Finding peace and serenity in unexpected places during the pandemic.
I never knew my house before… until it became my world.
I’ve walked the rooms a million times over, but I never really appreciated it, or the surroundings I call my neighborhood.
Now, because of Covid-19, it’s my everything. It’s become my refuge, my serenity, my safe haven. It’s become my workspace, my afternoon café, my backyard retreat, and holds a sacred place where my soul lives.
I began taking daily walks to replace the gym. It’s my daily Zen.
Each morning and evening, I venture out, navigating the sidewalks leading to the trails behind my neighborhood. Miraculously, it opens up to a wildlife preserve.
You’d never know it was devastated by a wind-driven fire last October. But it is green again. The wildflowers are in full bloom, and it feels as though I’m seeing them for the first time. Maybe I never noticed when I drove by in my car.
Walking has allowed my consciousness to change. I pause and look.
Bunnies run across my path, seeking refuge in the scrub oaks. A pair of pure white egrets gracefully fly overhead, landing on a granite rock, poking at the watercress growing in the creek. I witness the transformation of tadpoles to frogs, and now I hear their mating calls echoing against the rolling hills.
Emotion wells up inside of me… a feeling of awe that I’m seeing things through a new lens.
I remember reading Eckhart Tolle’s book, A New Earth, and he expresses the importance of seeing things without naming them. Once you give them labels, it becomes a thing, something confined to a word.
For example, a “tree” cannot possibly define the majesty of a hundred-year-old oak firmly rooted beside the trail, hovering over the creek’s edge. But if you delete the name tree you look at it through your eyes and emotions, and it transforms into something more. It becomes an experience.
That one idea from A New Earth was life-changing for me… especially during the pause.
I see the rabbits, the birds, the flowers… all transformed to give my day greater meaning. They serve to enlighten us to life beyond our perceived limitations.
In almost two decades of living in this sleepy little Southern California town, I’d never walked the trails; now, I can’t imagine life without walking the paths daily.
The quarantine has allowed me to observe my life from a different vantage point. I’m looking at old habits, and wonder… did I really need them?
When this year started, I had daily habits and a rigid schedule for myself. I’d hop out of bed to get to the gym on time for a class.
I’d come home, shower, then fly out the door, stopping at Starbucks to get an iced tea before work. My weekdays involved office meetings, connecting with clients, lunches with friends, and sitting at the computer for hours.
I’d grocery shop at the end of the day, come home, fix dinner with my husband (he loves to cook, too), do Netflix, over and out.
Then came the powerful pause.
Covid-19 has been the powerful pause I needed to redefine my priorities.
Every day, my home is my destination. I know this time won’t last forever, but I want to analyze what’s working for me that feels so good… and what do I not want to reclaim in my future when the quarantine is over.
This time is golden, even as scary as it is. We can be afraid and not know what the future holds, but we can also be present today.
I look forward to my mornings with my husband, having coffee in bed, not rushing to get out the door, but expanding the pleasure of togetherness. He is my focus. He’s the man I chose to love for the rest of my life.
Sometimes we share our morning walks together, sometimes separately. For us, the experience teaches us how we each see different things, but walk the same path.
We’ve only been married for nine years, but we’ve never spent even an entire month together. His business is in Tucson, and mine is in California. Typically, we’d piece together our calendars like a puzzle. We keep homes in both states, and we’d rarely have more than ten days together in a stretch.
But now it seems vital. I look at this beautiful man with more tenderness and awe because I’m able to stop, take a breath, and look into his eyes.
Before this year, my husband and I used to focus on the future, planning for travel, parties, and events that kept our calendars full and traversing the states. Now, we look forward to dinner in our backyard. It’s as satisfying as though we’re in Carmel by the Sea, enjoying a crisp chardonnay and fresh grilled filet of sole at a restaurant by the bay.
Our California yard has whispering palms hovering over the pool, pepper trees laden with branches of pink peppercorns, flowering pear trees, lemon, apple, and fig trees.
And lots of roses. Seventeen years ago, I planted lots of roses, always to provide a pitcher filled with fresh flowers for the kitchen table. Never has it been so important.
I never sought refuge and serenity in my backyard until now. It’s my version of Monet’s garden, and I get to live within its beauty every day.
Just in time… because we don’t know time at all.
How long will this pause last? How long do I have? How long does my husband have? It’s the great unknown. I’ve experienced loss in the blink of an eye, and if you know sudden loss, it reminds you there is really no time but the present.
I love traveling to our little ranch in Tucson. It’s a quiet desert where wildlife lives. Deer, javelinas, and bunnies run around the backyard as our entertainment during our wine hour at dusk.
My husband loves birds, and I’m certain he feeds the entire population in Tucson, hanging feeders all over the surrounding mesquite trees on our 3 ½ acres of pure desert terrain. Our seed bill surpasses that of our daily bread and cheese.
I love our little nature sanctuary. There are numerous cactuses, some more than 100 years old! This time of year, they sprout flowers in all colors. And, there’s an occasional rattlesnake that sends me scrambling into the burnt adobe house.
What the quarantine has taught me about stuff.
During this time of reflection, I’m aware I’ve got too much stuff. Did I ever really need 7 different table settings, 19 candle holders, a dozen adorable cherub figurines, or worse, a half dozen silk plants “growing” in open spaces just to take up room and attract dust? Did I need to save old magazines and every photo I’ve ever taken (before digital)?
When once I never had enough clothes (always buying more), now I look in the closet and see the burden of having too many. Bags of gently worn blouses, pants, shoes, and handbags are in my garage, ready for their exodus to a women’s shelter.
Attachment to things, collecting, and claiming things as an identity are human traits. I don’t apologize for it, but right now, so much of it feels like clutter. In Eckhart’s book, I read that attachment dissipates when you no longer identify yourself with the things you’ve collected. “Wanting” or never feeling like you have enough, keeps us in a state of dissatisfaction. We feel as though we can’t be happy with __________ until _______. (you fill in the blanks)
I know. I did it for years. I believed I couldn’t really be happy with my house until I had my kitchen remodeled. I was wrong. Over the years, I’ve had many parties, family reunions, and meaningful events in my home, and yet no one ever mentioned my kitchen needed updating.
Last year I took the plunge and had new counters and appliances installed, and a fresh coat of paint on the cabinets. It’s beautiful, but due to Covid-19, there are no parties, events, or family gatherings to show it off. There’s just us, and that’s okay.
The remodel really wasn’t for anyone but us. We cook fabulous meals together, and someday we’ll resume entertaining the people we love. That’s what it’s for, not the “look at me, look what I have,” but rather, “come to my home and let me show you love. Let me cook for you.” I didn’t need a new kitchen for that.
I feel so refreshed, and yet I’m in the middle of this chaotic world where nothing is as it seems. It’s all the great unknown, yet I’ve never felt this kind of serenity before. I see clearly how my life was driven and obscured by my obsession with achievements, money, things, activities, and competitiveness.
We need to make a living, and certainly, that’s compromised with Covid-19. For us, both of our businesses are at risk. We’ve lost lots of income during this time, and it’s scary. But when I return to my work full time, things are going to change. I feel my priorities are finally in alignment.
What am I not willing to invite back into my life?
I know for sure I’ll no longer take on difficult clients. It might mean I have to work more efficiently at finding the right clients, but I want to feel joy when I work, and that includes being selective with what I take on.
From now on, I will take 100% responsibility for what I create in my work life, including learning to accept the tough times. I need to plan better for things that can happen, like interruptions in business due to circumstances beyond our control.
As I enjoy my daily walks, I reflect on when I’ll head back to the gym. I’ll continue walking as part of my spirit’s renewal, and add the gym when the quarantine allows it, and the time is right.
One of my friends recently lost her husband of 40 years due to illness. I asked her how she was doing, and her reply was, “I’m at peace.” She said she would always love him, but knew she focused 100% on being present for him in his last year. They had great talks, beautiful silences, and pleasures that never took them far from home. They found joy in just being together.
After that conversation, I had to ask myself, am I 100% present with my husband, my children, my friends? Do I talk on the phone while staring at the computer screen for another email? Do I flip through social media while my husband is asking a question? Am I lost in thought when I’m at the dinner table with my family? Time to pause and rethink.
Rest, play, love.
I want this to be over, too, and the truth is, I’m scared. My son in law is an LA County Firefighter Paramedic, and he is dealing with Covid-19 cases every day… and he comes home to my daughter, stripping down before entering, de-sanitizing, and avoiding the extra kisses and hugs because it’s just too dangerous.
My youngest son and his girlfriend both had Covid-19 and are now recovering.
My oldest son is here with us… and healthy.
My husband and I are in the high-risk category, and all of it makes me feel vulnerable to what might happen. On those walks in nature, I turn my focus to what is. Today I am fine, and so is my family.
My job will come back, and so will my husband’s…. and if it doesn’t, we’ll figure something else out. As the author, Marie Forleo says, “Everything is figuroutable.”
In my life, I’ve experienced the loss of a child, the loss of my first spouse, financial devastation, a health crisis, and I’ve survived. But what I do know is that if I do my part, I can make a difference… at least in focusing on health and happiness… to enjoy life with our beautiful children and potential grandchildren.
I’ve finally accepted that love is at the very core of all we need. When you make love the motivation for everything you do, it will enlighten and connect you, not only with those you choose to love but to greater humanity, too.
And it will make you happy.
Now… it’s time for another walk.
This article was originally posted on Thrive Global.