My father signed his memoir with a scrabble code which spelled
“P E R S P E C T I V E.” His point was that Perspective is one of the most important qualities to hold close to your heart as you navigate adulthood.
COVID-19, much like 9-11, will be another defining moment in history which will shape our Perspective on life. We will be able to recall exactly where we were in that defining moment. For 9-11, I was at the check-out counter at Walmart. I called into work to tell them I’d be in later and the secretary said, “Why are you not staying at home with your boys?” I stayed home.
For COVID-19, I was in a 700-seat, jam-packed, high school auditorium the evening of March 12th. On March 13th, schools closed, and we didn’t have students back in the building for 26 weeks. Once again, I stayed home; as did Kurt, Nathan, and Preston. Like much of the world, we decided to keep ourselves in a self-quarantine state to limit exposure.
As I watched the news, I noticed the shift in Perspective across the world. Perspectives around the bravery of health care and essential workers. Perspectives around education as families began to express great admiration for what teachers can accomplish day-in and day-out. And while those of us who are introverts and gravitate towards solitude to renew our souls, I also began to witness the cost of isolation.
Loss and grief were raw, naked, and further pronounced
For my single friends, I saw the heavy weight of no connection. For my friends with 2 parents working from home and tasked with educating their children remotely, I heard their anguish. And these examples don’t even capture those who lost wages and work; those who are on the brink of or living in poverty; and most of all, those whose doors were darkened with Death. There was more desperation from separation. Loss and grief were raw, naked, and further pronounced as people navigated their agony alone.
Meanwhile, in Preston’s corner of the world, so much is the same. His sweet little heart is sweeter. His ability to express love and give comfort are endless. For instance, he embraces his brother more often with long, lingering hugs. He gently places a blanket and tucks me in on the couch whispering “there you go, momma” while I numb myself with trivial but binge-worthy entertainment. He politely if not persistently knocks on Kurt’s office door and waits until Kurt is free to help get whatever is requested—lunch, a snack, or to open the locked laundry room so Preston can change underwear for the 37th time.
At least he values cleanliness. He may not be able to wear a mask or wash his hands effectively, but he can be darn sure that he wears clean underwear. He literally goes through about 30 pairs a day. I know, because I’ve counted!
Not all is the same. We pulled Preston from his work-training program at the CP Center. We hated to, but we felt that Preston is such a high risk given his heart surgery, proneness to illness, his inability to properly wear PPE and his propensity to generously show affection towards others. Our plan has worked so far. KUB has allowed Kurt to work from home through June. Nathan limits his contact with others, working a bit more from home than at the space, and he has put recreational hockey on hold for the moment. Ironically, I’m the one who is bringing the most exposure into the home by working in a public school with an enrollment of over 2,000.
The Pandemic has taught us new behaviors. Things I never did before COVID-19 include:
online grocery shopping (I splurge for delivery)
hand washing frequently and for a full 20 seconds
daily wiping down kitchen counters, appliances, and surfaces
a complete halt to in-store shopping of any kind
an end-of-work-day routine that includes going straight upstairs to change
clothes, and scrub my face and hands before Preston douses me with hugs
and to keep my vanity in check, I've only visited the hairdresser twice since March, 2020
I’ve been a late bloomer into the podcast world, listening to 8,866 minutes of interviews. A dream podcast would be me in a room with Brene’ Brown and Ian Morgan Cron. I’ve literally listened to all Spotify has to offer from these two professionals.
17,065 minutes lost to escapism
I’ve also learned that sometimes I just want to numb myself. I just want to escape. As such, I’ve tracked all the binge-watching I’ve engaged in during COVID. Are you sitting down? It’s 17,065 minutes. That’s equal to 284.41 hours or 11.85 days. Such slothfulness! Another Perspective could be that it’s only 1 1/3 days a month during COVID. So, I could argue that I just spent the equivalent of 2/3 of each weekend in pure escape-mode. At least that justification makes me feel a bit less slothy; none less guilty, though.
It hasn’t all been sloth. Those 8,866 minutes of podcasts were listened to while walking. That’s 147.66 hours or 6.15 entire days and nights worth of exercise and self-improvement. And for the first time in 33 years of marriage, I made 100% of all courses of the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. While I very much missed celebrating with extended family, it was good to know that I can, at 59, prepare an entire feast all by myself. At least for a moment it felt good. I’ve also gotten more sleep. It may not be all restful sleep, but I’m gifting myself more hours to rest. Self-care has never been my strong suit, so I see this as one small step towards self-improvement.
So while I binged away 17,065 minutes, what do others do? Dolly Parton at 74 shared her music to the streaming industry for the first time, launched a bedtime story series for children, and donated $1 million to Vanderbilt Medical Center for COVID-19 research which specifically helped advance the Moderna Vaccine. And if you haven’t listened to her latest release, “When Life Is Good Again,” it is a must. Her Perspective on getting through the crisis is heartwarming and centers on kindness.
Then there’s 21 year old Chris Nikic. What does Chris Nikic do during a Pandemic? He’s the first person with Down syndrome to complete an Ironman Triathlon! It seems Chris chose to be productive during the pandemic. Well, I guess I’ve got my new year’s resolution made for me: watch less Netlfix.
Through all the chaos of COVID, health and family have remained our priorities. Kurt has beautifully embraced the role of Mr. Mom, he has maintained his biking regime, he encourages connections with a few good friends via walking and hiking and manages to enhance his outdoor castle with some finishing touches. Touches such as holiday lighting, a canopy extension to the outdoor fire pit and the addition of two rocking chairs.
Reminiscent of the days when he’d build ginormous leaf piles for all the neighborhood kids to play, he keeps a stash of leaves for Ashwin to bounce around in. He also built a snowman and a snowdog with Ashwin’s help after our Christmas snowfall. Kurt is the anti-thesis of sloth! Always has been. Always will be.
Nathan continues his work with Vessul Creative. In July and October, he traveled to Colorado and Maine with Kurt and continues his fondness for photography.
Nathan shows up in unexpected moments. Like this minute-and-a-half long hug with brother, the "Your My Hero" message on the chocolate bar he gave me, and when he selects a movie or series like Ted Lasso for the four of us to cram on the couch together and watch, laugh and cry together. He also reminds us that while the world was turned upside down in 2020, Preston's smile didn't change all year!
That’s our Perspective on 2020.
We hope you keep yours in 2021.