapt to changes.
2. Create a new reality.
Like everyone else, I am waiting for things to get back to normal... But hold on! Maybe I don't need to go back to anything. Maybe I just need to regroup and move forward into something completely different. Something new. Something more effective. Is my "normal" really worth returning to? Is it what I would like to continue doing or should I just leave it in the past? With the normal routines broken, it's a great time to re-evaluate them.
I can certainly get into the funk that's been going around instead or worry about the things I can't control. Or I can adjust and do something else with my life... I think I'd prefer the latter.
During this time, pretty much everyone is forced to slow down and clear their calendar. Now the question is, what am I going to replace these activities with? (I won't be naming some of the time fillers that may or may not start with a letter "N".)
Without external support, I can only rely on myself to take care of my physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. It's up to me now to sustain a healthy balance in my life. Hasn't it always been?
No workout classes? No one to get me off the couch? I will get myself up and moving. I'll watch the online exercise videos and go for a run outside.
No church or prayer group? That means my personal time with God is even more important. I can't warm up next to other people's fire. I need to keep my own going.
More time on my hands because I got canceled at work again? Fine. Wasn't I complaining just a few months earlier that I don't have enough time? It's my chance now to get to the things I've been putting off.
3. Find strength in solitude.
Even as we are forced into social distancing from other people during this pandemic, it doesn't mean that we're truly able to have some alone time or know how to enjoy it. There are spouses, kids, phone calls, social media, online conferences, news. Somehow there is always this constant noise around us because it's what we're used to.
Despite decreased outside activities, I still manage to keep myself busy as soon as I get up. I check my e-mails, jump into the house chores, worry about things, scroll through the Internet, switch from one task to another to create a hectic day out of nothing. You would think that as an introverted artist and writer I would know how to thrive in isolation. But it doesn't mean I am always able to stay still and rest.
Pablo Picasso said: "Without great solitude, no serious work is possible." And Johann Goethe said: "One can be instructed in society, one is inspired only in solitude." Here is one more from Thomas Edison: "The best thinking has been done in solitude."
So how do I use my time alone to get these kinds of results?
1. Disconnect. Do I really know how to do that? How to isolate from this world not physically but emotionally and mentally? Could I turn off all the worries and all the outside information to really keep my focus within?
2. Relax. Worrying about work and bills, having to deal with stay-at-home kids, watching the news, attempting a home remodeling or at least a spring cleaning is not really resting, is it? But despite all the craziness, let's find an hour or so to take care of ourselves. Do I need to go for a walk or lock myself in the office without a computer, listen to music or sit in silence, paint, write or pray? What brings peace to my heart? I need to spend some time in that.
3. Focus. Lots of things fight for my attention daily, but it's important to block the outside and take a look inside once in a while. The strength comes from within. As a Christian, I know that God dwells inside of me. But what kind of house am I? Do I take care of it?
It's good to be productive, but the tree can't really bear good fruit or remain standing during the storms if it doesn't have strong root. What is not seen is often more important than what is visible.
Do I take care of my heart and soul?
Do I feed my inner person?
Do I take care of my emotional and spiritual needs?
Now is more important than ever to start doing that.
Trouble will come and go, changes are inevitable. If not a global virus, then something else.
What is going to sustain me and keep me going? It's not about what's happening on the outside, but inside. When I take time to find an anchor that keeps me grounded in who I am and where I am headed, when I develop inner peace and strengthen my core, then I might become a person others would want to hold on to during difficult times.