Since the pandemic hit, everyone’s life has changed. It’s hard to believe that it’s been seven months since COVID-19 locked down the USA back in early March — mostly because time has been flying. Under COVID-19, the days feel long and the months are short. I’m utterly dumbfounded that September will soon be upon us.
It’s also unbelievable that, despite the intense difficulties that COVID-19 has wrecked upon the United States, many of us are coping. The ability for humans to adapt to new circumstances and difficulties is truly amazing. Americans are (finally) wearing masks to conduct daily life activities. We keep our distance when passing someone on the sidewalk. Hand sanitizer multiple times a day is normal. Working from home is now widely accepted and no longer an astonishing new hurdle to overcome. It truly amazes me how we can so quickly adjust ourselves to such intense hardship.
If you told me one year ago that I wouldn’t be able to fly internationally, I would have told you that I would shrivel up and die from travel withdrawal. Well, fast forward to the present and here I am, coping. I have embraced my new awakened love for being a homebody and road-tripping (my new travel replacement), and I find myself with a brand new life under COVID-19.
My new life includes the following new hobbies (most of which are not new to the internet):
My Newfound Love (?) For Gardening
I do not have a green thumb. I have, without fail, killed every plant I had ever owned.
But when COVID-19 hit, I knew I just had to do it. I had to clean up the ultimate eyesore that was my vegetable garden covered in weeds.
I wish I could say that I donned a hat, put on some gloves, felt the sun on my face and experienced a renewed sense of purpose and fulfillment in the meditation of gardening — but that’s a lie. When I dug up the weeds, filled up two life-sized garbage bins full of weed infested soil and nearly broke my back doing it, only one thought crossed my mind:
“People actually enjoy doing this back breaking labor — and it actually COSTS money?”
Fast forward seven months later, and you’ll find me lovingly caressing and watering my tomato plants in my garden bed. After growing many heads of lettuce, four tomato plants and a shit ton of basil; I have to say that seeing your finished product — the plant you poured so much blood, sweat and tears into — really does hit you with a shot of endorphins.
French Class, Zoom Style
I’m learning French, and trust me, I often ask myself why. I’m not a girl in love with Paris. French food is, usually, too rich for my tastes. I’ll take a class of Chianti over a Bourdeaux any day. Hell, I don’t even think French sounds pretty from a linguistic standpoint.
Yet, for whatever reason, I have been keeping up with French classes from the Alliance Francaise for over one year.
When COVID-19 hit and I saw the Alliance Francaise offering zoom classes, I was hesitant, especially because I am usually on Zoom calls all day for work. Adding an extra three hours of Zoom calls on top of that sounded like torture.
But French class, even online, remained enjoyable. I found myself learning more and more and, before I knew it, I was able to have simple conversations with husband (who speaks French). I went from not being able to count to 20, to recounting French authors — in French.
So while my Japanese and Mandarin may be languishing (oh, the irony), my French is coming along nicely.
Walking, walking, walking (and lots of jogging)
Since COVID-19 hit I’ve been walking. A lot. I take a one hour walk or jog around my neighborhood on a daily basis. In fact, I have the garden patterns and flower arrangements memorized for the houses in my neighborhood. Nothing clears my mind after a bad day like a good jog up to my favorite viewpoint in Portland, where I watch the sun set into a horizon of trees.
Grounded planes aren’t going to stop the Ruby Ronin from traveling. Like many Americans, my husband and I decided to safely escape our home by traversing the open wilderness of the USA. Already we have traveled to the coasts of Oregon and the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho (which I will write about later). Next week we are headed for Olympic National Park.
Although I was bummed that our 2020 trips to Japan and France were cancelled, I’m so grateful that we live in a country (and coast!) with so much natural beauty. I may complain about America a lot, but the utter beauty of the nature here is one thing I will never demean.
Unimaginable Levels of Stress, Both Passive and Active
Hey, you didn’t think this was going to be a post full of positives now, did you?
Before I complain about my first-world and entitled life, I just have to give a shout out to all families with young kids dealing with COVID-19 craziness in the USA. If you’re reading this blog, I just want to salute you. I can’t imagine having a young child right now — I’m about to lose my shit, and I don’t even have to homeschool my non-existent kid while holding down my job. Many American families with K-12 kids are coping with long working hours from home, no schools, no childcare, and honestly, no end in sight to this madness. I don’t know how you cope, but I am amazed at your resilience.
My work life has been crazy. I work 10+ hour days and I feel like my fingers have physically melded to my work laptop, since I’m on it so damn much. As I work away to sell consulting services to clients, I can’t help but wonder how my hundreds of hours of labor spent creating a powerpoint for my boss will contribute to a better society. Let’s not mention the constant unsaid stress in the background that includes a pandemic and social unrest in the streets.
On top of work stress, my family has been experiencing health crises both in the US and abroad. Most pressing is my dad’s health condition, which has declined precipitously since the dawn of COVID-19. The culmination of helping my family navigate the aging of our father, while working long hours, ON TOP of dealing with a pandemic and an apathetic leader, often makes me want to crawl into a hole and never come out.
And many times, to handle this stress, I do the items I listed above. I walk, I study French, I garden, and I road trip. In times as tough as these, it’s those small joys that make us feel alive.
There is also the small comfort in knowing that, in the USA, I am not alone. All of us are going through similar (or even more difficult) struggles as we try to cope with this curveball called COVID-19. I try to be grateful that I have a job, that we are stable, that I have my health, and that there will be a light at the end of this tunnel.
As we try to keep sanity during these truly trying times, we have to remember one thing: it’s ok to not be ok. Life is very hard now, no matter where you fall in the spectrum of life and circumstance, and it’s ok to admit that.
So keep finding those little joys in life. Those comforts. That blue sky. That walk. That newly bloomed patch of sunflowers. The freshly baked croissants at your bakery. The smell of fresh dew on trees on a morning hike. A beautiful sunset on a summer evening. Because we’re alive, and things can only get better from here on out.
Hoping everyone is staying safe and keeping sane during these crazy times! What is your new normal?