Yep, I know. I’m not supposed to have visitors… so I’ll have a guest blogger instead! My niece decided to start collecting people’s stories of love, laughter, learning and loss during the pandemic. They’re fanastic. Check them out here and maybe even add your own story! In the meantime, enjoy her first post.
A Story of Letting Go by Madison Edwards
My experience as a result of the coronavirus outbreak and the resulting stay-at-home order in California has primarily been a story of loss. However, I am grateful for the loss I am experiencing. Often times when we lose or remove something, it allows space for us to let something new and different into our lives. This is similar to when we finally throw out an old raggedy sweater and replace it with a new one. Sometimes we get rid of something not because we didn’t love it or appreciate it, but because it no longer serves us in a useful manner. If the sweater no longer keeps you warm, it may be time to put it on the shelf for a different season, or time to get a new one altogether.
Likewise, many of my habits and characteristics which I typically value, are not beneficial during a stay-at-home order. For example, I enjoy working, planning out every hour of my day, and sticking to a schedule. I have certain activities that I try to accomplish every day: I work, exercise, cook, call a family member or friend, etc. One of my favorite feelings is at the end of a long day, when I realize I completed all the tasks on my to-do list.
Although I knew the stay-at-home order would restrict my ability to work, I figured I would still work part-time and complete most of the other activities on my to-do list, especially since working less would free up more time in my day. I quickly realized that this was not the case. Without my regimented work schedule, I lost my motivation to complete the other activities that normally fill my day. Or rather, with such an abundance of time, I kept telling myself I could call my friend later. But “later today” turned into “tomorrow,” which turned into “sometime this week,” until later never came.
Moreover, I could no longer participate in certain activities that were important to my well-being. I LOVE trail running- for me it is my chosen method of relaxation and meditation. I never imagined that the government would close trails and fine people for using them. In fact, I assumed people would be encouraged to use trails so long as they maintained their “social distance.” Unfortunately, I forgot to account for the fact that with so many other prohibited activities, people would flood the trails, making it virtually impossible to maintain a safe distance from one another.
As I was no longer able to participate in activities I value, or I had lost the motivation to do so, I began to feel extremely discouraged. I eventually realized that somewhere along the way, my happiness had become entangled in my accomplishments. In order to adapt, I needed to untangle the two so that my happiness wasn’t dependent on whether or not I accomplished a set of tasks each day. During the stay-at-home order I won’t always complete my to-do list—in fact, some days I won’t even make one. I had to let go of something that was no longer supporting me: my constant need to feel I have accomplished something worthwhile.
Yet, as I mentioned before, when we let something go, we make space for something new. This has been true for me on multiple levels. Due to the restrictions on activities I can engage in, I began searching for new hobbies. I found enjoyment in completing online exercise videos with friends, watching telenovelas to practice Spanish, reading, and explorative cooking. When I let go of the guilt I associated with not completing a to-do list, I created time to sleep and rest more. I watched as the purple circles that have been under my eyes for years receded.
To end by returning to the sweater analogy: we may not throw away the old raggedy sweater when winter comes. Instead, we might put it on the shelf and return to it next fall when it can be of use to us. When I am eventually able to return to my old schedule, I believe many of my old traits will resurface- I will again derive enjoyment from accomplishing a prescribed set of tasks each day. Nevertheless, I will strive to keep my happiness separated from my accomplishments, I will continue sampling new activities, and I will allow myself to rest, guilt-free, when I need it.
More about Madison’s project.