What Will We Carry Away From Spring 2020? (Strength, For One Thing.)

Believe it or not, summer begins this weekend. It’s a welcome change after a spring that seemed about a decade long, am I right?

We’re still dealing with a lot, unfortunately, but I like to think that with a new season comes new hope. There has been so much learning going on, on so many levels. While I haven’t enjoyed Spring 2020, I’m certainly better off for it and I hope that better days are ahead (eventually, I know I know!) for all of us. Have you taken some time to think about lessons you’ve learned in the first part of 2020, what you’ll carry with you forever? Here’s my take on it, both in a profound nationwide sense and a much more shallow personal one.

First, the deep stuff:

Number 1. The pandemic is still here and while experts originally talked about a first wave in the spring, not much activity in the summer, and a second wave in the fall, we’re now in a position to be dealing with one huge wave that ripples all year long. (Thanks, non-mask wearers and people who aren’t social distancing!) We have learned that a public health crisis is something that affects ALL of us and in a country where so many people are all about themselves, that’s bad news. Whether you believe that COVID-19 is worse than the flu or not (IT IS), we have been shown very clearly that staying home, washing hands religiously, and wearing face masks when we have to go out does make the case numbers (and death counts) go down. Of course we can’t keep everything closed down forever because of the economy, but we can protect ourselves when we go out by following safety recommendations. It makes me incredibly angry that the numbers are continuing to go up in so many states (mine included!) because some of the population has “virus fatigue” and can’t think of the welfare of others. The very same people who were throwing tantrums about the country reopening are mostly the same people who are recklessly avoiding the important (and might I add incredibly simple?) safety measures. I’d like to hear no complaining from them when their kids are home from school for the next school year. I feel like many of us have re-learned that “United we stand and divided we fall,” and there are way too many people out there who have continued to believe that it’s every man or woman for themselves, and could care less about their fellow humans. (Sorry not sorry for the rant; it had to be said.)

Number 2. Because of the pandemic, many of us have learned that in addition to medical personnel, frontline workers of ALL kinds (janitors, grocery store workers, delivery drivers, TEACHERS, etc.) are heroes and should not only be appreciated but also paid more. We couldn’t have done this without them.

Number 3. In addition to the pandemic, we’re also in the middle of a huge wake-up (finally!) involving systemic racism issues in this country. I should say that white people are. Black people have been feeling it for centuries. It is stressful and tense and difficult, but I have so much hope that we are going to make improvements towards a more just and equal world for the Black community; we just can’t give up. We have learned that anti-racism is hard but necessary work for white people and together we will get there. Anti-racism activism is actually doing the work of getting educated and taking action (please see the post I dedicated to this cause if you are looking for ideas); it cannot all happen on social media.

Number 4. As if it weren’t enough to be dealing with a pandemic and finally trying to slam the brakes on centuries of systemic racism so we can turn this car around, we’re contending with the most important election season of our lifetime. We have learned that voting (after much self-education) needs to happen in November if we don’t like what’s going on in government. (And honestly, I don’t understand anyone who DOES like what’s going on, what with the stripping away of rights and protections for every person who is not a straight, white, Christian male, the stripping away of environmental and animal protections, and, just as important, the stripping away of the truth, just to name a few things. Shame on you if you’re still with this administration. It’s not all about you!) We have also learned that Twitter and Facebook don’t have our backs when it comes to taking down offensive and/or misleading or lie-filled posts and people, so WE need to do the work to make sure that any- and everything we share with others is accurate and comes from a reputable source. Don’t believe everything you see online; I mean, we know this, right?? We know that there are bots and human schemers who are intentionally helping to spread false information. Don’t inadvertently be one of those people who misinforms family and friends. Don’t be gullible and lazy. Be smart and validate the truth of what you share before you share it. (It’s going to get worse as we get closer to November.) And of course, VOTE.

On a much more shallow note (shew!), my much-lighter takeaways from Spring 2020:

Number 1. I have always been good at counting my blessings and living life with a constant sense of gratitude. That said, having been locked down at home for the vast majority of the time since the third week of March, I feel like that sense has doubled and will double again the next time I get to freely travel or enjoy a “normal” lunch with friends. I will not take anything for granted, once we arrive at whatever normal is going to look like from this point on, from the little things to the big things.

Number 2. With the supply shortages and our ability to just stop in at the grocery store for a few things here and there (and placing pickup orders every ten to fourteen days instead), I have learned a few important lessons that will stick with me forever. First, and I fully acknowledge my privilege as someone who doesn’t have to budget tightly for food, I have become a meal planning machine. Meal planning is not new for me, but thoughtfully planning dinners that will use up what we have, or utilize leftovers from another meal, has become a skill of which I’m very proud. I cut recipes in half to cut down on leftovers that we often end up tossing in the trash, and whenever possible I freeze half of a full recipe so we can enjoy it a couple of weeks down the road. Our food waste has decreased dramatically in the last couple of months, and I plan to continue this momentum. Also, I have learned that even though I hate gardening, having an herb garden in the backyard is not only economical but tremendously enjoyable. Using our fresh herbs in recipes is so much better than spending two dollars at the store on EACH fresh herb I need, and then having to throw away half of EACH one because I didn’t need that much. (I know: I’m late to the party.)

Number 3. We’ve had a lot of time to slow down and rework how we live our daily lives in the past few months. While I no longer have children at home and I’ve worked remotely for years, I found some new routines. I hate that I haven’t been to my boxing gym since March (and won’t go back until the local case numbers are on a two-week decline), but I’ve been doing dance fitness each and every morning without fail. I’ve re-learned that moving my body shortly after I get out of bed really does set the tone for my whole day and is a remedy for the increased sitting around time I’ve had. I’ve learned to take the time to use moisturizer. No joke; this is a big one for me. I’ve never been a skin care product person, but with this life slowdown I have become one. Small victories! I have learned that sometimes I need to furiously run around the house getting things done, and sometimes I need to sit and read for three hours. Both are okay.

Number 4. Lastly, I’ve spent a lot of time since March reaching out to friends near and far so they know I’m thinking about them. I’ve sent little surprises to out-of-town friends, I’ve dropped off homemade goodies on porches for local friends, I’ve had texting marathons, and I’ve had lots of video calls. All of this reaching out and seeing how happy it makes others when I do so re-taught me that even if we have to “social distance,” connection is so important for our feelings of well-being. I’ve even become pen pals with a couple of friends with whom I connect on social media all the time but nonetheless we really enjoy old school letter-writing so we’re doing that, too. People need people, the end.

When I wrote this post it occurred to me that it’s too long, it’s ranty, it’s fragmented, and it covers a crazy range of things. As I considered editing it, I realized that this cathartic post style really does parallel the state of mind of so many of us lately, so what you see is what you get. I appreciate your reading this far!

I know we’re still in the thick of things, but at least we can say goodbye to Spring 2020 today (don’t let the door hit you on your way out, buddy!). We survived it, grew stronger from it, and learned from it. Let’s apply our new and reinforced strength to Summer 2020, shall we? We’re going to need it!

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