Well, we have reached the one year mark of this whole Covid craziness. About this time last year I was in Hawaii, soaking up the sun and the rumors of the Covid crisis reaching the U.S. were starting to flood in.
We returned home early to quarantine properly and have spent the majority of the year inside the quiet (or sometimes bustling) walls of our own home.
I’ve been wanting to do a piece reflecting on some of the lessons learned or amplified during this season. Some of the hardships too. It’s been a strange year.
Before jumping in, I do want to acknowledge what boat we were in for the storm. You can call it checking my privilege or counting my blessings. Whichever term you prefer. The result is the same, acknowledging that many people had it harder. I walked out this season from a relatively peaceful vantage point.
I was already a stay at home mom and my husband kept his job the entire time. There were some weeks off work that caused some financial inconvenience, but our needs have been met the entire time.
I live in a healthy, thriving home where my work is valued and love is spoken. I have always been safe and cared for in my home. My biggest challenges were boredom and too much time inside my own head.
We have been mid-level social distancers. Although we have not been involved in community events or large group gatherings for a solid year now, we have seen people. We’ve kept to a small circle of friends and family, but have had people to lean on and chat with and be around. We’ve had periods of no outside contact when I’ve felt like we’ve been on the extreme side of caution, but I think that’s only because we live in Alaska.
Which is my first amplified lesson of the year.
1. The Company We Keep Dramatically Affects Our Perception
Here, in The Last Frontier, there has been quite a bit of resistance to mask mandates and lock down orders. Alaska is a land full of introverts who naturally social distance and it is a land full of people who don’t like to be told what to do.
Staying to a small circle of friends here has seemed like an extreme response, but people in other parts of the country and world have kept to themselves almost the entire time. To them we probably seem to be extremely reckless. Our perspective is changed by who we are around, the conversations we have, what we read, what we watch and it’s healthy to challenge that.
I’ve been making a deliberate effort this year to read books or posts from people of different races, from different socio-economic backgrounds, different cultures, or different political affiliations.
Entering conversations with an effort to understand people who see things differently than you is a crucial life skill. I’ve been enjoying flexing those muscles in this season.
2. Parents Hold So Much Power in the Way We Present Information.
We’ve been pretty well quarantined for a few weeks now with different sicknesses and an effort to care for those around us. My husband and I have been struggling with some boredom but have mostly tried to view things though a positive perspective. We’ve been loving the family time and enjoying game nights and fun food experiments. It’s been good, but draining.
I asked the kids, recently, how they were doing with it. If they were struggling with being home so much and they were absolutely flabbergasted that I even asked.
“No, we like it. You and daddy are here all the time.”
It’s been the same with wearing masks. I’ve been out and about in public and had people comment on how much they hate that kids have to wear them and I just do my best to smile with my eyes and say that we’re enjoying our new accessories.
My kids frequently wear them in the car for fun and they get excited about picking their masks on grocery store days. It hasn’t bothered them at all.
I am certain that it is harder for kids to wear them all day at school or for hours on an airplane. I haven’t had to do any of that with mine so my perspective is limited, but I think they’ve been able to maintain positive attitudes about them because we haven’t been constantly complaining about them.
We got to set the tone.
On the flip side this year has also taught me a lot about acknowledging harder emotions and walking through them.
3. It’s Okay not to be Okay all the Time
I’m a naturally optimistic person, usually.
I can find a silver lining in many situations and I enjoy the challenge of doing so. I like to sort through what’s going on and find a way to make it enjoyable, to see the potential in the ugly.
It’s one of my favorite God-Given personality traits and I will continue practicing it when I am able.
What this year has helped drive home to me, however, is when I use that to cover up wounds rather than heal them. I’m really good at putting on an “everything is peachy” face and then getting annoyed at people when they don’t realize I need help.
It’s great fun. My family loves when I do this.
I’m really working on the process of discussing grievances and frustrations and walking them through to that healthy, hopeful place. I want to teach my kids to do it well and I’d love for them to have a teacher who has already “arrived”.
4. The Life-Giving Power of Talking Things Out. A.K.A Grace for screen time
Pre-quarantine there was very limited screen time in our home and only children’s shows. I kept it largely to Veggie Tales and Daniel Tiger. I was all about waiting and growing with the kids, letting that leash out inch by inch until they were old enough for bigger things.
Had the past year not been so wonky, I’d likely still be there. Which would be great, a part of me grieves that.
The other part, has enjoyed this new phase we are in.
Like it or not, we have been getting a lot of our adventure as a family in the form of books and movies this year.
During the summer months, there was a ton of outdoor exploration, but the long, cold winter without a lot of play dates has meant increased screen time.
I’ve wanted the escape too, so we’ve been doing less kids screen time and more family screen time.
I actually really love this change. I haven’t set the kids up alone with a movie nearly as often as I used to. Instead, they help me tackle the chores and make food or play some games on their own so we can all come together for a family show. This isn’t to say the TV never gets used as a babysitter, just not as often.
It’s also meant a change in what we watch. Ted and I can only do Frozen or Cars so many times and we’ve wanted some more grown up entertainment.
So we’ve watched and read things like; Chronicles of Narnia, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Jurassic Park.
We’ve had to be wise about scary moments and make some modifications but they’ve done really well. We’ve been able to use the stories to talk about; friendship, courage, prejudice, loyalty, faith, hope, love, fear, seeking the truth. A lot of really good discussions.
What it has really driven home for me is that protecting our kids from exposure is only a piece of the puzzle (and one we won’t be able to do forever). Being available for discussions about the exposure is what completes it.
5. A Renewed Appreciation for The Simple Pleasures
I used to think that I wasn’t someone who really practiced Self-Care and I could flip back and forth between guilt or pride over that fact.
I didn’t think I really practiced it because I understood it to be hours of alone time or a day at a spa or shopping alone. All these things that aren’t really me.
For me, it’s usually the simple pleasures.
Drinking coffee from my favorite cup.
A walk in the falling snow, or rain, or brilliant sunshine. I really need to get out and walk for my mental health.
Even simple things like lighting a candle that I love or making my own favorite foods on occasion, even if they aren’t everyone else’s favorites.
Time spent reading a good book or calling a friend. Thinking of self-care as adding little rhythms to my day, rather than as an escape. I’d rather build a life I don’t need to escape from.
More time alone in this season has kept my emotions closer to the surface. I can crumble easier and rise easier. So paying attention to those tiny little habits that bring me joy has been a great benefit.
I’m eager to have more social engagements again, but haven’t been totally put off by such a slow year. I have loved my time inside these walls with my wonderful people.
It has sparked creativity.
Nurtured medical curiosity.
Promoted sibling bonding.
Inspired family cooking projects
And walked us through a lot of difficult but important conversations.
It’s been a year of bittersweet. We’ll talk more about the bitter later, acknowledge the challenges as a way to grow, but this space is for the good. The sweet spots of a weird and crazy season.