This last year has been a mixed bag of trials and blessings. Hindsight is always 20/20, and as I look back on this time, I hope the lessons that I have learned will become the “norm” for me.

Living alone this year has forced me to be okay being alone with myself. On Zoom many hours a day, my mental and emotional energy was channeled toward boxes on a screen, yet I never took those for granted. Every face, every voice, every individual I encountered I treasured as an opportunity to connect with another human being. When work was done, I would be left with myself (and my dog, Lucky) to face into the hours before me. I was forced to ask, “What will I do with this time?” Some days I would watch a TV show or movie; other days I would read a book; or in warmer weather, I would go out for a walk or hike.

I began to realize that my choices in how I spent my time impacted my emotional state, and so as the days and months went on, I shifted toward doing things that nourished my mind, body, and spirit. Previously, I was making choices based on what was on my calendar and what others needed, not from the place of what would truly nourish and support me.

Coincidentally, I was just in the beginning of a two-year program at The Living School, offered by the Center for Action and Contemplation. The write up for the School states, “Students are invited to deepen their engagement with their truest selves and with the world and to discover their authentic identity and grow in their capacity to embody this calling in the world.” I started the program in August 2019, and when the pandemic hit, I was immersed in the study and practice. Looking back, it has been a true gift to have been able to give my full attention to this study since there were few distractions and I had plenty of reading and reflection to do. On a daily basis I remember that all the chaos going on around me can be steadied by an inner life and practice that grounds me in the present moment and, at the same time, connects me to a future that is filled with possibilities yet to be realized. I, and each of us, play a role in creating that future!

One outcome of my study was that I was writing more, and in Sept 2020 as election season ramped up, I was compelled to write a daily posting on Facebook on #whatunitesus as human beings. For 55 days before the election, I wrote a short message each day. Then, after the election, I wrote a daily blog on #justfortoday for the 78 days that led up to the Inauguration and for 24 days after the Inauguration on #justforthismoment until I felt compelled to stop writing, which coincided with the start of Lent, a time of quiet reflection. This daily practice helped me stay connected to what really matters in life and to offer this to others during these many challenging days.

During the last year, my neighbor and I were a “pod.” He was laid off on April 1, 2020 and struggled to find work for 10 months. A very successful young man prior to the pandemic, he entered into a time of uncertainty, and, at times, darkness. My dog, Lucky, was and is his best friend, and he, Lucky, became my neighbor’s daily visitor, who was just there to say, “I’m here for you, and I need you.” During those months, my neighbor reinvented himself and found a position that, though 50% of his former salary, was doing what he discovered, in those long months, was his true passion.

Lastly, my 91-year-old mother was “grounded” in her community when COVID hit. Unable to leave her apartment, she struggled each day to find meaning and purpose. I brought her to live with me for a few long stays throughout the year, and I will be forever grateful for those times together. She had her routine and I mine, yet we were each other’s cornerstones through much of the pandemic. She embraced technology, taking online courses, and now plays bridge one night a week over the Internet!

So, the lessons I have learned and will carry forward are:
  • Be intentional in how I spend my time.
  • Make time to nourish and support my body, mind, and spirit.
  • Develop and sustain an inner practice that steadies me from the day-to-day outer world realities.
  • Companionship comes in many different forms. Look for it in the “unusual” places.
  • What we focus on – where our attention goes – our energy follows! Writing a daily post for 157 days was cathartic and kept me sane!
  • Isolation does not mean separation from others. Connections can occur in many ways, and technology kept me, and those around me, in business and connected in new and creative ways.

I am grateful that I did not experience the loss or sickness of a loved one, friend, colleague, neighbor, or acquaintance, but my heart aches for the over 550,000 lives lost in this pandemic. The younger generations in particular have experienced losses they will only fully realize in years to come. In the midst of my blessings, I hope to never forget the tremendous impact of this time in history, on the human race and on all of creation. While tragedy calls for answers but rarely gives them, we are reminded over and over that life is a mystery and the best we can do is show up to each day with an open heart and willingness to make something good of that day.

We would love to hear your reflections from these many months. Send us your lessons learned, and we’ll share them with our readers.

Theresa Gale