Back in 1994, I was an exchange student in Seattle, Washington, attending senior year at Shorecrest High. Wide eyed, nervous and for the most part pretending everything was cool, I lived for the entire 10 months of the school year in a sort of boot camp of newness. One of the best projects I was tasked to work on in English class was journal writing with the theme of “I’ve learned … “. Having come from a communist country where the English language class, scarce and surpassed sometimes by the Russian language one, included endless grammar exercises and translations, I found the task absolutely fascinating. I still have that journal, though it makes my 43 year old self laugh today to read what my 17 year old self thought were life lessons at the time. In an analogy, I am thinking my 63 year old self will read this and smile: oh honey, how you thought you were all knowing … . And yet, here I am. Day 14 of home isolation in the first pandemic of my life and looking back to see what I have learned so far. For learning is the only thing that is going to make this surreal but so real experience worth any while.
I’ve learned …..
… that feeling sad, anxious, grieving is normal and imposing happy, upbeat and cheerful does nothing but paint over rot. Allowing feelings to go through us, experiencing everything, leaning into the suck as Ms. Sandberg would say it, will not only help it pass but will strengthen us.
… that liking the people you choose to live with is existentially important. Being stuck in the house for days will expose every little annoying habit or quirk and only a huge amount of love and liking can keep us sane.
… that self care is survival. It is in times like these that we understand just how important it is to put ourselves at the core. To put your oxygen mask on your face before you try to help others. To move, breathe, sleep, soothe, eat well, cry, laugh, connect before you can extend any help to your fellow human beings. That is, if you want to be able to offer any real support.
… that the way we keep the blood flowing is by learning, finding purpose in something and connecting with others. Genuinely. We have all the time in the world, something that two weeks ago we were all praying for. There is no reason not to actually pause and listen to the one trying to connect with us. There is time
Day 14. My calendar for today reads: “Happiness depends on us.” Aristotle