I’m sure none of us could picture where we are now a year ago, or even back in January 2020. I know I couldn’t. I was filled with hope, creating vision boards, writing down my goals in my planner for the year, and making plans for things I wanted to achieve. Then, three months into the year, we were all placed in quarantine, or “stay-at-home” orders because of the Coronavirus outbreak.
For me, personally, it was a little tough to navigate. My full-time job was still there, but we closed our offices. And, since I wrote about travel, my days were consumed with writing negative news. When before, I was used to sharing stories about my travels, about great travel deals, and about innovations in the industry. Instead, I found myself day after day writing about countries shutting down, tour operators and cruise lines halting operations, borders being closed, airlines grounded, and hotels closing their doors. While many found themselves with free time on their hands, I found myself cranking out more stories a day than I was used to. My fingers and wrists aching by the end of the day from the endless typing, many nights past my “end time” at work.
Working from home didn’t consist of leisurely walks, time with my family, or even sneaking in my favorite TV show. It consisted of covering bad news, over and over and over. After a couple of weeks, I felt it started to get to me. I felt drained. One night I even started to cry—For. No. Reason. That’s when I knew, I had to make the time to find the silver linings so to say, in this new reality we were all forced in.
I took a blank page from my favorite planner—The Happy Planner—and at the top of the page I wrote: “Taking this crazy time of quarantine and chaos to remember there is still a lot to be thankful for during the madness and confusion.”
I started off with the mindset that I would write down one thing I was thankful for each day no matter how big or how small. In my decorated sheet with inspired quotes and stickers all around, I started to jot down simple things…things like a phone call with a family member I couldn’t see because of the COVID lockdown, Zoom calls with friends, having the ability to do my job from home, sleepovers with my niece and nephew, a group text with co-workers, a friend texting to remind me to take a break because she knew I had been overwhelmed for days with work, bike rides, time to read, Instagram live DJ sessions (and therefore dance parties in my room), or simply the fact that my girlfriends and I had all day group texts—that kept me sane—going on.
Slowly life started to get busy once again as restrictions started to lift. And I started to write less often. But, every few days I would remember, and jot down a few things I was grateful for that happened in the recent days.
Now, reading the “Plan a Happy Life” book by Stephanie Fleming, I was reminded to make time to be grateful. As life has begun to feel more normal in many ways, and many things are back up and running again, my thankful list has been quite forgotten for some time. In her book, Fleming reminds us that even when things around us are going horribly wrong, whether our work, personal relationships, health, or the world—we can find something to be grateful for. Even if on some days the only thing you can think of is that you woke up, you have a home, or you have air flowing through your lungs. The power of the mind is a great one. And, if we are constantly putting out negative thoughts, we will never get to live our happy life. This isn’t to say that we need to abandon the negative thoughts and hardships. Because at times, they will come. Bad things will happen. But in that madness, in that insecurity, fear, and uncertainty, we need to remind ourselves to be grateful.
How did you spent you time in quarantine? As much as this time was unwarranted, unwanted for some, and crazy, it was a time we will never have again. A time with no commitments. No parties. No family obligations. No work trips. No errands (at least not many). No after school sports. No pickup lines at school. For some, no commute. Nothing to take up your hours with mundane routines and regularly scheduled programming.
Though many things are back to normal, many are still cancelled. Many people are still working from home. Some gatherings and family and friend commimtments are still not happening. Travel might not be back for you yet. There are still pockets of extra time in your daily life, from what you filled your days with pre-pandemic.
I’m not saying you need to write the next great American novel, or even do anything innovative. But, take some time for yourself. Allow yourself to just be. Allow yourself to indulge in the “me time” you were probably lacking before. Don’t fill those hours with routine tasks. Let some of those hours be just for you. Let some of those hours be to journal. To be thankful. To pray. To reflect. To do whatever it is that brings you peace, clarity, and joy.
For those of you who might want to start a list of things to be thankful for during this madness, save, screenshot, or download the sheet below. Print it. Save it to Goodnotes on your iPad. Save it on your desktop. Put it in your journal or planner, or kitchen bulletin board. Put it in a spot you’ll see. Use it. Because this is a time in your life….in the world… that we have been given to slow down (somewhat still). Use it for good.