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Tuesday, May 12, 2020

In Other Words: What Are We Learning From This?

Unsplash: Pricella Du Preez
By Chuck Keller

So here we are. The honeymoon is over. Now we are settling in for the long haul. It seems like we’ve pretty much run out of novel things to do during our quarantine. We fall into new routines.

As I sit in the comfort of my enclosed front porch I watch people walk by, chat with many of them, and always learn a little something. I see you walk the babies, the dogs, the family, and yourselves - sometimes multiple times a day. I have seen more bicycles on the street than ever before. I’m pretty sure that the city will need to replace the sidewalks from the increased foot traffic.

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And I can’t help but think that we are living the opening lines of Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” 

Yeah, this is a time of contrast and conflict and it’s far from over. But we are far enough into this pandemic that we can begin to reflect on it.

The question is what are we learning from all of this.  Our strengths and weaknesses are revealed as are our cruelties and kindnesses. Our needs and wants become clearer as do our successes and failures. We are alone and we are together. Life can be tough and life can be easy. Our days are simple and complex. We experience love and hate, compassion and indifference, sometimes all at once. We are united and divided. We experience renewal and loss. We speed up and slow down. We want easy answers to our tough questions. And amidst the confusion there is clarity. We have choices. Yeah, it’s a mess. Thank you, Mr. Dickens.

Conflict provides us an opportunity to become who we want to become or who we need to become. And sadly or joyously, conflict also reveals our true nature. And if we are paying attention, we learn a little something along the way.

So I posed this question on social media -  “Regarding the quarantine and virus, what are you learning from all of this?” The answers are profound, humorous, and enlightening. Here are a handful.

* This quarantine solidified to me that we all need to slow down, enjoy and celebrate the abundance we hold in our hearts and homes.  Chelsea M

* I am learning that I’m not nearly as patient as I thought I was. I’m trying to do better everyday.  Britney S

* I’ve learned to think twice before I spend money. It may sound small, but it’s huge for me. I often shop without thinking if something is really necessary or if we need to spend the money. Kori C

* I wouldn't survive long on a submarine. Michael A

* That my work travel is definitely NOT the real reason I can’t eat healthier and lose weight. Casey G

 * I should not cut my own hair.  Diana M

* That I am really a simple human. Being home with my family with nowhere to be and finding interesting things to do has been so good for my soul.…I also find myself feeling more grateful for nature, steady income, health, and technology. Beth R

* Even introverts need human interaction. Noah S

* I don't need so many socks. Working remotely is viable for a whole lot of people. And we might be proving that we could mitigate global warming if we all really did something. Nicholas V

*  We could really use some intervention from our extra terrestrial neighbors on how to not destroy our planet and ourselves. Bob R

*  I am missing human interaction for sure. But a realization that in the midst of the former busyness there is a real need to learn to be still and value it... great lesson. Renee B

We need structure in our lives. Nadia O

I've also learned unfortunately some people aren't who I thought they were. And I've learned humanity still exists and it's every bit a wonderful thing. Jennifer P

I am learning how to give myself grace. I am learning to be more appreciative and show more gratitude for the little things. Tara G

Resiliency. And adaptation. You quickly learn who has the ability to transition and those who don’t. Denise D

I do know this. Even though I have a purpose (well, several purposes) in life it is not my meaning. Purpose may lead to meaning but if you give yourself to something, if you are of use, if makes the world a better place, if you reflect on experiences mundane and extreme, then the meaning of your life emerges. People want to be told the meaning because that is simple. They don’t want to search because it’s difficult and requires confronting issues, events, people, and ideas that may be uncomfortable. But that is the joy and challenge of the search and I thank my friends and acquaintances for sharing theirs.

I recall a time whitewater rafting and we capsized. I bobbed to surface, spit out a mouthful of river water, pulled my legs up, caught the current, and had one of the most exhilarating rides of my life. I feel that way sometimes during this pandemic quarantine. Some things just don’t go according to plan. Jospeh Campbell said that "We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us." And that’s what we should be doing.

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