“Hope things go back to normal soon.”
That was the text I received from a friend yesterday. It struck me in reading those words that I have stopped thinking or worrying about the end of the pandemic. In those first months, absolutely. Daily thoughts of getting back to normal life.
Now, out of self-preservation and a renewed sense of life’s sacredness and fragileness, I have turned to making the most of each day, not wasting a moment of living, spending time trying to beg normal to reappear.
My response was simply, “Yep! But let’s make the most of each day until then.”
And in that spirit, I want to share two stories that remind us to find joy, creativity, sacred play, even imaginary escape as tools for thriving in our new normal. Enjoy.
The teacher has arrived
Our house is a weird place these days. We don’t own a TV, our children don’t have phones, and we are as close to screen-free as a modern-day family could be. But now? Now, we are 5 people zoomed in to our classes and work, zoned out from each other and the world beyond our 48 square inches of screen space. We have a 7th, 4th, and 1st grader, and all of them have adapted well to this online life.
Our 2-year-old Sihasin has taken in this sudden change, and it is interesting to see her interpretation of this virtual world. “Dad, do you have another meeting?” she will ask the second I open my computer. “Dad, are you going to your office?” anytime she senses that I am about to start a work session. “Office,” as she has figured out, is a very loose term and could apply to garage, porch, kitchen, living room, etc. “Office dress,” as she and her siblings have observed, ranges from tank tops to running shirts to sleepwear to an occasional collared shirt.
Well, Sihasin voiced that she wanted to go to school just like everyone else. She was feeling left out, not having a screen of her own to stare into. So Nizhoni, our oldest, devised a plan. On times when she was not in school, she would sneak upstairs, put on a disguise, and become the teacher for Sihasin. Let me explain that “disguise” in this context means simply changing 1-2 things about appearance. I asked Nizhoni if she uses a different voice as teacher, and she gave me a look. “Dad, that really isn’t necessary. I use my normal voice, and I still don’t think she knows it is me.”
So, Teacher Nizhoni broadcasts from upstairs to Student Sihasin, who we get onto a tablet downstairs. Teacher Nizhoni gives her choices – “Do you want to do music or dance today?” Usually, the class is quite short as Student Sihasin loses interest and simply walks away from the screen. No “goodbye” or “I have to go now” but just a departure to signal that this class session has ended. Teacher Nizhoni is quite understanding.
A breath of fresh air is all we need
We were a tired group of physicians, immersed in sickness, loneliness, COVIDness as we cared for patients at UNM Hospital. The week had worn us down, taking out our zip and pep and replaced it with “argghhh.” I think someone mentioned something about fresh air in a figurative sense, but I suddenly realized that real fresh air was exactly the antidote. With the inertia of hospital work and an indoor existence the entire week working against us, I was able to coax everyone to come outside with me. I had tried multiple times previously in the week to get us outside, failing each time. Intertia and a huge workload will do that. This time, I think the combination of me using my best attempt at an authoritative voice plus the presence of “argghhh” made the group start to warm up to the idea of a few minutes outside.
We found a nice place of shade on a beautiful late May afternoon, and suddenly we truly were transformed. The grass felt so good, so real. The hospital walls now dissolved; we were free in mind and spirit. Free from work. Free from the burden of so much hardship that was our patients’ reality. Free from ourselves. Spontaneously, the crew starting talking about how incredible it felt to be outside. How it surprised them how quickly they felt rejuvenated by shade, breeze, birds, grass, and all that now embraced our senses.
The power of fresh air and simple escapes.
May you find joy, creativity, sacred play, even imaginary escape as tools for thriving in our new normal. Practice daily. Titrate dose upward if needed. Enjoy.
Anthony Fleg is a family physician who blogs at Writing to Heal.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com