Lessons from the Inside (Since We Can’t Go Anywhere Else)

Well.

These past several weeks have certainly been interesting, have they not? I would have never guessed this option given a lineup of 100, 50, or even 10 paths for 2020 to meander down. And I have to be honest: it has been ROUGH for this girl. I mean, the first month of social distancing, I literally sat on the couch and stared at my phone for 90% of the time (I wish I was exaggerating).

I am a people person. I get my energy from being with groups of other humans, and I have been seriously feeling the effects of running on fumes.

However, as mentally challenging as this time has been, it has also taught me some valuable lessons.

  1. There is no better way to start the day than getting up at a reasonable time. At the beginning of quarantine, I would lay in bed way past the time I usually got up during “normal life,” sometimes rolling out of the blankets as late as 11am (for context, teacher hours usually need a wake-up time of 6:30am at the latest). This led to me feeling like my day was shot anyways, and I would put in zero effort towards anything productive (again, my screen time was embarrassing). A couple of weeks ago, I decided enough was enough and started forcing myself out of bed no later than 8am. Still scandalously late for normalcy, but it has made me feel SO MUCH better about myself. 10/10 would recommend.
  2. Morning walks are the best walks. Since I have been joining the land of the living at ever-more reasonable hours, I have been trying to avoid the heat of the day by taking my (sanity and waist saving) daily walks as soon as I get up. Let me tell you, there is nothing more amazing than walking in cool morning air while the world is just getting started for the day. If you have never experienced the joy that is a leisurely AM stroll, I would definitely endorse the choice to do so.
  3. Humans need to feel productive. On the days when I am becoming one with the couch, I am filled with a sense of hopelessness and uselessness. No matter how many TikToks I view, inspirational posts I like, or Words with Friends rounds I send back to my former neighbor, I never feel a sense of satisfaction and happiness. You would think, of course, that this would be the opposite—since work and doing ‘things’ cause us stress, wouldn’t the opposite of busy lead to internal happiness? Obviously, human beings were made to want to create, and the more we consume, the less time we have to create our own special brand of magic for ourselves.
  4. It helps to have a plan. Every day that I have created a schedule or a checklist for myself has been massively more successful than those that I have not. I rarely get everything done that I lay out for myself, but even the act of writing things out and actually seeing what I want to accomplish makes the likelihood of reaching said accomplishments skyrocket. For many of us, our daily plans were largely controlled by something else (aka our jobs), so having that structure abruptly taken away is actually a pretty big loss. It takes a lot of mental strength to create a structure for yourself (hats off to you, entrepreneurs!) without relying on anyone else mandating all or part of it for you. However, it is crucial for success, no matter what success looks like for you.

As we look at our very different world today, I don’t feel like it is productive to pass judgement on others for how they choose to spend their time and/or react to the weirdness that is the present. However, I think there is no better time to delve into ourselves and learn about this person that you are schlepping around inside. When else will we get a chance to observe with no distractions how we react to adversity, what relationships we strive to hold on to versus others we are content to let drift away, and where we choose to focus our attention when nothing is insistent upon holding it hostage?

We cannot deny that this (hopefully) temporary loss of freedom and communion sucks giant spherical objects. However, no matter what happens in the outside environment, it will always be the inside that counts. Let’s make sure that as we are deep-cleaning the darkest corners of our attics and basements, we are also scrubbing down the accumulations of mental and emotional ick that have built up over the years so that when we can finally emerge, we can do so as a colorful, delicate butterfly: a thing of wonder and beauty, and something that makes life more amazing simply by existing.

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