Another Pandemic Birthday

This time last year, like the rest of America, I was feverishly gathering food and household supplies, increasingly anxious by empty shelves, denial politics and no quarantine end date in sight.

Add to that, it was a few days before my birthday, and my daughter wisely cancelled her flight in, so double damn, It was a solo celebration.

When was I going to see my family and friends again?

How long is a pandemic?

Was I going to be okay?

Now, I’m part hermit, so I’d be lying if I said the aloneness part initially fazed me. Halfway through, though, my gregarious half felt like growling sometimes because I missed variety, adventure and connecting.

Prolonged solitary confinement wears on the spirit.

Especially with scary things swirling in the atmosphere on the regular. Aggressive virus that makes it hard to breathe, ventilators in short supply, crowded hospitals, businesses closed, high unemployment, food insecurity. Death.

Only a monk or a sociopath would give 2020 a Golden Globe award.

I struggled with how to stop trying to solve a problem I couldn’t solve.

Now, a year into the pandemic, I see that maybe the wisdom delivered was to surrender, rest, stay in the present moment, practice self-compassion, and be okay with trial-and-error self-care and daily pandemic routines.

It’s been a very long time (or never) since I purposely lived with such a short attention span. I am often in the future. Not years ahead, but weeks and months. At the very least, five steps.

For the past year, it’s been more like this day and this hour, focusing on what I can control and what would make me feel most like me, which brought up the question of what is me?

Joy, creativity, hopefulness, thoughtfulness, freedom, adventure etc., etc., etc.

When in doubt about what day it was and where we were on the pandemic recovery spectrum, I drank plenty of water or tea and danced, took a bubble bath, wrote or read children’s books until I felt a bit better. This was a funny realization to me, but I always went with it.

It’s been quiet. I’ve been quiet.

Of course, I’m naturally in a reflective mode as it’s almost my birthday again. Another pandemic birthday I didn’t see coming.

But then, we don’t know what we don’t know and I’d be a fool not to still celebrate another year of precious life.

I heard about grief a lot in 2020. Obviously, there was the heartbreaking grief over losing loved ones to COVID, but there was also the swelling grief of losing the lives we once had.

Everything’s different now.

I miss my people.

I miss travel (I was supposed to be on my way to Bali next week).

I miss the Farmer’s market.

I miss smiles and hugs.

I miss exploring new cities and towns.

I miss brunch and salad bars.

I miss water aerobics and Dave and Busters.

I miss festivals and concerts.

I miss massages.

I miss lipstick.

I miss feeling (relatively) safe.

I miss my niece’s small hand in mine.

I miss laughter and love on blast.

I miss wandering around freely in public without a mask.

But…

I’ve also been very grateful for this time to pause and quit running around and zipping through a zillion things.

All the time.

I’ve been grateful to be able to re-up on the things that are important to me and ditch the things that aren’t.

This hasn’t been the easiest process because it’s hard to break cycles of doing, doing, doing and going, going, going, but I had the time.

To just be.

To look inward.

To unlearn some patterns.

To find some surprising sweet spots.

That were veiled through a lens of habitual busyness.

Like now, I’m sitting in the sun typing these last words with a faceful of sunshine.

You know, I always have been easily amused, right?

I’m like the toddler who plays with the ribbons and the box instead of the fancy birthday gift inside.

And is just as happy.

The pandemic has reminded me to cherish simple things like this, as well as a handful of others:

  • Sunrises and sunsets
  • YouTube exercise queens
  • Leisurely cooking
  • Catching up on podcasts and online comedy.
  • Instacart
  • Saving money
  • Teleworking
  • Virtual trips and long drives
  • Spotify rabbit holes and solo dance parties.
  • Gardening
  • Reading
  • Puzzling
  • Unplugging and resting whenever I feel like it

It’s been a year of slow living. I’ve been slow living. Cocooning like a caterpillar.

I feel hopeful.

Not because I’ve gotten vaccinated or can clearly paint a picture of the road ahead or what the New Normal will look like.

I feel hopeful because I choose to feel hopeful.

Because it’s in my bones.

Because it makes me feel good about being able to ride whatever comes to someplace better.

To birthdays, pandemic and otherwise,

Nailah

6 thoughts on “Another Pandemic Birthday

  1. Happy Birthday, Nailah! Loved your post, you’ve magically summed up many of my feelings about the last year. Particularly ‘slow living’ and ‘I’ve been grateful to be able to re-up on the things that are important to me and ditch the things that aren’t.’ After an initial adjustment period of a couple months, I liked finding more time to myself, with plenty of time to ask deeper questions and ponder what answers bubble up. I am amazed at how content I’ve become in my new ‘slow life’ and doubt I’ll go back to the spin of before. I think it was collectively driving us nuts, stressing all the time, when we’re supposed to be living more wholly and consciously. 2020 was a horrible year, but it did have its silver lining. Glad you found yours, and have a blessed birth-day!

    • Thanks so much for the birthday blessings, Eliza! I really enjoyed your very-similar pandemic insights. I really like this slow-living, deep-life thing and I am going to be intentional about keeping it close when the world opens up again. Definitely feel more relaxed and really aware of how I want to live! 🙂

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