COVID-19 brought everything I was doing, everything I had planned, to a halt. In March, I believed life would restart again in August.
Apparently, I was wrong.
In 2014, I retired from teaching and began planning a new life. My motto was built around a sign and miscellaneous items I found in the dollar bins at a local craft store. The sign said “Unlock your Dreams and explore your new Reality.” That became the catch phrase for my retirement.
I explored several “new realities” in the ensuing years. My life was busy with tasks that meant something to me or that felt important. I took art classes and writing classes at the community college, Tai Chi and dance classes through my local school district’s community ed program, Mahjongg through the library and local parks department. As an adjunct instructor I taught math education classes for a state university. I volunteered with adult English language learners and, occasionally, at a food pantry. I had lunch with friends.
The experience I enjoyed the most was listening to stories of families of children with autism and sharing their stories in the book I published last August.
People I didn’t know talked to me at book signings about their child or grandchild who had autism.
I was looking forward to several other book events this spring. I even planned on speaking. My bullet journal had pages with ideas for autism slideshows to prepare for presentations that I knew in March would not be occurring.
I crafted another “new reality” for myself in March. For almost five months I just enjoyed each day as it came and kept busy with things I wanted to do. There were no schedules. Days flew, weeks flew, months flew. I didn’t do the things many people did during the early stages of lockdown. My closets and basement are no tidier than they were March 16. I’ll openly admit, I dust less. Who’s going to see it?
I had fun. I crocheted, practiced taking photos with my phone, did jigsaw puzzles, played online Mahjongg, figured out the mysterious world of podcasts, crocheted some more as I awaited my second granddaughter, planted spring crops and now fall crops in raised beds and containers in my suburban backyard, walked more than I ever have in my life, talked on the phone to people I don’t usually have time to visit, painted rocks for my mailbox garden, watched little kids and adults pick up rocks to keep, saw new rocks painted by others appear, crocheted for my daughter who loves Harry Potter, sold books off my front porch, talked to a grandparent of a child with autism who bought seven books (porch pickup), visited outside with my granddaughter. Life was one big staycation.
Then, about mid August, it occurred to me that I was ready for structure.
I pulled out my bullet journal and began planning some small home projects and logging them into my journal. I felt ready to make plans, begin something worthwhile, do something that feels important to me in the here and now.
I’m discovering that it’s not that easy to pull out of the total inertia that surrounded me like a cloud for so many months. After taking a break from all things necessary and important, I was left uncertain of what is important in this pandemic age. It’s not to difficult to write on my to do list that it’s time to dust the ceiling fans or clean a closet nor is it challenging to follow through.
The challenge I face now is teasing out what it is I really want to do with the next stage of my life. What new dreams am I ready to unlock? What should I be accomplishing in this new reality in which the world finds itself?
What will I do with my new reality?