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Tuesday, August 18, 2020

In Other Words: These Times May Be a Chunk of Coal But They Will Be a Diamond Some Day

Laura Wagner Tinkler's adopted pup

By Chuck Keller

There’s an old John Anderson song that could easily have a second life as the theme song for this COVID-19 period of isolation that starts with “I’m just an old chunk of coal but I’ll be a diamond some day.” As we respond to life’s pressure we become stronger and more valuable. That’s the hope at least.

I readily admit that I have a dark side and I get frustrated with current events and setbacks but I have learned a few things along the way. But the best thing that ever happened to me, though,  was being diagnosed with cancer. It forced me to view life in a new light and from another angle.  It forced me to get things in order. And it forced me to move slower and more deliberately through my life. There was a lot of pressure on me and on everyone involved. I was in isolation for months. In retrospect, it was great training for our current situation. I tell people that I’ve already walked through fire. So I remain an optimist.

All of us share similar experiences from losing jobs, retooling careers, adjusting life behaviors, feeling isolated, illness, recovery, and victory. This period has been difficult. But simultaneously it has offered its blessings.

I crossed walking paths with Julie Tedesco Keller the other day and I asked her about this and she used the term “COVID blessings” to describe the good things that have come out of this period. That term resonated. Here’s a list of COVID blessings that many of us share.

Family time has been largely positive. Relationships are growing stronger. We are together more. Even though childcare can be an issue, by and large, people think this down time has been good for family life.

People have adopted pets. Companion animals bring joy and comfort.

Tara Ashbaugh's adopted pup

Curbside pickup.

Online shopping and delivery. I have to remind myself that it can be dangerous to click on that button.

Baking and cooking at home more. I admit that my bread making skills have improved. My cooking, though, is still an iffy thing. I feel like the muppets’ Swedish Chef whenever I get in the kitchen, though. It’s experimental and dirty.

Meditation is on the upswing. The intentional calm and examination of the practice allows us to discover the world, others, and ourselves. When we calm down and breathe deeply, we approach adversity better.

Working from home. Some like it, others don’t. But it’s here. It cuts down on gas consumption, work clothes, and commuting times.

There’s a rise of small circle “support groups.”  These are generally a core group of friends helping friends. These circles have always there but now it’s more defined.

Reading. Reading. Reading. Grab a book. Share a book. Disappear into another world.

Streaming services.

Gardening. In addition to being good exercise it’s also a way to beautify your home and to grow vegetables. I was talking with a lawnmower retailer a while ago and he told me that it was hard to find tillers and chickenwire fencing. Yard tools were harder to find too.

Rehabbing and repurposing old furniture is pretty popular.

We are driving less.

Masks. It didn’t take long for creative masks to arrive on the scene. But more importantly, people are noticing eyes more. We can tell a genuine smile now from the uplifted edges of the eyes.

The author and his favorite mask

Many people are saving money.  They just aren’t spending the way they use to.

We are getting outside - walking, hiking, gardening, fishing, kayaking, bicycling. It’s hard to find a reasonably priced bicycle or kayak.

People are thankful for a slower pace. There is no rush to be anywhere.

Home improvement projects. Home improvement stores are busy as we prepare our homes for further quarantine.

Athleisure wear is on the rise. Yoga pants and gym shorts. I can’t remember the last time I wore pants that required a belt or a shirt with a collar.  It’s the age of looking like we are either going to or leaving the gym but really, we’re just hanging out.

We have time to pursue hobbies or interests like music, woodworking, photography, crafts, etc. People are doing some interesting things.

Even though we have lost the arts (music, theater, museums) in the traditional sense, people are creative problem solving to make things work. There was a drive-in musical at Coney Island not long ago. The arts are vital to adding meaning to and interpreting our lives.

There are lots of downsides. We all miss aspects of life from just six months ago, but there is a Big Lesson here - adapting is growth.

Earnest Hemingway observed that “It’s good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end. “

I can’t imagine life without change. Some are welcome, others not so much. But each challenge presents a new opportunity to grow. Gripe if you will - and I will not doubt gripe about something - but the world is moving on with or without us. If we want to live in it, then we need to adapt and that is quite a blessing.

Casey and Adam Gibson's adopted pup

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