The past few months, I have focused a lot of energy on all that has been lost due to COVID-19. I know I’m not alone in practically creating an itemized list of disappointments, a seemingly natural response but one which only further emphasizes the loss. This season has caused, at minimum, an unexpected detour for everyone. For many, it has created complete upheaval and the resulting loss has been devastating. The reality is, our experiences have varied tremendously during this season but a unifying thread has emphasized all that has been lost.
For me, the loss has often been felt by the absence of a highly anticipated and fully scheduled season of plans. I am someone who prepares, plans, and creates schedules. I like to know what we’re going to do when. This summer was no different; I had big plans for travel, visiting family and friends, and exploring our new neck-of-the-woods. After a long Minnesota winter, during which we experienced periods of social isolation due to the extreme weather conditions, and with few opportunities to establish connections in our new community, the anticipation of this summer was the light at the end of the tunnel. COVID changed all of that.
I still struggle with frustration over the lack of things working out the way I had hoped. But, I am doing my best to extend a small measure of grace as I recognize my disappointment over the small but very anticipated plans. I realize that this is part of my loss: disappointment over anticipated plans. Trips planned months ago. Anticipation to reestablish connections. Hope for creating memories and new experiences with family and friends. An expectation for a season of fun, excitement, and interaction. Yet here we are, now into July, having experienced just a fraction of what I had previously planned. Loss.
However, I’m almost surprised to admit, there have been moments, even days, where I have been content. While this season has been unexpected in so many ways and filled with so much loss, I’ve started to realize I can still find enjoyment in all that still is.
For example, we recently visited a nearby park to cool off in the lake and enjoy a picnic supper. As my husband and I watched the kids splash in the water, I thought about how I wished we could take a trip somewhere new and exciting and the kids could play in the water and dig in the sandy beach. Then it struck me: we’re here, doing just that. Yes, it’s close to home and potentially not as exciting as a different location might be but it is a lake with a sandy beach. True, we’re not in “vacation mode,” but we are enjoying an evening of relative relaxation and pure fun. For the past few months, I’ve been laser focused on all the plans we were missing out on and yet there we were enjoying a spontaneous outing.
Unexpectedly, the loss in plans has given me an opportunity to regroup and more deeply appreciate some of the routine and activities I often take for granted. Recently, I decided to start thinking of things I get to enjoy on a daily basis. My morning cup of coffee, for example. I look forward to sipping my coffee with an accompanying few moments of a restorative devotion before the chaos of the day starts. Something small that still is.
Although we won’t get the summer I had anticipated, we have been creating mini moments of excitement even as we mostly stay within the confines of our small town. Tending a small vegetable garden, walking to the nearby park, riding bikes, seeing family, enjoying picnics in the backyard, and sitting around the campfire while the kids roast marshmallows (which for them consists of holding a roasting stick over the flames for roughly a half second before excitedly declaring “It’s done!” and happily consuming the not roasted marshmallow.) Despite the loss, there’s a lot that still is; acknowledging this has been a life changing reminder for me. As we headed out the door the other night for another picnic, my son enthusiastically exclaimed, “I love these vacations!” A good shift in perspective.
This unexpected season has reminded me, for possibly the hundredth time in my life, that despite the loss, there’s a calm and contentment that accompanies a shift to focus on all that still is. And for now, I’m working to incorporate that contentment and recenter my perspective. I still acknowledge the disappointment, but instead of focusing exclusively on all the loss, I have been working to also recognize all that still is.
Wendi, her husband, and their two kids are currently perfecting their best “ya sure you betcha” accents, having recently relocated to northern Minnesota. She is co-author of the blog The Unexpected Ever Afters and a member of the podcast Moms Who Wine.
*photo credit: personal photo*