Each year I participate in a memory keeping project called One Little Word® by Ali Edwards. This year I picked bliss as my word. The plan was to use bliss as my guide to making intentional choices throughout the year. I picked the word in January before 2020 went off the rails.
I started full of hope and excitement and although I drifted away from my word for many months I found my way back. The reality is that life will always be full of distractions. Happiness or a state of bliss doesn’t just happen. It is a result of the choices that we make.
I took The Science of Well-Being course offered by Yale through Coursera. It takes both a scientific and practical approach to happiness. One of the key ways to experience happiness is through expressing gratitude. Since I finished the course, I’ve been keeping a weekly journal logging everything I am grateful for this year.
It is a wonderful exercise but it is also easy to become a little rote in my responses especially during a pandemic.
- I am grateful we are healthy.
- I am grateful we are both employed.
- I am grateful my children are safe.
They are all true. I am incredibly grateful for all of these things but I wanted to dig deeper. What things have occurred as a side effect of the pandemic for which I am truly grateful?
So, having just celebrated Thanksgiving and wanting to be more intentional with my gratitude, here is a list of ten things that I am especially grateful for right now. These are things that are specifically at the forefront because of the pandemic.
- I am grateful for time with my family. Before the pandemic, we were all running in our own directions. Busy, active and separate. My husband was traveling two out of four weeks a month and both my girls were away at college. The pandemic brought them home from school prematurely although my youngest did make it back to college for the fall semester. And, my husband hasn’t traveled since March. We are now all under one roof again. We still spend much of our time alone. The pandemic didn’t suddenly turn us into one fully unified, cohesive unit but we are together more than we are apart. We have moments we may not have had otherwise. There is a shared sense of we’re in this together.
- I am grateful this is happening now and not thirty years ago. It is not hard to be home with the technology we have available today. I can shop for virtually anything I could need online with a few clicks although I have learned to leave more lead time if I want to do curbside pickup. I have endless choices when it comes to entertainment. I’m also the right age to navigate a pandemic if there is such a thing. I have tremendous empathy for those who are much younger or older than me. I really believe they have it harder than I do. I’m comfortably in mid-life. I can weather this without too much added hardship. I’m not missing the critical social aspects so vital to both the young and the old.
- I am grateful for our bond with our dog. We got a new puppy last November. His first few months were filled with the usual activities: potty training, obedience classes and lots of walks. We were teaching him the ropes when suddenly he had our undivided attention. Since the pandemic started, he has had one of his humans with him nonstop for ten months now. That’s the majority of his life. He has no concept of us “leaving” for the afternoon or not being around to cater to his every whim. It has allowed us to bond in a way we couldn’t with our previous pets. I fear it has also created unrealistic expectations on his part. Time will tell but for now he’s pretty happy with his pack and he’s been a great distraction.
- I am grateful for friends and the creative ways we’ve still connected. Earlier this month, I quarantined for two weeks. I wasn’t concerned that I had been exposed to COVID but the final episode of Supernatural was coming up and I wanted a safe way to hang out with my friend who started this fandom journey with me. She came up and we spent a few days together. We streamed the final episode and many of our other favorites. It was a fantastic weekend especially given how rare it is to hang out in person right now. I loved every moment we had together and it really helped recharge my social battery. While it’s not realistic to quarantine every time I want to see a friend, there are other ways we’ve stayed social during the pandemic from virtual happy hours to remote game nights. Keeping connected socially means being creative. Being intentional about our social interactions is not a bad thing.
- I am grateful for streaming services. I can binge without guilt during COVID and trust me I have binged both old and new. My husband and I are working our way through the mythology episodes of the X-Files interspersed with more recent shows across the many streaming platforms available to us right now. It is amazing how many options there are. Any genre, topic and style you want is out there somewhere. How great to stream without guilt!
- I am grateful for time to focus on our to-do-list. I spent the first few months of the pandemic eating. It wasn’t the best choice but it happened. I regrouped and spent the remaining months working my way through our home projects finally tackling some of those things that we’d never quite gotten around to doing. I finished countless decorating projects, redid my entire downstairs bathroom and have some cool new bar shelves in my kitchen. The list continues. I hope to be wallpapering next week. While these are things we would have worked on regardless of the pandemic, we are definitely crossing them off faster and more efficiently than we would have before.
- I am grateful for the increased focus on local. I have always been a huge cheerleader for buying local and supporting businesses in my community. One of my A to Z Blogging Challenges was focused on local Maine businesses. My passion for local hasn’t changed but the pandemic and the financial stress these business have faced with the shut downs and reduced foot traffic has spawned even more buy local efforts. Sadly, I know it will not be enough for all the local businesses that I love but I am also hopeful that many will survive and thrive. I have been putting together a wish list to give my husband as he fills my Christmas stocking this year and it is about 90% local. There has never been a more important time to buy and support local. There are so many amazing creators in Maine.
- I am grateful for social media. Not always but often. I watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix. The message around how the AI algorithms have pushed us into our information silos and divided us as a country really resonated with me. I recognize the challenges of using these platforms responsibly and know that there is a dark underside but there are also some beautiful things about social media. There is great fun if you can get past the vitriol. While Facebook has lost its gleam for me, the Twitter verse still makes me laugh every single day and if I need a quick pick me up, searching #puppies on Instagram is a sure winner. While I was using social media prior to the pandemic, my consumption has definitely gone up since it started. I am trying to find a healthy balance and stay focused on the parts of it that bring joy.
- I am grateful for science. While I am bewildered by how the pandemic became politicized, I feel incredibly fortunate for the advances we have made in medicine and science that have allowed us to be so responsive and adaptable to the virus. I know we’re not done and we still have challenges ahead but there feels like there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that is only possible because of science.
- I am grateful that I am okay. I don’t mean physically although as I mentioned above of course I’m grateful for that too. I recognize how challenging this pandemic has been for so many. Mental health issues are on the rise. There are so many people struggling and in pain. I am beyond grateful that my transition to a more isolated world has been okay and that I am privileged enough to focus on things beyond my basic survival. I never take that for granted.
When Governor Mills issued Maine’s first shelter in place order, it felt a little surreal. We knew it was coming. Many other states had already put similar orders in place but having an official request for us to stay home hit me harder than I thought.
I naively think back to that time when we believed shutting down for a few weeks was going to be difficult without fully comprehending the many, many months that lay ahead of us. With winter coming here in the northeast, it will be even more isolating but that is okay.
My grandmother grew up extremely poor. One summer she worked long hours every day to scrap together enough money to help buy food for her large family. They stored the food in their basement for the upcoming winter. The river flooded that summer washing away all of her hard work. She never told the story with anger or bitterness. It was just what had happened. It did instill a deep frugalness in her that she never lost. Every sugar packet, unused napkin or stray dinner roll was carefully tucked into her purse as we got ready to leave a restaurant.
I am curious what my own lingering takeaways will be from this pandemic. Will I always feel a need to buy extra toilet paper or wash my hands every time I casually greet someone? Will I always have a face mask on hand just in case?
I don’t know what comes next but I am grateful for my time on this planet whatever it may bring.
Having trouble coming up with your own gratitude list? Here’s a link to one of my own #puppy posts on Instagram. It’s a sure pick-me-up to get you started.
I’ve linked up this post to the Ten Things of Thankful blog hop co-hosted by one of my blogging friends that I met during the A to Z Blogging Challenges that I’ve done.
Be sure to check out her site Backsies is What There is Not for more information on the blog hop and to read her posts. They’re always fun!