The early days of pandemic isolation have felt familiar. It took about a week to articulate it: these days at home feel very much like the early days after my divorce. Five years ago, I was disoriented by all the extra time I had on my hands without my daughter. She had been by my side for her entire eight years, and I really didn't know what to do with myself. I stayed in because I didn't have the money to go out, and I didn't want to admit how lonely and scared I was. I ached with sadness, fatigue, and fear of the unknown. In today's isolation, though I am concerned about my family's health and how the devastated economy will affect my work, I feel lighter and freer. There is some comfort knowing I am not alone in these worries or spending all of this time at home.
Long before I self-identified as a gardener, I was cultivating the soil of my heart and mind. I worked hard to make fertile the ground in which a new life could take root. I am grateful today for that toil and sweat. I am in a much better place to take on the challenges of this hour. I have practice under my belt in navigating the unknown. I spent yesterday in bed reading soothing my worried self about what would happen if I lost my job. I gave myself the day to sit with those scary thoughts and began imagining that scenario and made some plans.
Today I woke up feeling stronger, made a list of things I would like to accomplish—this blog post being one of them—and can say when I hit publish, I will have crossed off every single one of the items plus also mowing my lawn, which was not on the list. (Thank you sunshine!)
The following list are things I have done to fill my time or found especially joyful as I stay at home to do my part in flattening the curve of this damn virus.
Tulips, Daffodils, and Hydrangeas
One afternoon last autumn, I planted 60 bulbs. I had underestimated how hard the work would be particularly trying to plant the bulbs in the rocky soil up my hill and around the base of a tree whose root system was an invisible tangle below the surface. Under my breath, I had a few choice words and muttered that these bulbs “had better take root next spring!” While in isolation, those beauties did indeed appear, and they have been a comfort. We have had a lot of wind, and those blossoms remind me how life is both fragile and sturdy. Some blossoms lost the fight and ended up in a vase in my living room while others have toughed it out bending with the gales.
I also planted two hydrangeas around my patio last summer. They didn't fare well, and I assumed that they wouldn't come back this spring. I was wrong! Both plants have new growth, and I am so excited to watch how they develop into stronger, beautiful plants this year. This gardening life is a constant teacher showing me how to live a deeper, richer life.
If you told me that during a pandemic, I would STOP BITING MY NAILS, I would not have believed you. It isn't logical. This is the scariest, most surreal time I have ever experienced, and yet I do not feel compelled to chew nervously on my nails. I am sure that being conscious of the importance of keeping my hands away from my face and the constant hand washing is helping, but it's still a silver lining in this nightmare scenario.
I adopted a one-year-old blue tick coon hound two months ago. I had been talking myself out of canine companionship since after my divorce, and then one week in February, the prospect of having a dog seemed like the right next step. I fell in love with my dog from a photo on the rescue's Instagram feed. We met her, she put her paws in my daughter's lap within moments of meeting each other, and I was convinced we needed each other. We named her Ivy Valentine. My daughter is so happy to have a dog, and still can't believe it happened “at Mom's house!” Ivy has completed the Mahoney Girls Household. The timing of her adoption feels divine. Her company is a comfort in these days of isolation.
Shopping Local and Doing Good
When I buy books (which I don't do often because, libraries) and soap, I have committed to shopping local. These two stores are next door to each other, and they are female owned. I want these businesses to weather the pandemic, so I am doing my part.
There has been such an emphasis on volunteerism during this shelter-at-home time, and I just haven't had it in me to step out my door. My introversion has kicked into high gear, and I just want to stay inside. It was wearing on me that I wasn't doing my part. In time, I placed my first online stamp order (such a great assortment!), and began writing letters to friends who come to mind. This practice reminded me that this is my contribution. Writing letters is what I DO. I tune into the comments of friends online and note when it sounds like someone could use a pick-me-up. I also pay attention to the names who come to mind, and use that nudge as a sign that that's the next person to write. Since I've been writing letters regularly, my anxiety about not doing enough has diminished.(And I'm also doing my part in supporting the USPS.)
The self-care measures I have implemented in the past five years are serving me well now. I am grateful that I am familiar with signs that I am in need of extra nurture and know how to offer that to myself. This self-knowledge is an immeasurable gift in the days of coronavirus.