Each morning during self-isolation I’ve been without my normal routine. Normally, pre-COVID-19, I’d awaken early, make breakfast for the kids, see them off to school, head to the gym or yoga, come home to get ready, and then go to my office.
Now, I’m staying up late, usually until midnight, sometimes one or two, and there is no routine to awaken for. My kids have been sleeping in on days when there are no Zoom classes, or getting up two minutes before class, which they can attend in their pajamas. No breakfast to make, no gym available to visit. The only thing consistent is my “go to the office” routine, which has been at home since the kids were born.
Frankly, I like sleeping till I awaken and not having to deal with an alarm, but I do miss those morning routines with the kids. And this week one of my triplets graduated with a Zoom call, and the other two are officially graduating next week.
Leaving the Nest
My wife and I are mourning because we’ve looked forward to this day for years, watching our little birds released from school and ready to move to more self-sufficiency in college. But in spite of the school’s best efforts, a Zoom call graduation was somehow so anticlimactic. There were relatives watching the call, but no gatherings of family flying in, no party, no graduation dinner, and not even a chance to see all the kids our children grew up with one last time.
This moment has made me realize that the absence of ceremony is a casualty of this “hidden enemy.” Though I typically dread moments when I need to put on a suit and tie and sit through hours of mind-numbing content, I’m actually missing it. It would be an absolute joy to see these faces beaming at the prospect of their accomplishments in school and in anticipation of their future. And what a joy to see the faces of kids from Scouts, the playground, from playdates, from band outings, from Halloween and school plays, and so much more. And what a disappointment that we don’t get that closure, knowing we won’t see most of them ever again.
Last week we opened our soundstage for the first time for me to shoot an interview with an artist who came in for the shoot, and the ceremony of a handshake, a hug, or even a high five was missing. It somehow felt less meaningful; it does not feel like an actual connection without that touch. The ceremony of the touch is missing. And for the first time, I’ve realized that I can’t really get a feel for someone by just looking into their eyes. That touch somehow makes the connection so much more complete. I’ve also missed it with a couple of visiting friends, where we sit masked, several feet apart, trying to catch up. It feels forced.
Closure is missing in so many areas right now. Closure of one week to the next by starting the week in communion with neighbors in our churches or synagogues and getting fed some inspiration and knowledge. Saying Goodbye
Sadly, families are unable to gather for memorial services for loved ones lost. I cannot imagine the incomplete cycle of life without that closure to say goodbye, to celebrate a life well lived, to laugh and cry together, and to see remaining family members, some of whom we see only for funerals. It’s very empty, and I feel so sad for families who could do nothing at this time.
Frankly, I’m missing the ceremony of spreading energy with friends in our events like the Plein Air Convention or the Publisher’s Invitational art retreats, which have had to be rescheduled for later dates. It makes me understand just how important these people are in my life, and how much I miss them, even if I see them just once or twice a year. Video calls are barely a good alternative.
The result of these times is that we’ve all been forced to reinvent. We can’t allow restrictions to prevent our celebrations and our closure. Couples are moving forward with online weddings, there are social gatherings with online cocktail calls and other virtual events. These don’t fill the void of human contact, but they are better than nothing.
Making Better Use of Moments
No one knows what our lives look like a few months in the future, though many are predicting the worst and the best. It’s simply impossible to know yet. But the sooner we can replace normal, the better off we all will be. I can’t wait for parties, having friends over, events, conventions, meetings, handshakes, and hugs. And when the “all clear” signal is transmitted, I plan to go all in and be more social than ever. I’ll make a point to spend more time, and quality time, with friends, and no longer take those special moments for granted.
We all have pent-up demand. And I suspect, if we can, we’ll do more things, be more social, travel more to see family or just to take trips, and it will be like the pleasure of eating an orange for the first time after years of being unable to take a bite.
Now is the time to plan what’s next for each of us.
What will you do first?
Who do you most want to see?
How will you look at the value of your time together differently?
What do you most want to do?
Some are striking fear by telling us this will return in the fall, or that we may have sudden quarantine weeks for the rest of our lives. Others are saying this never ends. Ever.
I don’t want to believe any of them.
But what if it were true? Or what if you only had the next few months to do everything in your life you’ve always wanted to do? What if you have three months to see everyone you’ve wanted to see in person?
What if you could hold certain people only one last time?
Savor the possibilities, and make your plan.
My guess is that there will come a time when everything is back to the way it was before. Hugs and handshakes included. Even blowing out birthday candles on a cake we later eat. I’m counting on it.
Yet, it’s clear there are no guarantees in life. Therefore, I plan to be ready to pounce. I’m making my list of every event I want to attend, every person I want to see, every conversation I want to have in person, because I don’t want to ever look back in regret. What about you?
PS: In spite of the difficulty of this time in history, each of us has discovered something about ourselves. Most of us have innovated in new ways, reinvented in some ways, and often reinvented the ways we live and work. For some, those new ways make us better and will stick. Others will return to the old ways. Yet I think there have been blessings to come from this, even if nothing more than the appreciation of the freedom we once had and have lost. I now know more than ever just how important freedom of movement is. I also know the power of fear for the first time in my life.
Before you go back to your definition of normal, consider embracing the new you. Do you really want to commute for two hours a day? Do you really want to spend your life in a car or an airplane? Do you really want to go back to all parts of the way things were?
I’d be nervous if I owned office buildings, because a lot of us will no longer want to go to an office. Working from home works. Companies can save money and have found they can survive and in some ways be more efficient.
Make your list of the parts of life you like from quarantine and the things you are no longer willing to do. Quality of life matters more than ever. Focus on quality.
Lots of people have returned or come to art for the first time in their lives. We’ve seen millions of hours streamed of our instruction videos and have had hundreds of thousands discover what we do. We’ve been doing free video samples daily at 3 p.m. (ET) (Facebook or YouTube @StreamlineArtVideo) and I’ve been live daily at 12 noon (ET) (@ericrhoads on Facebook) to try and keep everyone upbeat.
We’re about to discontinue these daily instructional videos, but for now they are still up and you can find them all here.
I should also mention that on June 1 we’re giving away a lovely Joseph McGurl painting to celebrate the anticipated end to quarantine in most areas. You can enter to win at paintgiveaway.com.
And for those who think you have no talent but really wish you could learn to paint, I have made beginner videos for you free at www.paintbynote.com.
The renegotiation of rituals has created touching moments, in new forms. It has lead to new appreciation for what was previously taken for granted. It’s a great opportunity to question one’s assumptions and reflect on one’s values.
You have been on my mind and I appreciate all!!! That you are doing! Wow!! I need to know you are having quality time with your family! You are here for us artists and please tell us some stories of being with family. You made mention of daughter saying that your self portrait was creepy! I laughed knowing our kids say the darndest things but I felt a tenge of pain. Like my husband telling me he didn’t like something about my painting. I loved it but after he made mention of he didn’t like something I stopped and luckily he was right. But during these secluded times we need loads more hugs than criticism! I believe all artists are very sensitive and really do not take criticism well. Especially from those we love! I am thankful for my sensitivity and during this time it’s has been increased! TBTG. For Art!! Thankful that I have this passion and know you have blessed me and so many others. I am giving you a virtual hug! Blessings always to you and family. And hip hip hurray for your Kiddos graduation. The first thing I would do is have the biggest best graduation party ever!! The first thing I thought of is holding my mother in laws hand! Please Lord take this cursed pandemic away!! Cheral
Another thought provoking and interesting read Eric. Thanks so much. I have only just found your Morning Coffee blog and mail out and look forward to reading it. It comes in on a Sunday evening here in Australia. This morning I have read it drinking my coffee, in front of the fire on Monday morning. As farmers, I feel that we have been the lucky ones during this lock down. It has been planting time for much of it so we have been really busy. We have wide open space in abundance so don’t feel locked up. Also our state government created intrastate borders so that no one could move into our are without good reason. It’s made us feel safe. During this time I have been listening to lots of podcasts and watching YouTube, binging on as many art content media I can find. I have enjoyed your videos via Instagram very much and I have also subscribed to Plein Air Magazine online.
Ever mindful that there is a cost to you for producing these, I plan to investigate how I can keep watching these in the future.
Again thank you and keep safe,
Thanks Eric for this Sunday Coffee. I always enjoy them and appreciate you taking the time and effort for your encouragement and thought provoking content. Thanks also to you and your crew for your daily videos on instagram and facebook. Stay strong. Thanks again. Dan
Hopefully, a large part of the population has come to appreciate the “little things in life,” like a handshake. I remember learning years ago that babies left in orphanages died from lack of human contact. It’s a necessity for life. I sympathize with your missing out on your children’s graduations. We had plans for a family vacation together this summer to celebrate our 50th anniversary. I’ve been waiting 50 years for this occasion with visions of how to make it special and praying that we would actually make it. Zoom is not special for me. Life went back to normal after the Spanish flu and the Hong Kong flu, so hopefully this too shall pass.
Love your stuff, Eric. I’m a 92-year-old widower with an easel, a computer/internet and three cats in Boise. Wish I could be with you all. Richard H.
Hi,Eric, great post today. I want to tell you that I am SOOOO thankful for the instructional video portions that you have been sharing. I have learned a lot and really benefitted from them. The interviews have also been very interesting and encouraging. I am wanting to clarify about the video clips. Are you going to stop producing more AND remove them so we cannot continue to rewatch them? Thank you (and all the staff so much.
This was the first time that I am aware that you did not start with a description of your surroundings. A wonderful message as always but I am curious where you were sitting for your inspiration???? I just returned from a jog on the beach on an absolutely gorgeous day so very much feeling the beauty of nature and all the wonders of the world.
Since the “stay at home” order I got bored with the stillifes. So one day I asked my husband to sit for me and I’d try my hand at portrait painting. Lo and behold lm not bad. He was telling a neighbor and the neighbor asked if I did dog portraits. I hear my husband saying “Sure she can.” So now I’m doing dog portraits. The things you learn during a pandemic.
Eric, thank you for all of the encouragement and words of wisdom through this crazy time. I have never met you but I feel like I kind of know you now and you can bet that if I ever have the opportunity to meet you in person I Will hug you! I know a lot of people are fearful of changes, I for one think there has been way too many restrictions in this period. Hopefully eyes have been opened. God tells us Fear not, 365 times in the Bible, one for every day. So I don’t.
I don’t mean to be so heavy, I just really want to say thank you and that I agree with the things you said today about ceremony and closures. It seems so unfair to miss all of those events. We lost a friend during this time and without the closure of a service it seems he has just vanished! Really enjoy your Sunday Coffee talks. Thank you for the video clips, I have ordered 5 so far and will get more! What a great way to see what’s available! They have been great! God bless you and keep your family and business strong! Margie Lewis
Thank you Eric, for the uplifting Sunday Coffee’s, all the Streamline videos, and everything else you have done to keep the arts alive. You given us all something to look forward to each day. You’re like a a visit from a friend.
Very insightful & inspirational thoughts.
Thanks also for the instructional videos. I have seen most of them , learned, & enjoyed. I have been an artist for many years & always fine more ways to grow.
Great newsletter very profound !
Thank you Eric, for all you do. It has been such a blessing for all to be able to watch the art videos
each and every day. I have several videos of these fantastic artists, but have had the opportunity to
become acquainted with more. I especially enjoyed the portion of the interview you did with each.
I have learned much and been inspired to paint more. Many, many thanks❣️😊
I’ve appreciated your insightful comments and I’ve gained greater knowledge to improve my painting skills through the videos.
Thank you so much for your thoughtful and sensitive comments during these extremely difficult times. You offer very positive views on how
to handle the difficulty.
Thank you Eric for these inspiring words. Our lives have certainly changed. Thank you for all the streamline videos. I am an artist here in Australia and look forward to them and have learned a lot . This country is great for Plein air, with endless places to paint. Cheers!🖼😊
Well said as usual and thank you for putting this all in words.
As hard as it is, the reinventing will surely take place for many of us. But the awareness of how to do that and the energy needed to take the necessary turns will be a significant process as well. Congratulations to your children. Yes, my heart goes out to all losing ceremonies. I also ache for the young ones growing up, just learning how to interact and bond who must do so without seeing the facial cues now hidden behind masks and short of the play and warmth of the physical contact with friends. Hoping the new norm will be able to be something of the past in a year or so.
Thank you, Eric, for putting into words just what I have been thinking over the last few weeks. Thank you, also, for the daily video clips. Not only have I learned a lot from them, but I have also discovered new artists I like and returned to those I have been following for sometime. They are all inspiring and have made me feel that I have teachers with me whenever I go into the studio or pack up my gear to go paint outdoors on our wonderful farm. As you know, you have touched thousands of people – I am blessed to be one of them.