Life will never be the same

The fall is my favorite time of year. Maybe it is the excitement of school starting again, football season, and cooler days. I always get a burst of energy in the fall. This fall will be different, not only because I am living in Southern California by the beach instead of Portland Oregon, but also because of Covid. The fall won’t have the same excitement as it has in the past, as schools are only partially opened and the excitement of football will be muted by the logistics of how to watch it.

Also, this will be the first fall that my daughter is not heading back to school. She graduated and is working and living in Seattle. When my daughter was in college we would always take a trip mid-September right before she went back to school. But there are no trips planned this year. I haven’t been on a plane since last November when I booked a one way ticket to LAX, and out of my marriage.

Little did I know that 4 months later there would be a pandemic and my life would change drastically once again. I have been working from home longer than I was in the office at my new job. I barely got to know my co-workers before we were all ordered to stay home. And now as Labor Day weekend comes to an end, there is no burst of energy at the office to do the last push to finish off the year. There is no talking about summer vacations that we took to Europe, or really anywhere for that matter. Everyone is just waiting.

But what are we waiting for? The all clear to go back to our lives, but what will our lives be like? Lately I have been thinking that our lives will never be the same. There will always be the ‘before pandemic’ lifestyle, and the ‘after pandemic’ lifestyle. The masks, the hand sanitizer, the 6 feet apart has seeped into our life and become a part of our culture now. When will I be able to go to a restaurant and see the waiter smile at me, and actually eat inside. When will I be able to go to the movies, a sporting event, a museum without feeling a little edgy being in close proximity to lots of people? I know these are small things compared to losing a job, having to move, and being sick as some people are experiencing during this time, but it is these small things that make up a lifestyle. It is the cappuccino at my favorite cafe with the beautiful waiter that greets me with a smile, asks me how my morning is going, makes a heart with the foam and hands it to me without plastic gloves on. These little things bring me joy and make day to day struggles seem not as bad.

Will it ever be what it was? Will the way I get my simple joys change? What will life be like post pandemic?

None of us know the answer to this question, and the more I try and guess the more confused I get. Since it all started in March, I made an effort to stay grateful for all that I do have. I am healthy, I have my job, I live by the beach, my daughter is healthy, and I have people that love and care about me. These are things that if the pandemic didn’t happen I would take for granted. But I know how valuable these things are now.

If I didn’t move out of Portland Oregon to Southern California when I did, I may never have gotten the chance. If I had waited even 6 months later, I would have been stuck in Portland and most likely in my marriage. I think about that a lot. That I don’t have all the time in the world to follow my dreams, that if I don’t take chances when opportunities arise, I may lose those that chance. That life changes in a moment, and the best I can do is enjoy every moment.

So lately, I have been doing just that. I have been sitting on my balcony longer in the mornings. I have been looking out into the ocean, drinking coffee and feeling the warmth of the sun as it rises. I have been playing with my puppy more and enjoying his loving company. I have met some good friends here, and I have been spending more time with them instead of being by myself and working on my art. I have been listening and laughing, and learning about them. I have been sharing more about me with others, telling my truth and being vulnerable. I have been letting my heart and body guide me and seeing where it takes me. I have no expectations of anyone, I am enjoying the moment with them.

This is new for me, my life up until a few months ago was planned and scrutinized daily. Everything I did had a bigger purpose and was thought out well in advance. It worked well for me, but also kept me guarded and a part of me emotionally closed off. I realize now I can’t plan emotions. I can’t plan friendships, relationships or love. I just have to be present in my life and see what comes my way. I am getting better at being open and receiving, and not trying to control the way things go. It is scary, but it is also liberating. I can’t control the way someone feels about me, whether they want to be around me, whether they find me attractive or desirable. I can only be myself and put myself out there and hope that I find some true connections.

My life will never be the same as before the pandemic. I know that I will never try and force or control something that isn’t meant to be. I will have less interactions with people I don’t know, but I will have deeper and more meaningful interactions with the people that are close to me.