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.