The Lessons We Learn

Or Choose to Ignore

Photo by Yogendra Singh

A break from someone will either help you realize

how much you truly miss/love them or

how much peace you have without them.

Saw this on Instagram this week

It’s been a year since the start of this pandemic. Hard to believe that much time has passed because to many of us, not much has changed. I say many of us because the majority of people in the world were not personally touched by tragedy. Many died, many got sick, we almost all experienced some sort of lockdown, but many among us were not personally touched by the pandemic . . . and yet.

We want to believe that it’s almost over; there is only so much disruption the average person can tolerate. In truth, COVID-19 will be with us for a long time, perhaps permanently. Over the last few months I have heard many intelligent, resourceful, optimistic people, talk about the upside of this pandemic. For many, the upside has been a discovery of who we are, what we can endure, and what we ultimately want out of our lives. A lot of this is me convincing myself that everything will be okay.

My education, training, and Ph.D. are in higher education, therefore, I am ill equipped to speculate on how this virus will impact our psychological well-being. As usual, I will write from my own experience and observations. What I propose is not science or gospel, it is one individual’s point of view. A point of view I am certain is shared by many and can be seen as a way of understanding why some of us do what we do or say what we say.

The Lessons I have Learned

One of the big life lessons for me is how much joy that I get from going to the gym five or six days a week. Aside from the use of machines to stay in somewhat decent shape, I do a great deal of socializing at the gym. I get there early, very early, and spend about an hour and 15 minutes catching up with gym friends and doing a semi-rigorous workout; convincing myself that because I do this, I can eat anything I want. This has been a steady practice for the last 40 years and until now, I have never missed more than a week at the gym in any given year; I even book hotels with gyms so that I can workout when on vacation. The lesson is, I need to be motivated by others in order to work harder, and two, the routine keeps me on track for the remainder of the day. No doubt I am much more productive after a workout.

I now know that going to bed at the same time everyday and waking up at the same time every morning, helps me to be and feel completely rested throughout the day. When I’m not in lockdown and I go to bed later, I still wake-up early, making me feel sluggish the entire day.

I have rediscovered the joy of cooking. I’m more creative in the kitchen than I have have ever been and I now have a large selection of recipes filed away in my head. The knowledge that things I might have been passionate about in the past can be revived, is the lesson for me. I have been doing a mental sweep of past activities or habits that have fallen to the wayside; several of the positive habits of my youth are worth revisiting (e.g., spending a good deal of time in nature, exploring music).

What I Have Heard From Others

  • Being home with my partner 24/7 forced me to communicate with him or her and truly get to know them. Well, you know which way that one might go.
  • I started out on my sofa in the morning, and ended up there at night.
  • I never realized how disconnected I was with my children. Time with them has been a rediscovery and gift.
  • I need structure in my life, otherwise I do nothing.
  • I never thought I had it in me to do ____________________.
  • I never realized how much I enjoy my own company.
  • I have finally learned to balance work and leisure time.
  • I didn’t have to do as much laundry while in lockdown.
  • We didn’t have much to say to one another after a while.
  • He got on my nerves.
  • I fell back in love with him.
  • I kept worrying that one of us were going to get the virus.
  • We never ran out of toilet paper.

Human beings are super resilient. Faced with adversity we find ways to make change, improvements, and get on with life. This pandemic has forced people to consider new careers and work in ways they never imagined they would or could. Sitting down and taking inventory of what lessons have presented themselves to us is important. Don’t just assume you will realize what you’ve been taught or what you have taken for granted. Pat yourself on the back for what you have accomplished and make that a habit, in time, you’ll rely on others less for motivation. Internal encouragement and cheerleading is healthy and will lead to success. It will also lead to your encouragement of others — something we do not do nearly enough. I think this is one of the reasons so many seek “likes” on social media.

The Lessons We Refuse to Learn

What has amazed me throughout this pandemic, is the number of people who refuse to a wear mask or who continue to gather in close spaces with large numbers of people. I’ve seen some of this in my own family and I find it baffling. When you consider the number of people who have lost their lives, the enormous amount of people who became seriously ill, and the impact closing the economy on the world has had on billions of people, many, refuse to believe the pandemic should be taken seriously. Refusing to comply with mandates is madness and a selfish act of defiance. Again, I rely on karma in place of revenge. Yes, I’m slightly pissed off.

Some of us have used this past year as an excuse to overindulge and become complacent; rationalizing the pandemic as a pass for sluggish behavior (who’s watching anyway). It’s not too late to get out of bed and start something new; something that might someday have you saying:

The pandemic was the start of me realizing my potential and fulfilling my dreams.

Travel

Cancelled Cuba which was scheduled for April 22. The government wanted to hole me up in my hotel room for a few days and bring me food. I’d be watching god knows what on TV waiting for COVID test results. Not going to happen. Rescheduled to February 2022. The good news (I think) is that I’m headed to São Miguel in the Azores instead. I’ve already book tours to the volcanos, falls and gin tasting. I’ll be writing about it for sure.

United Airlines wanted to re-book me from Lisbon to Newark on my seven hour flight, headed home in May. Their proposal: go through two countries in the wrong direction and get me to the States 29 hours later. I should note that this is without apology. Not going to happen. Booked Delta on a direct flight and crossing my fingers.

Toulouse, France in June: flight cancelled for the fourth time. This time I put it off until April 2022 (just around the corner).

I have tickets on EasyJet for Lyon, France in June; I’m waiting for that cancellation. They have already changed one of the legs of my journey. See a pattern here?

Bristol, UK in July. I’m thinking this will happen, it’s been postponed three times.

No sign of a vaccine for me here in Portugal, they’re very slow in getting this done. I’ll be getting lots of COVID-19 tests done for travel. It does feel a bit like things are changing for the good. There’s that optimist.

I’ve Been a Bad Boy

This week I started a big fight on Facebook around the issue of dog poop in Portugal. I have to say it was fun to watch it play out. People get really passionate around any attack on culture. I had to unfriend a couple of crazies. Root canal this week as well; a tooth infection could take you down a dark path. My dentist insisted it was a receding gum issue — doctors could do a better job listening to their patients.

Resources:

COVID: The Lessons I Learned From Lockdowns in 2020, BBC News, January 5, 2021

Five Lessons We Have Learned From Lockdown, Pro Group, Tom Eagle

Question of the Week:

Name something you learned about yourself during this pandemic?

8 thoughts on “The Lessons We Learn

  1. The one thing I’ve learned during this Pandemic is that sometimes there isn’t enough Xanax in my house to calm me down when I watch the news. I have had more than my usual anxiety to deal with this past year. Although I always say that the Pandemic really hasn’t changed my life much since I am a homebody anyway, I truly miss being hugged. My friend Hana visited for 5 months from Egypt and stayed at her sister’s house in Paramus, NJ. I only went to see her once because it was warm enough to sit outside that day in October. I hadn’t seen her in 25 yrs, since her last visit to the US, and I couldn’t hug her. It broke my heart not to be able to hold her and tell her how happy I was to see her. It actually felt awkward to just say hi and go sit down. It was even harder when my visit with her was over and knowing that I will probably never see her again, I couldn’t hug her. She is now back in Egypt and all I have is FB to communicate with her. I NEED A HUG!!!

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  2. Hi Chris. As always, I enjoyed your post. I, like you, am doing most of this situation. I’ve not been brave enough to go to my gym here in Rio but I do have my PT come to our house twice a week. I also walk around a beautiful lagoon 3x a week an average of 10-12 miles a day. I do the classes in the patio surrounded by trees, flowers, birds, and little monkeys as if we were in the jungle. My sister-in-law feeds all of them and they are a delight to watch. I also started learning another language some months before the Covid-19 but now I don’t skip classes. I also have daily classes for my brain, which show me that I’m in very good shape mentally. I’m slower than I used to be but in very good shape for a 75 years old. The environment and these activities take care of my physical and mental health.

    I’m staying with my brother and my sister-in-law in our family home and we get along very well. Even when I disagree with my brother’s politics, we are still brother and sister and civilized. I discovered that I’m more patient now.

    Like you, I do not understand these selfish people. Their rights to do as they please ends when they harm others.

    Happy Easter, Chris

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  3. Dear one,
    I really enjoyed this blog too. I have really spent me time as I did prepandemic working in my studio and taking walks alone. A lot did not change, but I do miss hugging friends, going out to dinner and working out at the gym. (I plan to start going now that I am 3 weeks past my vaccination date but will still wear a mask and wash well when I get home (one flight down from the in house gym). I miss going to movies too, but thank god for Netflix (who knew I would love Schitts Creek)? and Disney+

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  4. You’re too funny. I couldn’t get into Schitt’s Creek. All of you people out there missing hugs. Thank you again for reading my blog — and I don’t even have to guilt you into it.

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  5. Hey Chris. Love reading your blogs! After reading, I always feel like I know something about myself I haven’t defined before. Some days it is harder than others, but the pandemic has helped me to try to find 1 positive thing in my life every day. I find it helps keep me more “level”. 💕 XO

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