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At this point, many of us have been home with a little time to think for some months now. And here’s what I’m thinking: The changes I’ve been forced to make in my life are not all bad.

Yes, what’s bad is so bad that it’s been hard to talk about what’s good. In my immediate family, we’ve had both birth and death and no way to be together through them. More widely, we’ve all seen how some of us are riding out the virus in relative safety while others—in particular, the poor, and Black, indigenous, and people of color—are being devastated by neglect and violence. There are no silver linings in that.

But the pandemic has sharpened my vision in a few good ways. I can’t look away from the inequality that is also epidemic in our world. At this moment, there is more shared will and momentum toward righting the wrongs of racial injustice than I’ve ever seen before. I want to help keep that momentum going for the rest of my useful life, and I nurture a little faith that justice is possible even before I die.

So: racial justice, equality and inclusion. These, I wish to accelerate! In other ways, the pandemic has caused me to slow way down, and in truth, I never want to return to my former pace.

Slowing way down. They say time expands when not much is happening. There’s been a three-month expanding universe of nowhere to go and nothing to do and wow, am I ever going to bed early. Even now, in the first stages of re-opening, it’s quiet at night. Darker, too. Fewer planes in the sky.

Like everyone else, I do wake up in the night, and freak out about the world, and forget the rule that if it’s dark out, it’s not the right time to solve problems. But on the whole, life is slower and I’ve spent more of it asleep. I hope to continue.

Simplifying, and simply connecting. Most days I try to do three things besides work: Move my body, take care of the house, and show up for others. I’ve seen more clearly what and who is important to me. (And, sometimes surprisingly, to whom I’m important.)

It’s been revealed, too, that some things are not meant to be. The title of Sourdough Queen of the Peninsula will go to someone else. I had already perfected my no-knead bread. (Nothing to be proud of; anyone can.) Simpler—and better—to do one good thing flawlessly than to serve a sad loaf.

Watching nature get bold. The boats are at anchor this year. Marine life is moving in and taking over. An island nearby that usually hosts picnickers is now home to colonies of herons and ibis. Ibis! They are hardly ever seen here.

On land, skateboarders are taking over the streets. Go, skaters, go!

Joining online bookclubs, author events, and literature discussions. Last year I could not believe my luck when I got a seat for Tommy Orange live at the Oakland Museum. This year anyone can see their favorite authors. I’ve been able to attend virtual events with Samantha Irby, Myriam Gurba and Esmé Weijun Wang. Later this month I’ll get to see Ottessa Moshfegh. I found an online writing partner, and joined Jami Attenberg’s 1000 Words of Summer. Now I’m now doing exactly that: getting down more than a thousand words a day.

So I’m reading, writing and supporting authors, and it’s unexpectedly powerful to do these things with so many more people than would normally be available.

Making mine indie. Like everyone, I needed beans, and Rancho Gordo came through. I needed chiles, and Oaktown Spice shipped them fast. I never don’t need books, but this is the year I decided I can live without two-day delivery. It’s not hard to plan ahead, pay a couple dollars more, and support places where staff are treated fairly and the owners are Black.

Living locally. In my village, we have one unglamorous grocery and one semi-fancy one. A couple towns up the cape, there’s a rustic-and-prestigious place. I would once have considered all of them to be rather bougie parts of a fun-sized supply chain.

Now I understand that I could be dead without them. Not only are they keeping me alive, but these indie shops are trying to protect their employees’ health as well.

Of course I cared about all these things before. But as things have fallen away, this is what’s important now. So I hope to carry these changes with me—at least the ones I can control.

What about you? What are you taking with you into post-shelter life? Let’s do some plotting in the comments.

 

 

Image:  Piñon trees, New Mexico. George Elbert Burr, 1920, Library of Congress. Public domain.

About The Author

Max Daniels is a research-based life coach whose weekly emails make us laugh with recognition and rethink everything we thought we knew.

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29 Comments

  • Yes, many of the old necessary things are gone. The essentials of my and our essential work (I teach college; husband farms) has been revealed.

  • I haven’t been in A grocery store since March. A fact that would have seemed strange A year ago. These months have been A season of breaking down and trust. We have had to replace our dryer, dishwasher, and Sunday morning I woke up to a flooding hot water heater.
    We are so lucky we could replace these things. The machines that help keep moving us along. The trust that people doing the fixing are not going to make us sick and we will not make them sick.
    I find these breakdowns just A symbol of life in the world but especially here in the US. Everything is broken here. Our environment, economy, most important our society. We need A stronger “glue” to hold us all together.
    I have lived through the 60’s and I cannot express how angry I am at this never ending hatred .I hope love and justice will someday find all of us.

    • I am with you sister. It seemed in the 60’s there was so much to change for the better and that it was even possible. And we did so much. It all seemed to come apart at the seams
      in the 80’s though and now they have to do it all over again. Why is this such a bouncing ball? What is so hard about it?

    • This is still a very new country, and we need to keep in mind that one of the major pillars that form the foundation of it is slavery and particularly America’s distinct brand of it. Unfortunately it is in the DNA of the country and will take a long time to be bred out. We have to keep fighting, just like women have to do for equality, because something so inbred takes generations to change. But change will happen. it has to.
      Meanwhile we talk and listen and support and stay aware of what’s happening, not letting it slip under the carpet again. And we knit to keep our sanity..

    • Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      We do have a strong glue holding us together. It is the spirit and will of people who care for others and reach out to them. Look at the medical field during this pandemic. They worked and some died trying to help others. In every city in this country there are groups and organizations to help with food, health care, housing, etc. and they are ignored by the media because they aren’t exciting. My mother raised her two girls to be strong and tough; to work and be responsible and be able to take care of themselves. We had very little in material things but were wealthy in spiritual and emotional matters. People today are raising wimps who are dependent on someone else to take care of them. We live in the greatest country in the world, have more than anyone else, have more oportunities and some folks have no idea how important that is. People are dying to come to this country and some of our people think it is a disgusting, evil, bad place to live. Intolerance has become rampart. People think if you don’t think like they do, you should be eliminated. I am tired of the “Hate America” crowd and what they are doing to this country. They could always leave, but wouldn’t be able to find another place with the freedom they have to hate, burn and riot.
      • Amen

      • well said

  • I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned I’m way more productive working from home. I’ve discovered that the country I thought I lived in doesn’t exist. I have rediscovered my patience, the joy of doing it myself, my real needs and wants and that I am more resourceful than I remembered. I also discovered that being more of an introvert prepared me for this very event. I’ve found that unlike most people, I have thrived during this pandemic. I fully realize that I have been extremely lucky to have weathered this so well.

    • I’m about as introverted as one can get without being a hermit. l began quarantine before my state went into lockdown. I soon discovered that I mostly missed the local coffee place where I could sit at the back corner table with my laptop and see other people that I didn’t have to socialize with.

      • I really miss the library. So much!

      • Michelle, my soul sister…i feel the same, i miss my coffee shop but not much else, and lately i realize i need to stop watching the news…not because i want to stick my head in the sand but because all the constant bad news is overwhelming.

        • Your comment is awaiting moderation.
          Two soul sisters, Cheryl and Michelle ! I am the quiet workhorse in the background, ever reliable and always being questioned as to why I don’t socialise more. I, too, miss the coffee shop and after 3 months I have turned off the news. The suffering is horrific and I feel helpless in lockdown. Max’s writing always places me in a softer place; I can’t fix the world but I can take care of my family with pride and purpose.
  • I had a conversation with my 80-year-old Dad about losing this time of the pandemic. I countered that time is objective for all of us and that we all lost it in equal measure (although I do realize that people may have lost events in time that they can never get back). I hope then when we are clear of this, I remember not to waste my time on worry or on situations, things or people I can’t change. It’s a commodity I can’t beg, borrow or steal.

  • During my “slowing down,” nature has been such a refuge. My fur babies (dogs) have been joyously accompanying me on walks at just about every park in our area, and it’s been so much fun to see the changes that come with spring. Noticing birds, animals and plant life that I usually miss in my hurry to move onto the next thing has been soothing to my soul! Even as my life ramps back up with phased openings, I hope to make time for that experience moving forward.

    • I have found a similar enjoyment in the quieter parts of life; a two mile daily walk around our village has awoken us to sights and sounds that we would only rarely have experienced in our normal hustle and bustle. I have even begun to listen more carefully to the birdsong we have encountered, though deciding exactly what we have heard has lend to some confusion! We have seen hares, rabbits, muntjac as well as birds, and we were once surprised to see a small herd of alpacas in a farmer’s field, free-range, when they were supposed to be safe in their enclosure! Noticing the little changes day by day has been very precious and we are keen to take this into our post COVID lives, when we get to that happy state…

  • Being a scientist makes me very concerned and helps keep my fear in check about the pandemic. It also steers me to the most reliable sources of information. Hint: most politicians are not experts in biology. Because of COVID I decided, sadly, that I have to stay away from the rallies and protests. However, by reading and watching leaders in the Black Lives Matter movement it became clear that to be anti racist I need to do something and that being silent is being complicit. I am learning to gently push back, often with questions, at times when I probably wouldn’t have three weeks ago. As difficult as these months have been, I hope we see lasting positive change.

  • I work as the care coordinator (ie. Scheduler) at an in home caregiver cooperative— an in home Caregiving agency owned by the caregivers. I have been working from home scheduling and other office tasks since mid March. Yes, I go out much less- but In so many ways my life and our cooperative‘s In home care work has gotten way more difficult due to the virus— first it was obtaining the necessary extra PPE for our caregivers, then it was and always is having enough caregivers for all our clients. It is hard to tell people who call us that we cannot help them because we just don’t have the staff right now. I know it is not just our cooperative but all the in home caregiving agencies— many much larger than ours— that have this lack of workers problem. I have to be careful to take down time or I approach burn out. I finished knitting one log cabin “pandemic blanket”( so dubbed by my housemates) and I am 2/3 done crocheting a second one. Both knitting and crochet (plus gardening— we added two new beds to our food garden) and walking in the woods nearby have been a great solace and stress relief. Thanks for this post — it is a good reminder that we are all in this together and I am not alone struggling with missing my grandsons while working from home….

  • The strangest thing that I’ve learned, is that it’s okay to be a packrat! I have so much fabric (much of which was my mom’s before she passed away), that I felt guilty. But I was able to make masks for all of my friends and family just from material that I had in the house. There was one victorious moment when I was completely out of bias tape for the mask ties, and then I found a bag of ribbons in my mom’s sewing machine. She was saving our lives from beyond the grave!

    • Dear Maureen, I’m also vindicated in my pack rattery…there are so many raw materials in every drawer and on every shelf of my house. If I never go to another garage sale or Goodwill store for the rest of my life, I’m all set. And my husband is gamely making shelves for the arts and crafts room which will allow me to FIND all those raw materials at the right time. hooray!

    • Yes, me too! I have been steadily working through my fabric stash. First making masks and then moving on to making some baby blankets and quilt tops for future gifts. I finally finished that today and will move on to the fabric I bought intending to make a blanket for my son when he went to college. Uh, he graduated five years ago : / but I think he’ll still like it for his apartment. One incentive for getting it all sewn and finished up is to make room in that under-the-bed bin for some of my yarn stash! Sewing isn’t my favorite thing, so I’m looking forward to getting back to knitting! I’m having no trouble staying busy at home, but also enjoying the slower pace and taking time to enjoy watching nature in my backyard.

      • Excellent!!!! I also try to be aware of Slow Fashion suggestions, after reading the book Overdressed. So, instead of donating all of my old clothes (since 2/3 of those end up in landfills), i’m using some of them to make new clothes for my granddaughter. Our knitting stashes saved us, too, didn’t they? I was afraid that the mills would end up shutting down if everyone got sick.

    • Perfect.
      Let’s hear it for SABLE (stash acquisition beyond life expectancy).

      • yes!!!! lol!!!

  • Max…I just found you and have been reading your previous posts all morning…the best way to sum up my feelings is to say I went to Amazon and looked for your books….then signed up for your blog. Thank you for all you do…

    My mom set a wonderful example for me, which I did not always appreciate until I was much older. She lived what I perceived as a difficult life, and the much-younger me occasionally tried to help her see the reality of her situation…(yes, I do wish I could have a do-over on that one.). But, she never took my ideas seriously, anyway, and just said: “Honey, I have a happy heart.” As a depression-era baby, the 6th of 8 children, whose father died when she was very young, she learned not only to work hard and make the most of what she had, but how to give to others and mentally and emotionally live on the sunny side of the street. She saw the best in everyone and helped them to rise above their own expectations for themselves. Regarding funds, she once told me “Honey”, (her favorite term…someone once complained that they thought her calling them ‘honey’ was demeaning … unlike her, I am not-always-sunny, but am fiercely protective and countered “her theme song is ‘let me call you sweetheart -I’ve forgotten your name’…give her a break, she’s over 80.” Anyway, her motto on the ups and downs of finances was: “i’ve been broke, Honey, but I have never been poor….poor is a state of mind.” She was rich in compassion, in laughter and in appreciating the gift of each day. I’m grateful for that legacy.

  • Yes indeed. This time has sharpened my perceptions and reworked my priorities in so many ways.

  • I slept until 9 a.m. this morning — a not-unusual event. When I came downstairs I commented to my husband that in this stay-at-home time, people are finally getting enough sleep. I’m especially grateful that the children are getting enough sleep, since they don’t have to get up early to go to school. In “Macbeth,” Shakespeare wrote that sleep knits up the raveled sleeve of care. This has been a great blessing, as have been the healing dreams.

  • Eating at home, which requires menu planning, will be our new norm. I really enjoy it & thankfully, my husband is a good cook too.

    I love the statement that when it’s dark out, it’s not the time to solve problems. Just perfect!

    Also, I’ve been praying more. It can’t hurt. It can help me.

  • Thank you so much for the graphic of the pinyon trees. I’m discovering that beauty makes my life worth living in whatever medium I can find it.

  • I learned my daughter really missed me when she was at school and the notes I left in her lunchbox, usually depicting me and her, or her, her dad and me, made her sad. We watched it change from winter to spring from a creek’s perspective. I always wrote letters, but now I write more letters. I let my hair go nuts. The freedom from worrying about my appearance has been blissful. I read Anna Karenina.

  • Reading your piece made me evaluate what I’m learning and feeling during this time of pandemic. I found out I love quiet, I can go slower and still get the things done that I need to. I am enjoying my hobbies and expanding my knowledge. My house is cleaner than it’s ever been! I really miss hugging my peeps! I’m thankful to have my loved ones safe and healthy though. I’ve been spending more time moving my body too and I feel better than ever about that! I’m lucky in so many ways, the ones you mentioned apply also. I have connected with kind people and have faith that there are many of them in this world. I hope that when things get under control again that people will remember to continue to be kind and caring. I have been trying to help those that are really suffering during this time Whether they are local purveyors or people that need a hand up by donating as much and as often that I can. I worry about our world and hope that we can get that under control too, but this time I plan to be part of the solution.

  • At first, quarantine did not change a lot for me, did not disturb the pool of my life radically. My life is already small, secluded, and focused on caring for my grandchildren. But the silence, the lack of street and air traffic, created some sort of magical and magnetic force. I was impelled, then hurled, into a project I would never have even imagined a few months ago: I rented a largish storage space nearby where I am creating an organized space to store ALL of my mountain of crafts and sewing supplies. Good Lord! It is almost elegant! I have even put a rug on the floor and soft, glowy puck lights on each shelf. This is the strangest, and most wonderful thing I have ever done. The positive effects seem to be rippling out all over everywhere! Let’s here it for silence and stillness!

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