Much as I want to put this whole pandemic behind me, there are indeed certain things I simply refuse to give up as it ends.
“As it ends.”
I’m having trouble with verb tenses these days. “When we were in the pandemic…” no wait. We still are in the pandemic, though things are so different from a year ago. “When I get vaccinated….” no wait. I did get vaccinated. “When my children go back to school…” no wait. They are going back in-person this coming week. Except on Wednesdays.
It’s a strange liminal space we’re living in at the moment. Neither fully in lockdown, nor fully in the clear. I shook with anxiety during the drive to get my vaccine. Then, I sang Pharrell’s “Happy” the entire ride home. A microcosm of the pandemic in one drive.
This liminal state is confusing, yet it’s likely the story of 2021.
“If the pandemic were a school week,” my oldest son declared recently, “we’d be on Thursday.” That sounds about right to me. We’re over the hump but not yet on “Fun Friday.” The weekend of this “COVID week” analogy is within sight, though. Close enough to start making plans for it.
5 Pandemic Practices I Refuse to Abandon
At the beginning of the pandemic, I remember hearing about families making lists of things they’d do when it ended. Did you know that the Roaring 20’s came on the heels of the 1918 Spanish flu? We’re probably all about to go dancing in the streets.
Faced with the beginning of the end of this era, I’ve begun to give some serious thought to what I started doing during – and because of – the pandemic, that I truly do *not* want to give up when it’s over.
Rather than simply hope I can keep these practices in my life, I’ve decided to declare them as refusals here. Being intentional about what I intend to hold onto will be, I think, more likely to help them stick.
#1: I refuse to abandon weekly family movie nights.
Prior to the pandemic, we’d watch the occasional movie together as a family. But it was never a routine or ritual. Now, it’s a fundamental part of our weekend. And WOW have I caught up on some amazing flicks and given our kids quite the ‘80’s and ‘90’s movie education!
This ritual feels particularly important to me, as I know I will deeply miss the many tender moments of togetherness we’ve shared this year. Yes, there was indeed too much togetherness!! But I know my heart will ache a bit when we all go our own ways for the better part of each day once again.
#2: I refuse to stop weeding the vinca.
Gardening during the pandemic became almost as cliché as baking bread and hiking. But it definitely had a meditative effective on me this past year. At those times when everything felt so out-of-control, and I was consumed by grief and anxiety, I could always pull a weed. I had control over whether that weed was about to take over my vinca patch or not. And damn it, that felt good.
It’s reassuring to know that the meditative experience of weed-pulling is always waiting for me right outside my house. (Literally always. I know I just saw weeds this morning that weren’t there last night…)
#3: I refuse to give up declared “alone time.” The practice that probably did the most to salvage my and my husband’s sanity (what little was left of it, anyway), was the 3-hours of alone time we gifted one another over the weekends. The time periods during which we will carve out this space in a post-pandemic world may shift. But I refuse to abandon the practice of declaring a weekly time for myself.
I wrote more about this practice in this Better Life Lab Experiment called “Swapping Alone Time”, which I invite you to read if you’d like some practical tips on getting started. I also refuse to give up the practice of taking a monthly mental health day off of work.
#4: I refuse to abandon self-massage.
Though I’ve practiced yoga for years, one of the things I started doing during the pandemic was working 1:1 with an amazing yoga teacher named Jen Campbell Munn. She was a teacher at a studio in DC near where I lived, but she moved to Colorado a few years ago. Had it not been for the pandemic and the wild world of Zoom, I would never have thought to reach out to her to reconnect and learn from her once again. As part of our work together, she sent me a bottle of Ayurvedic massage oil.
Believe me when I say that this bottle sat on my shelf unused for weeks. I glared at it, not knowing what exactly to do with it and feeling guilty for not giving it a try. But Jen gave me the 101 on how to use it, and after one short session with it, I was hooked. It’s gotten me thinking about more ways to appreciate my own body, and I’m not prepared to give up this weekly practice. I also love Jen’s reflections on that self-love in her blog post, “Dear Body.”
#5: I refuse to abandon ending my shower with 30 seconds of cold water. Cold water? Ick. Showers are for making me feel steamy warm and clean. And I’d prefer swimming in an ocean that feels like bath water to the alternative. Yes, I’d heard about the benefits of a cold shower. I was not interested, in the least, in trying it out, though.
And then I was desperate. It was the dark, cold, ugly winter of the pandemic. I was depressed, my kids were dysregulated, and nothing seemed to be going right. I happened to tune into this episode of Brené Brown’s “Unlocking Us” podcast where she was interviewing Tim Ferris and Dax Shepard. One of them talked about getting into an ice bath daily, and how much that helped him with depression. I didn’t attempt an ice bath, but I did start ending my shower each morning with 30 seconds of cold water. This practice of consciously making the unwanted wanted on a daily basis – combined with a whole bunch of documented health benefits – has made this daily habit a keeper for me.
Ultimately, I Refuse to Give Up One Key Thing
As I review my list of things I won’t abandon as we head into post-pandemic life, I do notice a theme.
It turns out, I refuse to stop practicing rituals that connect me to myself and to my family. Yes, my work matters to me. Very much. Yet my own physical and mental health and my connection to those I love the most in this world matters even more. Without this self-care and connection, I can’t bring the best of myself to my work, anyway.
What practices did you adopt during the pandemic that you refuse to let go of as it ends?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in comments below.
Want more practical tips on working parenthood? Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave