As I write this, I can hear muffled chords floating through the wall from where my sister practices her trumpet in her room upstairs. The fire is on in our living room, despite the fact that it’s mid-April—in Colorado we’re still recovering from a blizzard two days ago. Piles of homework, sketches and half-completed puzzles litter the table. I, surprisingly, have the room to myself, besides my sleeping cat who has usurped the giant dog bed we originally bought for our newfoundland. In short, it is comfortable; peaceful even. It’s in times like this that I forget that anything is even different. Amidst the whirlwind of changes, there are moments like these—the news is off, the fog clears for a moment and there is a deep-settled calm.
A new lifestyle has brought new habits. My normally technology-tone-deaf self has posted on Instagram, finally figured out virtual backgrounds on Zoom, recently downloaded Snapchat (and then thought my phone was broken when I couldn’t reopen a picture I’d sent on said app). As a person who needs to have things to fill my day, I’ve taken up new habits like jogging, room-cleaning on a regular basis, and cooking. (“Mom, where do we keep the…. Oh, there it is. Wait, Mom, how much salt should I add? Oops, I think that was supposed to be a teaspoon, not a tablespoon.”)
Besides finding out that I am somewhat less than adept at cooking, I’ve been able to make other discoveries during this time. One of them is that small things are taking on new significance. A short walk outside becomes a blessed respite into nature. A conversation with a friend becomes a meaningful moment of human connection. Everything spirals inward, bringing to light significance in the daily things that we are still able to enjoy. For example, one of my friends has become obsessed with sunsets. She sets her phone timer every evening for when the sunset will occur, and then spams my Snapchat with 10 or so pictures taken from different angles. I’ve had friends text me to go look at the moon. Another new thing is that when I Zoom call with my friends, we tend to run out of news in the first five minutes. So, we have to share the smaller details of our lives. Sometimes it means we spend ten minutes debating the merits of plain almond milk versus chocolate almond milk, or it can mean that we actually tell each other about our conversations with family members, our artistic endeavors, how we spend our time or our thoughts throughout the day. Things usually considered irrelevant or boring take on new meaning as we are forced to see them as items of interest. I’m able to give more attention to the activities in my life that are still left.
The same concept applies to people. I don’t see 45 different people in a day anymore, so I have to give my full attention to whoever’s around me; namely, my family and the friends I’m still in touch with. I used to call my Grandma once a month. Now we have the ability to talk each week and swap texts and photos. It’s a gift to be able to put more time and energy into that relationship. In our normal lives, our many commitments can force us to set limits to our communication with people. This is natural: we can’t give everyone all of us, all the time. There are boundaries. But having less to do now means we have the opportunity to expand those boundaries. I can play twice as many board games with my two younger sisters, and take twice as many walks with my Mom. I can spend more time with my bored friend, or even spend a half hour playing with my equally bored dog. I can be better at the relationships I already have. Importance is not numerical. This is something I struggle with: I tend to not think what I’m doing is important unless it touches hundreds of people. But the good things and people around us are worthy of all the attention we have to spare, and giving one person our undivided attention is perhaps the most important thing we can do.
My sister has finished with the trumpet and is now probably looking at prom dresses online. We’re hoping to do some kind of Zoom prom with her and our high school French foreign exchange student, maybe set up decorations and music in the backyard. Our newfoundland has been permanently kicked out of her bed by the cat, and is now snoring on the couch. My Mom is sending us a string of bitmojis suggesting a family walk, and my Dad is working in his office. Being at home has made me realize and appreciate how many hours of work my parents both put in. My family is wonderful and dynamic, and I’m blessed to have no excuses not to spend more time with them.
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