It's okay to find the silver lining and enjoy yourself, even now.
For 2020, I chose the word "enjoy” as a New Year’s resolution alternative. My intention was to be present and appreciate my life instead of relying on memories from old videos and photos. Prior to that, I was constantly busy playing catch-up for all the years it took to birth and raise my kids. Yet no matter how much time I devoted to sitting down and writing, I felt like I was too far behind. Ramping up my efforts when many of my colleagues were much younger and several bestselling-novels ahead of me seemed futile.
I meditated. I did yoga. I bought a planner so that I could feel a sense of accomplishment, even if all I did for that day was send out a single email. February was nearly done and I was failing. Failing at something as simple as enjoying my life.
When news of a worldwide virus began to spread, I, like many of you, freaked out. Our Disneyland trip was cancelled. Outings with friends were postponed. Our world grew smaller. In comparison to the regular routine of school and work, our lives became unrecognizable. I frantically tried to pick up the pieces. Free time spent normally on hiking, swimming, and biking narrowed to what we could do, like taking walks around the block, creating art, and organizing grocery trips so we had enough food.
Narrowing one’s life is a lot like having anxiety. You’re so afraid of the world that you stop taking risks. You stay within your comfort zone. You do less. This type of constriction is familiar to me. But anxiety feels isolating and alone. This feels like a global connectedness, a mutual goal of finding a solution.
I’ve taken an unexpected liking to this visceral sense of universal vulnerability. At every moment, life and all its ugliness and beauty are heightened. Who cares if the shopping centers are closed and dining out at a new restaurant is out of the equation? Life, as I'm reminded by my sons and the birds outside my window, goes on.
One evening I reflected on the day and realized nothing had changed. My sons still threw tantrums. I still lost my patience. There was still a vast ocean between what I wanted to do and what I actually achieved. The difference was that an inability to plan for the future meant I was fully focused on the present. With the unknown dangling in front of us, the moment and all its joy and potential was finally accessible. It quelled my incessant fire for the hamster wheel of accomplishment.
A normal day is a circus of science experiments, chalk drawings, and grounding myself so I don’t lose perspective. There’s a part of me that lives in a sharp sense of ephemerality that I didn’t have prior to our world changing. When I am with my sons and they’re in awe of the colors fused inside a jar of water and oil, we’re planting seeds, or they’re racing down a hill screaming in delight, I think back to how this isn’t new. Only my ability to witness it is.
I haven’t touched my planner in weeks. I’m not the mom that’s acing homeschooling, far from it. I’m writing when I can fit it in. On most days, I live in an alternative universe, untouched by the external world and all its demands. This has been the most unexpected equalizer. We’re all in this together struggling to get by. Chasing a future doesn’t make sense when we’re grappling to survive. Gratitude for the small, seemingly insignificant activities we get to do and learning ways to simply be are valued over competing and doing. And in those ways, for the first time this year, I am truly enjoying my life.