I doubt that 2021 will go down in history as the best year ever for many people. It has been a long grinding year of wondering when this pandemic will be over and we can get back to normal again. Normal may have already happened for some of you, but for us living here in Washington DC, we have spent the last 18 months basically in isolation with few external trips for pleasure or necessity. I have lived and worked most of this time in an 8’x10′ space that serves as a bedroom, office, and studio. What lessons did I learn from this confinement?
Sometimes, there is nothing to be done to change your circumstances, so you must accept what is and then decide how best you can function and use the limited parameters within which you must work.
2. Fear vs. Safety
Do I need to know everything going on around me? We decided not to listen to the news anymore as the bad news got us down and was not good for our mental health. So many stories the media put out were fear-mongering. We could not change anything for anyone, so it was best to switch off from this constant stream of negativity.
3. Benefits of Online Shopping
A positive came in online shopping, a more organized approach to shopping. Making a list in the store app of things we were running low on or ran out of made shopping a breeze. We could either do a pick-up or home delivery once the no delivery charge threshold is met. There was no more being tempted by items put in the way of shoppers waiting at the till.
4. Healthy Eating
We soon learned to make our own delicious healthy meals and only had a take-out delivered when running low on time or ring the changes on a Friday night. We made our own bread and consequently ingested far fewer preservatives or additives.
5. Less Commute time.
Time and money spent on commuting were saved by working from home. Although this also required some adjustments to our routines, especially working across time zones, we had to make sure we got sufficient breaks. So, although working from home was positive, it also became necessary to manage the time spent working a bit better.
6. Need for Exercise
This really became apparent after sitting at a desk and not getting up to walk to the commute or shops etc. We made a concerted effort to take a walk around the block or several blocks most days, regular home yoga practice, and outdoor strength training with an instructor. To keep our motivation up (which was necessary at times), we participated in a few Online Sport challenges. I surprised myself by getting a medal for my age group to complete the course!
7. Need for Community
This is probably the biggest challenge of the pandemic, not being able to interact with your community, clubs, friends, church meetings, etc. Zoom meetings kept us going, but they indeed were a poor substitute for being able to see a person’s body language. Participation in group discussions was much more difficult. Yet, at the same time, it enabled us to embrace technology as a tool and adapt.
8. Need for friendships and connection.
I joined writing and artist groups and met some beautiful people I would not have done had I not been confined. You can choose your interest groups, and I have learned some fascinating things by joining Map, Art, and Culture Societies. I have tried to be more diligent in connecting with family and friends, some responded, and some didn’t.
9. Activities in confined spaces
I had to look at the practical ways I could utilize my time and space to survive these past months. I could write and paint if the paintings or drawings were small enough to fit on my desk and choose mediums that were easy to manage in confined spaces. I also had time to meditate, read and learn. This allowed me to help other writers by reviewing their work or doing beta reading for them. I was able to expand my creativity and get to a deeper level of understanding of art and writing processes. I could also deconstruct past learning and beliefs and replace them with new enlightened thoughts and beliefs.
10. I can survive
When we are not challenged to draw on our inner resources, we become dependent on external things to make us happy. We have not built sufficient resilience to do what it takes to keep ourselves Safe, Happy, and Fit, mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
Surviving eighteen months of isolation and minimal contact with the outside world has been a time for inner reflection, drawing on the wells of inspiration and experience. I know that I have been able to survive and create despite everything that would have put me down in the past. Modern technology has been a blessing and, at the same time, a curse. I chose to hold onto the blessings which rewarded me with increased skills and connections with new friends. I had to let go of the expectations that I needed to be physically present to function in the world and do everything I would have done before.
When we emerge from this winter of isolation, may our roots have grown deeper to draw from that inner well, the knowledge, wisdom, and power inspired by the Holy Spirit to change our world. We will have built resilience to handle any further disruptions in our lives that we may yet encounter.Deryn van der Tang