It’s been nearly a year since I posted a blog. There’s really no excuse for such a long absence. But there are many reasons: sending my oldest off to college; work on the editing committee for Rise: An Anthology of Change by Northern Colorado Writers; my sister’s wedding; the death of an uncle and then of my father—and related out of state travel; a serious car accident; a job search; and well, life. After all of that, I had planned a very different blog post for my return. But that was before we lived under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic.
Life under near-quarantine has turned our lives upside down and changed our world. Many people work from home. Schools are in remote learning mode. Home offices and classrooms exist at kitchen tables and in bedrooms, living rooms, even closets. Weddings, vacations, major personal and professional events, graduations, and even the Olympics have been canceled or postponed. Millions have lost their jobs. Worst of all, naturally, are over two million cases of coronavirus and nearly two hundred thousand deaths. Sadly, we have seen great human suffering, with more to come.
Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers are real-life heroes. Grocery store employees have gained respect and gratitude, since they are on the front lines in an essential role. There is an appreciation for those who work to keep things running so more people can stay home and healthy. There is a new awareness of the challenges that teachers face, at least among parents who are now supervising various levels of homeschool.
Pre-pandemic, I was always busy. Just busy. In many ways, I think many people used busy—consciously or unconsciously—as filler, or as a hiding place for not making time for real life, family, friends, self-reflection, and so on. Busy allowed me an excuse for not being more productive in my writing. I compared myself to other writers and guilt and self-doubt crept in. At the Northern Colorado SCBWI connect meeting in January, the speaker, Teresa Funke, began with the thought that art matters but sometimes other things matter a little bit more. I realized that other things had a higher priority this past year, although I did continue some level of writing. So I planned to write my blog about allowing ourselves the grace to focus on what’s needed in our lives, even when it takes us away from writing-related activities.
In light of our current reality, why worry about writing or picture books? It’s not like there’s a picture book about pandemics. Does writing matter in the big picture? Can it provide assistance and comfort in this crisis? But perhaps that’s why it is important. We don’t know how our book will impact someone else; maybe someone needs my book. Not just picture books. But all books, especially the ones that lift us up, make us smile, and give us hope. And not just books—artwork, movies, a beautiful day, spring flowers, or creative ways to connect to friends and family from a distance—anything that brings joy. Amid the troubling news of each day, there are also accounts of sacrifice and goodness. And there are the funny stories that make us laugh. Classes, meetings, and even BBC interviews are at risk of being interrupted by unexpected children, pets, or other commotion.
Now more than ever it’s important to allow ourselves to focus on what we need. That might be writing, or it could be playing with our kids/spouse/pets, starting that long-delayed project, baking, gardening, cleaning the house, going for a walk, reading a book, calling a friend. We also need the grace to realize that if our co-workers, bosses, clients, or friends see us in our home environment—our natural habitat that’s sometimes less than perfect— it will be all right and we should extend that understanding to them. Right now, everyone is trying to make things work as best they can.
At my house, my husband and I cleared off the desk in our bedroom and attacked its army of dust bunnies so that he can have an office. My older kids work at the desks in their rooms. My 6th-grader commandeered my husband’s good work chair and two tray tables in the family room. I use her room (unicorns and all) for daytime Zoom meetings, but otherwise the kitchen table is my office (interruptions and all). With everyone at home, it’s important to have our own space. Do we get snippy with each other? Sometimes. But we can also linger over dinner or play a game. We spend more time together and look forward to our weekly take-out from a local restaurant. I had the rare opportunity to play in the snow with all three of my kids after an Easter snowstorm. Of course, it’s easy for me to see the good: we have the blessings of family, health, home, a steady income, food, and stability.
My hope is that we as a human family will see the good things that are present in these unprecedented and difficult times, and that we will come out stronger on the other side. My hope is that we will work together, help those who are less fortunate, and see each other as fellow humans seeking peace and hope. Because right now, we need to give each other— and ourselves— an abundance of kindness and grace.