COVID-19 has curtailed many activities in my daily life just as it has for all of us. It has limited my contact with other people and it has given me more time to be with myself. For an introvert, these are good things. But even for my friends who aren’t so inclined, I see them experiencing the unexpected joys of living within their current limitations.
Within these limitations, there is a freedom – freedom to create new routines, freedom to create new ways of connecting with others, freedom to break old habits, freedom from self-imposed social obligations, freedom to pursue new interests and most of all, freedom to step away from how I’ve always done things. What I thought I could not live without, I am living without. It is good.
I am learning to appreciate having fewer things on my schedule, to be more present with where I am instead of thinking about where I am going. I have time to notice my own thoughts, feelings and sensations. It is not so much about what it is on my mind, but where my mind is at any given moment.
walking through the Beekman woods
a tree stopped me
It was only then
I realized how brisk
my thoughts whirling
as fast as my feet
my breaths short and shallow
The tree’s stillness startled me
I am also noticing that when my world gets smaller, it gets deeper. While I am not able to participate in large gatherings, the small ones have gotten sweeter. I seem to have the emotional bandwidth for only my essential relationships. Coffee and a fresh baked Dutch Baby on the back porch with two friends for one hour feels like a banquet. I am full. A Facetime call with out-of-state friends or family filled with laughter and appreciation is all I need to feel connected. Love seem to come in concentrated forms. Simple, potent and real.
There are new social rituals. As I am about to encounter another hiker on the Woodland trails coming towards me, I step to the side to let them pass or they do the same or we put on our masks. Kindness seems more spontaneous. These small gestures are like deep bows to one another. We respect the fact that we are sharing this space, this planet, this time together.
And in moments when I feel shaky, the constancy of nature is consoling.
When I am restless
despairing for the world
worried for our future
I take to the Woodlands
to smell the pines
I sprint to Mother Madrone
to rest in her stillness
All things wild
Are my refuge
The stars await me at night
The moon softens my gloom
Nature whispers “Everything is all right.”
As time slows down, I discover the richness and challenge of living a quieter, more contemplative life. I am grateful to know about mindfulness practice, yoga and other tools that help me navigate this inner landscape. But being with myself is not always easy. I find out who I am when I am not around other people. Psychologist Carl Jung advised, “Suffer yourself so that others don’t have to suffer you.” I am suffering myself. I hope you will appreciate this. Humor helps.
I realize my COVID experience would be different if I had school-age children to attend to, a job to maintain or elderly parents to care for, but I think we are all having to learn to live with ourselves and with our families in new ways. Hopefully, we are learning to be kinder to ourselves and to our loved ones. When we emerge from our cocoons, will we be kinder to one another?
About Frank DeLuca
Frank De Luca moved to Jacksonville with his partner Ken Gregg in 2012. Since closing his psychotherapy practice in California, he has been writing a book on the Enneagram, a system to better understand yourself and other people. A Guide to Humans: Cultivating Kindness Through the Enneagram will be out next year. You can see Frank’s poetry and Ken’s photography whenever you pass the windows of the former Eagle Brewery Saloon on South Oregon Street.