Day 50. That’s my COVID-19 isolation count. What about you? 50 days of working from home, Church over Zoom, limiting social contact, sanitising my hands and answering questions about what Queensland’s Public Health Directives actually mean (occupational hazard of being a trained lawyer). But also 50 days of deeper prayer, rekindled connections, intimate conversations, better health and less stress. What initially caused anxiety has now led to greater self reflection and a deeper understanding of what, fundamentally, is most important in my life. Incongruent though it may be, I honestly think COVID-19 has made my life better.
Now, I realise that my COVID-19 experience is very much coloured by the fact I am incredibly fortunate to have a secure job, live with a loving husband, and reside in a state with comparatively generous isolation restrictions, within a safe, well developed country with a relatively small population pretty decently protected against COVID-19 by an international border that’s very decisively shut. I started this blog as a place to have conversations about life and all it entails. My About page reads:
…The Life Expansive is… a conversation about faith, travel, relationships and all the little and big moments that make life. This little blog is a place for you, for us, to celebrate life in all its fullness – the happy times, the sad times, the boring times, the ok times. It’s about chasing dreams and travelling the world, but also being content with cuddling up on the couch.
So as we experience the biggest shock to our society and global system in decades – certainly the biggest in my lifetime – I feel it would be disingenuous of me to a) let it pass unmentioned, and b) pretend it has been harder than it actually has, and indeed, hasn’t resulted in significant benefits for my life.
Initially, as I’m sure many of you have experienced, the rapid onset of COVID-19 and its restrictions left me very uncertain. Watching or reading the news made me anxious; the conflicting information and messages from media and the government was confusing; and sometimes it all felt like an elaborate hoax or massive over-reaction. By the end of my first week working from home, it felt like I’d been holding my breath the entire time. I very intentionally had to redirect my mind to what actually served me by not reading the news, only checking government health websites for guidance and information every few days rather than daily, and completely disengaging from Facebook. And once I had that time back in my day, I was able to see all of the very good things this season has brought me.
Friends, for me, this season has meant:
- Ending (albeit temporarily) my daily four hour commute
- Some of my dearest friends, long overseas, returning to Australia
- Dedicated, uninterrupted time with friends and family, in person, by video or voice call
- Enjoying the miracle that is my body through running, yoga and autumnal ocean swims
- Nourishing my body through home cooked meals
- Quiet moments reading and rediscovering passions and hobbies that have no ‘productivity’ value but are simply a pleasure for me to do
- Renewed appreciation for the wonder of nature
- Increasing thankfulness for what I have, and dwindling FOMO
- More rich searching and reading of The Scriptures
- More earnest and deeply felt prayer
As I run in my neighbourhood in the mornings, I’m struck by the increase in families out riding their bikes or walking together, by couples walking hand in hand admiring the trees, by friends engrossed in conversation. As I shop for groceries each week, I’m struck by how much more (socially distant) conversation, ease and support there is between shoppers and store staff. As I talk with my friends, I’m struck by how quickly we’ve all shed meaningless distractions and frivolous needs, how we seem to more quickly move to ‘deep and meaningful’ conversation. As Jason and I cook dinner each evening, I’m struck by the enjoyment I get from slowly bringing a meal together rather than racing to eat something before falling into bed. As I speak with my loved ones (friends and family alike), I’m struck by how much more openly we are sharing our love for each other. As I spend quality time each day with Jason, I’m struck by gratitude for our marriage and appreciation for his steadfastness. As I read my Bible each day, I’m struck by how much more clearly I hear God speaking to me from its pages, being unhurried and having the space to be more contemplative. As I mull over the day each evening in prayer, I’m struck by the power of thankfulness for the small things of life, and the realisation that they’re not very small at all.
I’m genuinely conflicted as I try to balance the immense blessings of this time for me individually (and, I think, for our communities), with the very acute pain and suffering experienced by so many around the world, including people I know personally. I’ve taken heart in how our communities (after an initial freak out over toilet paper) have so beautifully come together to support each other. And isn’t it incredible to see how nature has literally taken a deep breath as pollution has cleared in our skies, and animals have returned to places they’d previously abandoned.
In April, I completed a 30 day at home yoga retreat rather aptly titled ‘Home’. I found myself marvelling at the extra space not only in my body, but my mind and my time as well. It’s a rather profound fact that for 30 consecutive days I had the time and the headspace to do a 20 – 45 minute yoga practice each day, on top of running and other exercise. At the end of the practice, this beautiful poem came onto the screen:
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,John O’Donohue
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream
A path of plenitude opening before you
I laughed out loud, friends, when I read that poem, a delightful reminder of what God has opened my eyes and heart to during this forced time of stillness. Psalm 46: 10 – 11 came to mind:
Be still, and know that I am God;– NKJV – my emphasis
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge.
In The Passion Translation, verse 10 is written:
Surrender your anxiety!My emphasis
Be silent and stop your striving and you will see that I am God.
Now friends, I’m definitely not suggesting that God brought COVID-19 to earth. What I have found, just like Joseph, is that which was intended for harm, ‘God intended for good to accomplish what is now being done’ (Genesis 50:20). Altogether, I’ve experienced so many awakenings in this time, I truly hope that they’re embedded deep into my soul and character, so that I may never take for granted how truly wonderful life, in its most simple iteration, is ever again. I’ve spent time by video call with friends I hadn’t verbally spoken to in literal years. I’ve delighted in family WhatsApp videos and texts as my parents and grandfather have learnt to use a new technology, and my and brother have connected together with them. I’ve felt the vigour return to my body as it’s engaged in daily movement and been nourished by wholesome meals. I’ve spent quiet moments with Jason, idly rubbing his head and smiling at the simple pleasure of married companionship. I’ve gotten to know people at Church I’d only smiled and waved at previously, because of the friendly randomisation of Zoom breakout rooms. I still have worries, but they’re eclipsed by my paying attention to the blessings. So I hope in this time, you’ve been able to find at least a small measure of joy and connection. Restrictions are slowly being lifted, thankfully – I just hope we don’t lose sight of what this time taught us.
How are you experiencing COVID-19? If it’s been difficult, please reach out – to me, a friend, family member or a professional. Because this pandemic has really demonstrated we’re all in this together.