What a pandemic has taught me – Lesson 1

Just like the rest of you reading this, my life has changed in the last four months.  In early March, I was working full time, at a fairly stressful job, as well as running a business and teaching 6-10 classes or workshops per week.  Those classes don’t plan themselves, so tack on some hours for planning.  My business doesn’t promote itself, so tack on some time for marketing and planning new and innovative classes.  

Now, I don’t have kids, but my husband and I both have aging parents.  In addition, my husband was diagnosed with PTSD almost a year ago after two years of suffering from the symptoms and us trying to deal with it on our own.  

In short, I was busy.  Just like the rest of you. I didn’t think I was stressed out because I do handle things well.  I know what my triggers are and I thought I did a damn fine job of self care and stress management.  I teach these things, you know.  

On March 6th, I taught what I thought would be my last class for two weeks.  I had septoplasty and endoscopic sinus surgery on March 9th.  I anticipated about two weeks to recover and resume my life again.  How wrong was I?

On March 13th, my workplace started setting people up to work from home and and the message to stay home was clear. The following week, based on closures and what was happening, I made the decision to cancel my classes/workshops until further notice.  

On March 23rd, I returned to work but it was a whole new world.  I was working, mostly from home, as were my staff.  In addition, after two weeks post-surgery, I was no where near ready to resume teaching classes. I could barely catch my breath, literally.  

Yet unlike most of the world, what did I feel?  An overwhelming sense of gratitude.  A relief that I didn’t have to go back to my previous schedule.  I was grateful to be working from home and isolated and knew that I could take this time to focus on me, getting better, and spending more time with my husband who needed me.  These were decisions that I wouldn’t have made without this pandemic invading our world and making them for me.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I was nervous as hell to go anywhere.  After all, I’d just had surgery on my respiratory tract and was vulnerable.  But I embraced the message to stay home and stay safe.

I found I was far more productive working from home.  My staff appear to be more productive working from home and having them work from home made some issues in the office mostly disappear, for the time being anyway.  I had been struggling with my full time job and wasn’t happy.  I had actually been looking to put some feelers out but was too afraid to make a change.  After all, I have 20 years in, with great benefits and a pension.  I could stick it out for 8-10 more years as long as I had my business which is what made me happy.  

As a result of being more productive in my full time job, I was also more efficient in running my household(s).  I could do laundry or some quick cleaning while I made a cup of tea (more on that in a future blog).  My took my lunch breaks religiously, which became my workout time, so I could build my strength back up again while keeping some structure. And after watching a number of webinars about supervising staff and working from home I knew that the “working from home specialists” were suggesting structure and routing.  It might not look the same as before but, as humans, we needed it.  

As part of my daily fitness routine I was able to explore so many things I’d wanted to for so long but was too tired or didn’t have time.  With the onslaught of free online classes suddenly available, I started to do other yoga classes online, I tried other workouts (like Zumba Strong and Kathy Smith’s Fit over 40 Challenge), I went back to things I used to love doing like Combat which was free on YouTube.  As the weather got nicer I tried to get outside to walk and to do yoga. I’ve even taken many of my meditation session outdoors and am loving it.  How refreshing!

And because my wellness business was on hold, I had free time like never before.  I started taking online courses, working on getting a new designation (Certified Payroll Practitioner (I know, soooo exciting…but it was on my 2020 goals list)) and learning Spanish.  I even picked up my knitting needles again.  

My husband and I are currently spending more time together and having big old meaty talks like we used to, we cook together, we meditate and we relax.  We’re able to talk about what he’s going through more easily because we have the time and patience.  

My intention in writing this is that I want to do a series of blogs to show things some of the things I’ve learned over the last four months in hopes that I can share and we can learn and grow together.  So, that would prompt you to ask; “what did I learn from all of this”?

Well, I learned that I had been too busy and my life was too structured.  I was tired all the time and looked so forward to the weekend when I had nothing to do (except maybe plan some classes).  I would like to think that most of you have figured this out also.  Otherwise, why did the Universe put this in our path? These are mid-pandemic questions that we should all be asking ourselves…Why did we prioritize busyness over self care and most importantly our relationships? Why does keeping ourselves and/or our kids busy mean we are having a successful life? How did our priorities get so skewed? When was the last time we did something because we wanted to or it just sounded like a fun thing to do? Why were we so tired all the time? 

I’m not saying that these things we were doing didn’t matter; but did all of them? Really?  Did we have to be doing them all?  This pandemic has shown us (hopefully) that we had it all wrong.  Think back over the last four months and what were the things that ended up mattering the most…

Maybe I’m an anomaly.  But I sincerely hope not.  My best friend and I had a visit last week and she told me that her relationship with her husband is the best it’s ever been because of the time they’ve been spending together working from home.  Her kids are learning how to do things for themselves because they are at home and able to.  That’s not to say she isn’t looking forward to them going back to school but they’ve been able to do things with this down time that they never even considered before.  Play, talk and create. 

Now, these last four months surely haven’t been all roses and butterflies.  I’ve experienced sickness and death in my family, I’m not recovering from my surgery like I had thought, I had a few weeks with a lot of pressure and deadlines.  But by taking care of myself and finding newfound ways to be happy and grateful, I have found a sense of greater strength and peace.  If I had to describe how I feel these days that would be it; I’ve found peace.

I know now, that I will never go back to full speed.  I am so much happier doing things in my day that I love to do.  With less structure and plans, I have the ability to go with the flow.  Even working is so much less structured and tense.  I don’t have to work at 8:00 on the dot anymore.  We realize now that punching the clock didn’t matter.  Allowing some freedom in the work environment has made people (me in particular since this is about me) more productive, creative and better employees than before.  I don’t mind checking and responding to a few emails in the evening or on the weekend now if I know that I don’t have to have my butt in a chair from exactly 8 to 4…Every. Single. Day.  

I know I have options now.  And these options allow me to live a little freer (and happier).  When someone asks me how things are going I don’t ever want my answer to be “busy” again. When I get back to teaching classes, likely September, they won’t be live.  But I have options.  I also don’t need to teach that many classes per week.  Especially, with an online forum and following.  I’m lucky.  I have that luxury.  And it makes me happy.  And I plan to continue to work from home, maybe not 100% but as much as I can, for the remainder of my career.  Who wouldn’t want a more productive and happier employee? 

So, one of the first things that a pandemic has taught me is that our choices and priorities matter.  It seems we had them misaligned before the pandemic.  Let’s use this time to re-evaluate what really matters to us.  And self care and, most importantly, sleep is never, ever, ever overrated.  

“Happiness is not something that is read made.  I comes from your own actions” – Dalai Lama