My cat-watching days are almost over. When quiet settled across the land in general and Arlington Street in particular, I sat on my bed and looked out the window to where the only activity on our street was the curious cat across the road. I remember thinking that it had been a very long time since I had sat on my bed for long moments on end, looking out a window, watching a cat.
I want to remember that as Covid slinks out and slams the door behind it. I don’t want to return to running around in circles, to a busyness that feels unhealthy and unhelpful to anyone.
Recently, I interviewed people for an upcoming Reader’s Digest piece about how to re-enter well after Covid. Two psychologists I spoke to suggested we take a moment, while our cup is still only half-full, and think about what we want to bring forward from this time. What wasn’t half-bad? Even with all the pain? Here is my short list.
- Slower mornings. I’ve always worked from home, so that didn’t really change for me. But I gave myself permission to walk my dog, read and study, even past 9:00am. If I didn’t start my work until 9:20, I didn’t panic. All the work got done, and I felt like I was taking better care of myself.
- Saturdays and sabbath became…saturdays and sabbath. With little open and socializing to a minimum, my Saturdays became restful and long. Saturday didn’t rush past me, leaving me wondering where it went. We hiked trails and in better weather went for long bike rides. We got to know our city better. We ambled.
- I bought a lot of books. Yes, I recognize the readerly privilege of this, to order the book you want and have it brought to your door. The excitement of the truck pulling up, the sinking of your heart when you realize it’s for your neighbour, the lift of your spirits when you see it’s for you. Before covid, and yes, before I wrote my own book, I would have dithered about whether it was a good idea to buy this or that book. Now I allow a new book to be a treat and a gesture of self-care, and also to be a good literary citizen. If you need justification for buying books, call me. I will help you sort this out. Buying books helps authors, and readers. I wanted to do that, and I did. (And I enjoyed every delicious moment of it).
- We know our neighbours better. We left notes in our windows for each other and talked over the back fences. We reassured each other that it was all going to be okay. We left cookies and cupcakes on front and back steps, and they gave us a jar of the best mango-jalapeno jam I’ve ever had. I know their names now, Paul and Anthony, and they call us Brent and Karen. There’s also Ron, Maria and Charley, and Jody. Yesterday we sat on our front steps together and watched the Snowbirds fly over our street, laughing and pointing and oohing and aahing. I want to keep knowing our neighbours.
I’m sure there are so many lessons from this time that will bubble up as the months and years go by. Nothing is wasted. We know that by now. Everything can teach us, especially pandemics it seems, when so much was taken away for so long. But for now, those are some of the things I’ve learned that I’m not planning on giving up. I’m a stubborn woman, so I’m optimistic I can keep them. How stubborn are you? What will you protect and keep?