Stood in Place. Changed.

Life will be different for quite some time to come, and maybe in some ways that are permanent, but also in ways that are good.” Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health, speaking about life after the stay-at-home order.

What I took with me when I left the house on Tuesday morning, March 3rd:

  • Book bag
  • Cash
  • Wallet
  • Comb and brush
  • Purse
  • Recreational reading book for lunchtime
  • Phone
  • Packed lunch bag
  • Go cup (coffee)
  • Go cup (water)
  • Keys
  • Change of shoes
  • Extra socks

What I took with me to leave the house on Tuesday morning, April 14th:

  • Phone
  • Hanky
  • Two cough drops

********************************

The days settle into a routine.

There’s no need to get up at 5:30 a.m. to go to the gym; the gym is closed. We don’t set the alarm clock. We get up when light floods the bedroom, when the birdsong is too insistent to resist.

My Fitbit, Connie, is delighted with this. Before the stay-at-home order, she would give me disapproving sleep reports. “Five hours, 11 minutes,” she would tsk. “Fair.”

Nowadays, Connie pats me on the head. “Seven hours, 28 minutes!” she crows. “Good!”

I feel better, more centered, calmer. Sleep, as a wise one once said, is good.

*********************************

In the mornings, Mark and I both get our work done: I grade and respond to student emails, send out notices, make sure the next week’s work is out there, clearly labelled. I send follow-up emails to make sure students understand what is due when, and what’s expected of them.

Mark fields phone calls and goes to virtual meetings; he reads the latest rulings and helps interpret them. Often he has webinars, presentations on different topics, many related to understanding and working within a pandemic.

By late morning, though, it’s time to disengage from desks for a bit. Jim tugs his sneakers on, and we all head out to the car, bundled or breezily dressed as the day dictates.

Usually we drive to the college campus and walk; sometimes, to change things up, we go to the hospital’s fitness trail. Wherever we are, Jim untangles his earphones, plugs in, and marches off in one direction. Mark and I go the other way. We meet somewhere in the middle.

Most times we wave and walk on, finishing our loops, meeting at the car.

Sometimes though, Jim, a thought having occurred that he needs to talk out, takes the ear buds out and walks along with us. “Have you heard this?” he asks, and he shares a tidbit of news from the movie industry. Or, “Did you ever see this movie?” he’ll inquire, and he’ll be off, providing the background, critiquing the director.

Before the pandemic, Jim was reluctant to get outside. Now the late morning walk is a highlight for all of us.

I speculate on whether we’ll continue morning walks after the stay-at-home order lifts.

“Oh, yeah,” says Jim. He talks about how good that fresh air feels.

*******************************************

I had a little extra time last week, so I poked around in the hall closet, rearranging and organizing. There in the back, behind the vacuum and the fat bag o’ rags, I found my old carpet sweeper.

Hey, I thought, and I took it out and stood it behind a chair in the dining room. Now, instead of muttering about messy people flinging crumbs on my nice new rug, I just pull the carpet sweeper out after meals. The rug stays cleaner, and I simmer down, calmer and sated.

It’s a little thing, but it’s a change that wouldn’t have happened without the time to poke around in the depths of that closet.

*******************************************

It is hard to believe that it’s been almost three weeks since our last big grocery shopping, although we did stop and pick up bags of spring lettuces, spinach, and green onions at the farmer’s market last week. On Sunday, we’ll get groceries at the Kroger curbside pickup. We spent last weekend carefully compiling a list.

It’s a long list, and, at first, the final price tag smacked me upside the head. “Seriously?” I thought. “THAT much money for groceries?”

But we have not made our usual mad dashes to Kroger. I think of filling out the online surveys that net us 50 fuel points. How many times this month, the survey will ask, have you shopped at Kroger?

I always skip right by the ‘once or twice’ option and check off ‘five or more.’ And each of those times we entered the store, we spent 15 or 20 dollars. That’s on top of a big shopping.

When I think about it, the one lump sum for Sunday’s cache doesn’t seem bad at all. And it’s true: there is money left in the checking account that, before the stay-at-home order, in the, ‘Oh, let’s go to the store and grab something’ days, would never have been there.

As a family, we talk about this. Meals have become mini-events, pulled together times. We look at what we have and think of what we like. We experiment with rubs and marinades, sauces and gravies. We make soups and stews and quiches. We try recipes that have been buried deep in the someday pile, and we find new ideas on line. Friends send directions for things they’ve been cooking and liking during quarantine.

We talk about the changes we’ve made. We won’t go back to shopping the way we used to.

We don’t miss eating out.

The foods we’ve been eating are healthier.

These are changes we will keep.

****************************************

There is time, now, for reading, and, when my To-Be-Read stack starts to dwindle, I shop the house or arrange touch-free book exchanges with friends. Each afternoon ends with reading time, and books are freshly good when their words are not crammed into narrow niches between obligations.

I read murder mysteries. I read about saving and releasing an irascible, intelligent blue jay. I read history books and American Dirt. I read memoirs about mental health and I read light, enjoyable novels. I read books I have had on the shelves, waiting for that day when time allows.

Time allows now; the day has come. And in the stubborn quiet of this time, words find, again, their majesty, and reach me in deep places. I haven’t enjoyed reading so much since college breaks, when the pleasure of reading something just because I wanted to was unequaled.

I’ll protect my reading times, whatever the days ahead bring.

***********************************************

These days, even doing laundry is a pleasure, and Mark and I both hustle downstairs when the dryer sings. Soft, newly folded washcloths, still warm, are a sensuous treat. I love that one of my favorite dish towels is always ready in the towel drawer. My best socks are neatly bundled together, a pair waiting for to start every day.

Folding laundry can be a joy when time isn’t breathing heavy on my neck, when the pleasure isn’t diluted by the thought of ten other things competing, waiting to be done.

************************************************

In Ohio, there is tentative talk of tentative steps to modify the stay-at-home order. Things, our leaders (who have led us cautiously and effectively in a quest to flatten the curve) tell us, will not go back to ‘normal’—whatever ‘normal’ was. We’ll build a new normal, find new ways of being, and wait for the day to celebrate: the day when a vaccine conquers COVID-19.

And some of the change, as Dr. Amy Acton reminds us, will be good change—although, as a people, we’re surviving sickness and mourning death, we’ll emerge into new habits, new practices, new meaning.

***********************************

Maybe the new normal starts now. Maybe now I stop reflecting on what I’m missing, on how life used to be, and I learn to celebrate what is.

5 thoughts on “Stood in Place. Changed.

  1. This hits the nail on the head. Letting go of what was serving us and taking the best of this time forward. I love what you said about protecting that time. For me it’s been an increase in fitness (indoor biking as we still have loads of snow, walking, stretching and doing a weight routine). I NEED to do this for the rest of my life and protecting that time starts now. I will squeeze it all into my work days when they start again and give up other items in exchange. I feel for those suffering and yet I am content to be where I am today. Doing projects, connecting with friends and family via technology and spending time with my husband. All those someday projects are fetting acommolished and that feels good. I will be rejuvenated when we start back towards whatever the “new” will be. We are also talking cautious steps towards reopening here in Saskatchewan where we have not been hit hard (thanks to a long cold Spring for helping us easily stay home). So well.writte again. I do enjoy your Saturday posts

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