Q Essentials

As I begin to write on a Sunday in late March, the spring season is offering its first raucous rumbles of thunder in my neighborhood. They are loud enough to send Penny scrambling for cover under the bed in what is now the After Hours home studio.

I’ve always loved thunderstorms–their power and strength and majestic display with lightning that splits the sky. On this morning, I can’t help but think how appropriate the metaphor for what we’re going through as a nation in early 2020: one giant, loud, scary storm. But even under a dark and electric canopy with its cracks of thunder, the neighborhood is turning green. Grass is growing and bushes are covered with fresh buds and leaves. Trees are loaded with bright pink and white flowers. Daffodils and crocuses are poking up through the soil. New life is everywhere I look. Despite the uncertainty and anxiety that come with this unprecedented crisis, spring is arriving right on time.

The signs of spring are invaluable for me right now. They remind me that time keeps moving, even when it feels like our world has come to a grinding halt or when I can’t see the light at the end of this tunnel. It seems like so much of the world as we know it has disappeared; at times, it’s tempting to let my mind wander to worst case scenarios. But I can’t live there. I can’t stay there. Very LITTLE about the current situation is in my grasp and control. But I can control my thoughts, and I can refuse to let my emotions dictate my mood and attitude. I can also control what my little corner of quarantine looks like.

A couple years ago, I threw out this question on my radio show: what five essentials would you want with you if you were stranded on a desert island? Lockdown feels a bit like a deserted island for me. Of course, I have access to the outside world through technology, and I have plenty of food and water and all the creature comforts of home. BUT the isolation is real, and there’s no way to get off the “island” right now. To that end, I put together my list of essentials for this home hibernation.

ROUTINE. I need it. My zoo needs it. As much as possible, I’m staying in the routine that fits my work schedule. Of course, that requires discipline, another “Q” essential. While I really miss driving, I don’t miss the commute (or the accompanying road rage!) in and out of New York City. But the pets are used to eating at a certain time, and Penny is used to walking at a certain time. They have absolutely NO idea why I’m talking so much in the middle of the night, but I’m keeping everything else the same for them. When they’re calm, it’s easier for me to stay calm.

The temptation to be lazy and put off exercise or procrastinate cleaning the house is real! But I know me, and even though it’s only me for the foreseeable future, dirty floors and a sink full of dishes or piled up laundry will add to my stress. So I update my daily to-do list and I find music or a podcast to listen to, and I keep up with my daily “chores.” I’m not overly ambitious, but it helps me to set goals and achieve them. To that end, I also reward myself with extra time to read, a piece of chocolate, a NAP!

REST. Two months ago at the end of a busy winter season or six months ago in the throes of October, I would have been thrilled for a few weeks at home. Be careful what you wish for, right?! While I never could have anticipated a spring like this one, not in my wildest imaginations, it’s not all bad. Yes, I miss sports; more than that, I miss my family and my church. But it’s a blessing to sloooooow down and not put gas in my car for three weeks. Even as I stick to some semblance of a routine, I remind myself it’s alright to pause and breathe. Usually at this time of year, I’m running around like a chicken with no head. And while this spring isn’t completely devoid of stress, the pace of life is drastically slower…and I don’t want to waste the opportunity. With no fire to rush off to, I can practice patience with my dog when she takes her sweet old time, and I can doze off on my book. I can stop to talk to neighbors and take pictures of the flowers. Now is the time to do all those things!

PHONE CALLS. I’ll confess there are times in the last month when I’ve been jealous of family and friends who aren’t stuck at home alone. Sure, I’m used to living by myself, but it’s entirely different when I CAN’T visit family for our birthdays or get together with friends at our favorite restaurant. And this Italian girl misses hugs! There are moments and hours when I’ve really struggled with loneliness, but the same thing pulls me out every time. Thank you, Alexander Graham Bell, for inventing the telephone! I know the 1876 version barely resembles what we have now, but where would we be without the contraption that allows us to communicate across the miles??

Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent hours on the phone, catching up with people I love all over the country. Hearing their voices, laughing with them, sharing our frustrations–all of it keeps me steady and reminds me I’m NOT alone. I am so grateful for the TIME they’ve invested in me, and I want to stay connected, even after we’re all released from home base.

TIME AWAY FROM THE SCREENS. It’s hard to imagine where we would be without all the 2020 technology that allows us to work from home, conduct all our personal business, order groceries and other supplies and see one another on our computers or devices. I could easily spend 18 hours a day staring at those screens, but I need time away from my laptop and smartphone. To that end, I might be the only person in America under the age of 80 who hasn’t tried Zoom yet, ha! I’m setting aside a block of time each day for answering emails, prepping for my shows, and watching TV. After a couple hours, I can feel my stress level increasing so I have to step away and clear my brain. It’s important for me to find balance between natural light and the glow from my screens.

THANKFULNESS. Multiple times over the past couple weeks, I’ve felt myself careening around on a wild roller coaster of emotion. From sadness to anxiety to uncertainty to loneliness–I can’t spend the next two months like that. In those moments, I force myself to list all the reasons I have to be thankful. I praise the Lord for them out loud! My family is healthy; my grandmother is safe; a friends’ parents have both recovered from the virus. I still have a job I love, and I’m able to work from home. My bills are paid. As I finish this post on my birthday, I am grateful for spring sunshine and brilliant blue skies and warmer temps. I am so thankful for all the people who’ve reached out to let me know they love me today and over the past few weeks. By focusing on the blessings in my life, it’s impossible to remain discouraged or worried or frustrated.

No doubt, this is a season unlike any other. Uncharted waters and foreign territory. There’s so little about this spring that we can control. But it IS possible to find joy and peace in the midst of this crisis. It IS possible to see the silver linings. It IS possible to grab onto hope, another Q essential, one that I’m holding onto with all my might.

Psalm 4:8/Psalm 56:3/Jeremiah 29:11-13

 

 

 

4 Responses to “Q Essentials”

  1. Clay Winkler Says:

    Thanks great article

  2. Mike Stoumen Says:

    That’s a very nice article Amy. Thanks! Also, Happy Birthday to you. I hope that you’re having a wonderful day.

  3. thomas bell Says:

    good article amy and HAPPY BIRTHDAY

  4. janet marie alden Says:

    Amy, I so needed to hear this. Thank you for articulating all the feelings I have been experiencing. These are very scary and uncertain times, but you have reassured me that there is hope. Love you.

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