A year spent at home: Taking stock and looking forward

By Leah Persky, PhD & Certified Family Life Educator  • Family Life Education Manager

I don’t think I have ever spent so much time in my house, and I know this is true for so many of us. The cleaning, cooking, dishes, laundry….did I say dishes? It has been a strange mix of emotions on any given day for so many of us during this past year. We have come to live in something I now think of as pandemic time. How is it, almost a year has passed since we have retreated to our homes and engaged in distancing from so much of normal life; where did the time go and what do we have to show for it?

This is the question I have been mulling over lately as I reflect on all that we have lost in the past year, and try to understand what we might have gained. I feel a sense of gratitude for the time and ability to reflect like this, as I know the toll this year has taken on millions of people has been so heavy and tragic. So many are still intensely grieving or struggling to regain their health and/or financial footing. In the words below, I focus on my experiences and thoughts, thinking that many people will have similar experiences, but knowing I am lucky and have so much to be grateful for – even amid the many challenges stemming from the pandemic, and social/political upheaval of the past year.

Time has taken on a new sensation – a sense of being more fleeting, yet slower at any given hour. It is like the saying that often gets passed down to new parents: “the days are long, but the years are short.” I don’t know who said that originally, but this quote has stuck with me the past year, as much as it did in the early years of my daughter’s life, when she was sleeping so very little. I have felt time suspended in an afternoon when I couldn’t focus on much of anything while trying to work and keep my kids from fighting with each other, or maybe while putting away the dishes for the 700th time and thinking of my long to-do list.

Yes, I realize my privilege to be complaining of such things, but that is the thing about life, especially as of late – our lives become boiled down to a microcosm of what they once were. Yes, we may talk to people or video chat with people who live close and far, and this brings connection, but the minutiae of the everyday mixed with the large scale of uncertainty of what is next, is unlike anything I have ever experienced. The overwhelming nature of the uncertainty; the time spent in the same place with the same company; the challenge of keeping up with all that needs to happen in a day, plus the additional and real worries this pandemic has brought to so many of us, is something that we will all not soon forget. The strange mix of uncertainty, worry, loss, and all of the work. How can we find something larger and something positive within this?

I’ve always had a list of resources for you in past articles. But this time, things feel different and it doesn’t feel authentic to respond with a neatly laid out list and a clear plan of action.

Rather, when I stop to think about the many and complex challenges we are dealing with and how much we have accomplished and learned in the past year, I am struck by how strong, resilient and capable we all are.  

Amidst the longing and loss, there is space for new plans and ideas and re-discovery of what we love and what we are missing in our lives today. We can go forward and plan lightly for the future, now that we have proof that we are adaptable, bendable, and able to deal with what comes next. We know life will go on, and while things aren’t simply going to return to the old normal, there will be new opportunities for exploration, learning, fun, and being together (or whatever else you are most missing). Most importantly, this past year has taught us that we are capable of so much, including so much love and caring for each other and ourselves. We continue to be strong, despite the many and varied challenges. We will continue to go forward amid the uncertainty and the chores and work, because we know that this is what we do.

Know that you have accomplished and learned so much in the past year. Take a moment to reflect on that; maybe write a list of the things that come to mind. I am not talking about running a marathon or getting a promotion. It is the little things that matter most now. Maybe you helped a neighbor, cooked a new recipe, read a book, stopped to enjoy (I mean really enjoy) something you might often take for granted, or explored something new. These are the small wins; the things that make all our lives richer and will sustain us until the new normal slowly develops and we adapt to it. Who knows, maybe you will even miss some of the small things and habits that have inhabited your life over the past year? 

This strange year of pandemic time has also allowed so many of us to realize what we hold most dear and miss most; what we most value. This hasn’t been easy, but maybe we have found a few small bright spots and this will continue to carry us through these uncertain times. While the old normal will most likely never return, I look forward to a new normal where we can be together safely, celebrate all that we have accomplished and learned, and mourn for those we have lost.

JFCS is here to help you and your family. During this exceptional time of need, we continue to provide the same highly professional, confidential service with boundless compassion. Please reach out to learn more about our support services including counseling, free parent coaching, emergency financial assistance and food security, support for seniors and career coaching. Let us know how we can help here, or call us at 952-546-0616.