Sponges bounce below my bare feet as I walk atop deep green moss and thick pillows of soft pine needles, making my way to the front dock. Startled by my presence, a family of loons sends out a series of emergency calls to warn others on the lake, which is still as glass. Chirps of other birds fill the tall pines at the base of the lake as soft ripples splash up against the dock.
Handmade in 1904
My chair is an old Westport Adirondack chair, crafted in 1904 according to the stamp on the back. This dock has been its home for 116 years, and it’s seen the rise and fall of tuberculosis, and the 1918 pandemic. Then, like now, families escaped to the woods to ride it out and distance themselves from the cities.
Sipping my hot coffee as I stare out over the lake, I wonder who, over the years, has been seated in these chairs and what conversations they had. Last night, some friends, properly socially distanced, visited as we shared a toast and celebrated being free enough to gather. We meandered on to topics about how our lives and our cities will change. No one knows; we can only guess.
These two young executives who work for mega-firms in New York City talked of how they have discovered new things about themselves, about the unnecessary hustle and bustle of their busy lives, their newfound appreciation and the challenges of working from home, and how they plan to redefine their lives going forward. Neither will be returning to an office until 2021.
We are living in the year that disappeared. I saw a shirt on social media that said “2020 Sucks,” but I disagree. In spite of all the fear, negativity, danger, and uncertainty, sometimes it takes getting hit by a freight train to get our attention and make us redefine our lives. And we would not be doing ourselves a service if we allowed this year to pass without buckets of meaningful and personal change.
Up in the Air
I for one have realized my addiction to travel. I’ve always loved it, but not being able to get on a plane at the drop of a hat for a meeting has made me rethink my future. No, I don’t fear getting on a plane, I just did that a couple of weeks ago. What I fear is not living my life with the level of quality intended.
Face it, many of us have become addicted to the dopamine or adrenaline created by the stimulation of social media, of a fast-moving world, of always needing something to do.
Most everyone I know is telling me they crave the life they did not know they were missing, that returning to their life from 90 days ago would feel like a tragedy. They have reconnected with their families on a deeper level, they have had time to pursue things that time never permitted, and through those moments, have found themselves inside new hobbies or interests. We, for instance, have taught tens of thousands of new people interested in learning to paint.
A New Me
One woman sent me a note that said, “Because of you, I found myself. Because you were doing live Facebook broadcasts daily, I accidentally tuned in, did not know you, but something you said encouraged me to try painting. I had never considered it, and now, with your free lessons, I’m painting and I’m a new person.”
It wasn’t me or anything I did, it was her. She finally tuned in to her inner voices to explore an interest she did not realize she had. Maybe I was a nudge, but the action was all her own doing.
What is your action?
Will you return to the former you, or will the book on your life have a new chapter about a new you?
Have you stopped to think about what you discovered about yourself that you don’t want to lose?
Have you realized what you don’t want to return to?
There is, it appears, a mass exodus from the cities to the suburbs and small towns. It’s not just the fear of being stuck in a war zone due to riots, or the fear of being in an overburdened medical system in a big city, it’s because a different quality of life and quality of relationships have been discovered. I’ve had several people tell me their city life is ending and their homes are for sale or they have already moved out. Others in small towns are talking of soaring real estate prices due to new interest in a simpler life.
Though it may sound a little awkward, isn’t this what life is all about? Deeper relationships? Getting to know your neighbors? Being in a place where life isn’t running at high speed?
I’m fortunate to be in a boat-access-only place on a little lake in the middle of the wilderness. It’s only taken me 35 years to be able to afford such a place, and I cherish it. But I now wonder about my winter months and where we will land. Small towns are more appealing than ever.
Where Will You Get Off?
That freight train called COVID-19 has stopped at a station many of us have not visited for years, if ever — the village of relationships. The only question is, will we stop here to settle or get back on the roller coaster?
I can’t make that decision for you. I’m sure you know where your heart lies. But I think the world will soon sigh a breath of relief, and all of this will be behind us. And as you take a big sigh, you’ll realize that everything is going to be all right after all.
And like this old 1904 Adirondack chair that has seen it all, we too will be able to tell our grandkids what we lived through, and how in our darkest days it did not seem like we could ever get through it, but we proudly made it, picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and realized that we’re capable of anything.
I’m proud of you.
PS: We all have our unique stories. I hope you put yours in the comments below.
And if you’re one of those people who wants to find a new you, I can offer you a lot of free painting advice and instruction. You can see some resources below.
Also, last week I announced what we think is a historic virtual event, the first time in history anyone has brought the world of plein air (outdoor) painters together worldwide. Plein Air Live is already seeing massive registration from all over the world. Check it out at PleinAirLive.com. And we have a beginner’s day you may want to attend if you are curious. You don’t have to sign up for the whole event, you can attend just the beginner’s day.