Back in January 2020, I saw the handwriting on the wall after reading an article about a novel virus in China. What caught my attention is that it was a respiratory illness and those with underlying health conditions were at serious risk. As well, the transmission rate seemed to be almost 100% of those exposed to it - no immunity whatsoever. Since then, we've learned a lot about Covid-19 but it still is highly contagious and extremely dangerous for those with underlying health conditions.
Quarantine, masks, and social distancing has become the norm. At first, it was horrible. Initially, and idea would pop into my head about going to my favorite coffee shop in the afternoon and then I would remember that staying home was the order of the day. It was an adjustment but one that I made in the weeks that followed.
People in my neighborhood were adjusting too. As I sat on my front patio reading or listening to music, I saw parents with children I had never seen before. Walks with the family were becoming daily rituals. Families were riding bikes together. It was safer because few cars on the roads. There were little herds of people everywhere. Kids looked happier. Parents looked happier too.
Over the weeks that followed, I learned that my friends, my community was a lot more important to me than I had thought pre-pandemic. Had I taken my "peeps" for granted? I'm a social animal although not a party animal anymore. I missed the short but sweet interactions I had with my friends and neighbors. Any kind of social engagement felt like Christmas morning. Yippee, I can TALK to someone, laugh with someone, commiserate with someone. Everyone seemed to be missing their community as well.
Being separate from others made me think more about the importance of community. I've always known it but now I was living it. The Care Village is based on community. Community is listed as one of the top elements of health and long life in the "Blue Zone" book, a book about several communities throughout the world who have longer and healthier lifespans. Plant-based diet, exercise, family, social relationships, managing stress, alcohol in moderation, family, and community. There was no doubt in my mind now that community definitely was a factor in health, wellness, happiness, and longevity. As families were forced home from work and school, they depended more on one another for their social interactions. Neighbors gathered in small groups at our community parks, social distancing, of course. I was heartened to see how people managed to reestablish their communities under these strange circumstances. It brought to mind how important "Wilson" was to Tom Hanks in the movie Cast Away. Wilson became critical to his survival. We all need Wilson.
The pandemic has made me appreciate my community, and most of all, my friends and family. Seeing my son has always been great but now it seems like so much more. I took for granted that he would be by to do his laundry, now I hope he has a lot of laundry so that we can visit and chat from 6 feet apart. I miss being able to give him a hug. I know he's being very cautious for his own health and well being as well as mine. He's a good man.
In the beginning, I was cooking and baking for myself and the whole neighborhood. I made banana bread like it was going out of style. I was making comfort food for the neighborhood. Soup, stew, shepherd's pie, stuffed shells, and more banana bread. I started a vegetarian lifestyle in December 2019 (I still eat some fish). By March, I still hadn't figured it out but I was working on it. Through the pandemic isolation, I've had plenty of time to work on that with the help of a friend who is pesca-vegan (vegan but some fish). If you want to eat less or no meat, become friends with a vegan. He helped me find the best alternatives for foods I normally would have used pre vegetarian. The fact that he and I are both lactose intolerant and gluten sensitive was an added bonus because he had the best suggestions for yogurt, pizza, and even taught me to make sauces and gravies with cashews. It takes some time to transition after eating meat most of my life but I'm getting there.
I learned that I had not cleaned out that closet because I didn't have enough time. That was an eye opener. I had convinced myself that I just didn't have the time to do that level of cleaning. Not true. I just didn't want to, I never wanted to. It would take just pure discipline to get that done. But I also realized it wasn't that important in the scheme of things. I cleaned the closet and it didn't change my life one bit.
I realized that I love music more than I thought. I hadn't considered how important the arts were in my life. Wake-up call, they are very important. I always listened to music but now I seek out music and art. I grew up with a best friend who is an artist. It was always paramount in her life but I didn't really understand her connection to it other than she was good at it. She had to paint, it was not an option for her. I get it more now. I have a friend who is a musician and he composes some of the most beautiful music. He has helped me to appreciate how music not only improves your life but tells you who you are. I may not be an artist or a musician but it is a necessity for me to appreciate it and have a lot of it in my life.
We got Izzy in April 2018. Dogs are amazing. Our other dog, Jazzy, passed away and three days later we had Izzy. I was a caregiver for Jazzy as she had grand-mal seizures for almost 4 years, from the time she was 3 years old. After that experience, I hesitated getting another dog but I knew I needed one. During the pandemic, Izzy has been a ray of sunshine every day. She is funny, loving, and very cuddly. She is so enthusiastic and she wiggles so much when she's happy to see you, I'm afraid she'll hurt her back. My friend lost her dog during the pandemic, which was devastating. It took a few months to come to terms with her loss before adopting Honey. Dogs bring joy. Dogs take our attention away from the negative and fill our space with love. I'm very grateful for my beautiful and happy Izzy. She teaches me something every day.
I learned that going for ride on my electric bike up 101 next to the ocean is one of the most enjoyable things I could do. If you have never ridden an electric bike, do yourself a favor and take a ride. You may have to buy one but it's well worth it. It's fun and it's good exercise. It clears my mind and makes me feel free in a very restrictive world. And if you have a friend to ride your bike with, you are indeed blessed.
I learned that I could make a new friend during the pandemic. Having a new friend, learning about them, and watching a friendship grow is absolutely one of the best experiences of the pandemic. I'm very grateful for his friendship and putting up with me during these unusual times.
The pandemic can bring out the worst in me or the best in me. My choice. Although I wish the pandemic would go away, I can't ignore the lessons learned in this most strange time. The pandemic has delivered some gifts to me and I'm very grateful.