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10 Things I’ve Learned from a Year in a Pandemic

2020 has been a year for the books!  Living in a pandemic, distance education, transitioning to work at home, learning to wear a mask in public – this year in a pandemic has had such major impacts on all our lives! 

My Word of the Year for 2020 was Discipline, and I definitely learned in 2020 that I STILL need more discipline in my life. 2020 actually taught me things in all areas of my life – mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.  This year in a pandemic has touched every single part of me and way I live, and I know I won’t be the same ever again.  Looking back at 2020 and living a year in a pandemic has taught me:  

1. I’ve learned: My heart hurts

The soul crushing of living in a pandemic has shown me exactly how much my heart hurts.  My heart hurts for families who have lost jobs, lost homes, lost opportunities to access food and education because schools have closed and child care has shut down.  My heart hurts to see all the pain and negativity and anxiety and depression that people are struggling with.  My heart hurts because I miss my extended family.  My heart hurts because the holidays are sad without our family surrounding us.  My heart hurts because I’ve been forced to deal with emotions and expectations that were crushed and suppressed and yet still came to light because our world changed so dramatically this year from living in a pandemic.

pandemic life

2. I’ve learned: I need my family.

There is no way I’d ever have survived this year without my family.  I’ve needed the sanity and clear thinking of my husband like never before.  I’ve needed the cuddles and laughs from my 6 year old to bring me joy.  I’ve needed the silliness and whimsy of my 10 year old.  I’ve needed the critical thinking and questioning of my 8 year old.  And I’ve needed the servanthood and kindness of my 15 year old to remind me that there are still kind people in the world.  I’ve missed my siblings and their spouses so much, and I feel so disconnected from our little cousins as they’ve grown without us there to see their personalities develop and mature.  I’ve missed my own parents who live in different cities, and my grandparents who are quarantined in retirement homes, and I’m immensely grateful for my in-laws who have quarantined with us so they can help with the kids while I work at home.  I was raised in a family that relied only on themselves, and I’ve been uber independent most of my life, but this year has shown me exactly how much I cannot live on my own.  I absolutely need my family in order to keep living.

3.  I’ve learned: I need more worship in my life

My spirit has been dry this year of pandemic.  The inability to gather and worship has inflicted a dryness and a searching in my spirit that can only be filled by worshiping the One who made me.  I’ve gone days and days without worship and then spent hours in worship filling my soul with God’s Presence, and it’s just not enough.  I need my community worship and I’m not sure how that’s going to be fulfilled when we’re still seeing pandemic illness and death rising.  I have to re-learn the practice of daily worship and daily seeking God’s Presence to be with me and fill me so I no longer dwell in the desert.  My spirit is a dry valley, but thankfully, rain fills valleys first.

4. I’ve learned: I need beauty

I cannot live without beautiful things in my life.  I need those brief moments of seeing beauty to remind me of hope and joy and peace.  I need beauty to remind me of the good in the world.  I need beauty to remind me of the creative, artistic side of God and how he created beautiful things as a reflection of His goodness and love.  We didn’t have a flower farm this year, and oh how I missed the beauty of flowers!  I desperately need beauty in my life and I’m making plans for how to better incorporate that in 2021.

5. I’ve learned: I need plants

I desperately missed the beauty of flowers this summer, and in this first year of having house plants, I’ve learned I need plants in my life.  The uniqueness of plants, each individual leaf, the way a certain plant grows, the clear need of water and light – it’s fascinating to me to watch plants grow.  It’s so much fun to watch a leaf unfurl and see if this monstera plant will have holes or just wavy leaves.  Will the garlic I planted sprout?  Will the palm tree I bought actually live, because it REALLY looks like I can’t keep a palm tree alive?!  Plants are living things that physically react to the stimuli you give them, and having plants in my life is a necessary requirement that fills my soul and brings me joy.

6. I’ve learned: I need the countryside

Did you know there’s a thing called Forest Bathing?  Yep.  Shinrin Yoku – Forest Bathing.  It’s a phrase coined by the Japanese Government when they encouraged people to get out into nature in the 1980s.  Since then, there have been numerous scientific studies done on the effects of nature on the human body, and they have all found that spending time in nature – or “bathing” in the forest – has a positive physical effect on the human body.  Stress levels go down, tension is released, and heart rates are more even and lower after spending time in nature.  As I’ve worked inside my house day after day, I’m longing more and more for my grandparent’s ranch or my own home in the country where I can take long walks in my own forest in order to help my mental, emotional and physical states.

7. I’ve learned: I need medication

Part of my heart hurting also brought to light that I need medication.  I’ve struggled with depression for my whole life, and this pandemic has really amped up the sadness and loneliness and struggle of finding joy and peace in life.  I’ve been so full of anger and mood swings and sadness and was so tired of that, and so I started depression medication.  And it’s been amazing!  My emotions have stabilized.  I rarely have emotional meltdowns.  I’ve actually wanted to make out with my husband, lol!  I’m not focused on how terrible life is anymore, and I can focus on the positive and the good and the things I’m thankful for now instead of thinking about everything I’m missing out on.

8. I’ve learned: I have too much stuff

Part of my overwhelm this year in a pandemic has been the clutter and stuffed-fullness (not a word, I know, but you get it!) of my house.  We have wall to wall furniture and with four kids, the table tops are always cluttered and there are always toys strewn about everywhere.  More and more I’ve been drawn to minimalism and simplicity, and I think my mind needs my surroundings to be more simple so there is more opportunity for my mind to rest.  When I’m surrounded by mess I’m more stressed out, I’m more overwhelmed, and I’m more aware of how much more I have to do.  Honestly, I’m about ready to do a major purge! LOL!

9. I’ve learned: I’m lazy

Yep.  I’ve realized I’m pretty lazy.  I spend a lot of time wasting time, and I would rather do frivolous things than actually take care of my responsibilities.  I’d rather knit a few rows on a sweater than do the dishes.  I’d rather read a book than clean up the backyard garden for the winter.  I’d rather take a nap than have to mop the floor.  And while I know that most moms would rather do those things too, I also know that procrastinating on my responsibilities creates this huge cloud of guilt that hangs over me and tells me I’m a bad mom for not getting things “done”.  My laziness and procrastination doesn’t benefit anyone, and honestly, it makes me feel like a bad person.  When I get my “chore list” for the day done, I feel free and happy and like I’ve actually contributed to my family.  But when I’m lazy and procrastinate, I just feel bad.  And I’m tired of just feeling bad.

10. I’ve learned: I need exercise

No bones about it.  I’m fat.  The technical term is overweight, but really most days, I just feel fat.  I’ve gained 15 pounds since quarantining in March, and I feel sluggish and tired and ugly and uncomfortable in my own skin.  I’ve watched my face get rounder, my stomach stick out more, and my waist get thicker.  This pandemic has me noticing that I eat my feelings, and the evidence is right there on my hips!!

As I’ve realized I’m getting fatter, I’ve also realized how out of shape I am!  My knees hurt from climbing the stairs to my office every day.  My back hurts from sitting 8 hours in a chair at a computer.  My shoulders and neck are tense from typing.  And I have absolutely no physical activity scheduled into my day.  If things continue this way, I’ve got some major health problems coming my way simply because I’m not taking care of myself, and I’ve no one to blame except myself for that.

I’ve learned a lot of things this year.  I’ve learned some mental things.  I’ve learned some emotional things.  I’ve learned some spiritual things, and I’ve learned some physical things.  I feel like all the pieces of me could use a refresh, a new start, a new focus, and a new way of living that’s different from what’s been forced on me by this raging virus that’s threatening every part of my being.  It’s been a long, hard year, and I’m definitely ready for 2021!

That’s why I’m excited about My 2021 Word of the Year.  Every year I “pick” a word of the year (honestly, God is the one who lays this word on my heart every year) and it’s crazy, but this one word really IS the solution to all these things I’ve learned from a year in a pandemic.  And who knows, maybe this word could help you in your struggles and life too?  Maybe this word can help you and me BOTH grow into women who can face the world with strength and confidence and peace.  Will you join me on my 2021 journey?  Click on over to My 2021 Word of the Year if you’d like to know what I’m focusing on next year.  I’d love to have you with me.

All the best,

Erin  

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