The Gift of Simple Pleasures

As I look back on the last month of social distancing and “Stay-at-home”, I realize this COVID-19 pandemic hits in waves—not only the “curve” we’re rightly obsessed with “flattening”—but powerful, unpredictable emotional waves.

The first few weeks the waves were coming so fast, there was hardly time to get back on my feet. Directives changed daily. “Functional” meant I still had the ability to react to new information, follow new rules and get through each day in survival mode (vs total paralysis).  Shock, disbelief, and numbness are a mercy and got us through those early days. Now we’re a few more weeks into this and the reality continues to set in. You and I and our world is not going back to “normal.” “Normal” as we knew it has ended, but we certainly aren’t on the other side of this yet.

How long until we’re living in the new normal? We don’t know. We’re suspended in a liminal space. The good news is, having already navigated several weeks, we’re a little more steady amidst the waves, and we have a little more margin to respond vs simply react: we’ve recovered a little space to ponder our choices, and a little will and energy to execute. We have choices about how we’re going to navigate this space.

I like to cook, and especially to bake. Even more specifically, bake yeast breads. Early in this pandemic I thought to myself, I’ll just make sure I have a good supply of flour and I’ll be set with a highly rewarding way to “kill time.” I very quickly discovered, that next to toilet paper and hand sanitizer, flour was about the most difficult thing to find.  Anywhere. Including online. One day in desperation I googled two words: flour + Washington. Up popped a flour mill about an hour north of Seattle and miraculously, they had one kind of whole wheat flour still available. I was able to order this flour (25# minimum!) and got a message I would be contacted when it is “ready for pick up.” What does that mean?…wasn’t the flour sitting somewhere in a bag if it’s available to order? To make a long story short, a couple days after my online order—and a short road-trip—I had 50# of 100% whole wheat flour that had been fresh ground just for me!

I was so psyched to bake with this flour—and it did not disappoint! This little adventure got me thinking about several things about navigating life in this unprecedented global liminal space:

It’s good to take a break from the intensity.

It’s good to get a change of scenery.

It’s good to enjoy a hobby and simple pleasures.

At the same time, I begin to ask myself if making and eating “comfort food” in this season is a healthy, self-soothing activity…or is it a medication for the grief and anxiety the COVID-19 pandemic is leaving in its path? Honestly, it’s a little of both for me.  And that’s fine.  I’m not beating myself up about it.  Though I am noting if my daily step count and weekly workout routine are roughly keeping pace with my baking. J

The important thing is to recognize the gift in the COVID-19 pandemic – that is the gift of the opportunity to grow. Grow in the direction of health: mental, emotional, physical, spiritual. Grow in resilience. Grow in character. Grow in hope. I need the comfort of small mercies and simple pleasures AND I need to lean in, toward choices and activities that will result in growth. Growth is the opportunity and gift of every liminal space.

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