Keeping Up with Frank

Love and Life in the Time of Corona

May 25, 2020

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.”
- John Lennon 

The 1997 essay titled “Wear Sunscreen" gives various pieces of humorous, but common-sense advice on how to live a happier life and avoid common frustrations. One of the most truthful passages in the piece speaks to the uselessness of worrying about bad things happening to you, pointing out that worrying doesn’t fix anything and most importantly, that “the real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind. The kind that blindsides you at 4 PM on some idle Tuesday.”

That quote perfectly describes how, overnight, the Covid19 crisis blindsided almost everyone on the planet. Although we were warned that serious global pandemics would occur, I doubt many of us gave the subject much thought.

Yet here we are and will likely be for a considerable period of time. The loss of life has been tragic. So too, the economic hardship that resulted from the necessary shutting down of large parts of the economy. Countless people have lost their jobs, businesses are closed and some will not return. Financial markets are in turmoil and the worst part is, we don’t have a clear view on how and when these hardships will end. For my part, I am doing my best to help communities suffering due to COVID19 both locally and internationally.

Like almost everyone, I spent the last few months in isolation, venturing out only for groceries and an occasional hike. I work from home and my usually hectic travel schedule has come to a grinding halt. It would be a gross understatement to say that my life has changed completely. I will confess, when our confinement first became apparent, I was not pleased. I couldn’t picture how I could possibly function staying put in my home. Over the years, I have become accustomed to a fast pace of work, adventure and especially, travel. The idea of being sedentary has never sat well with me. In fact my own mother used to shake her head at my travel schedule. She would call me a gypsy and I must admit, I wore that label with pride.

But as the weeks of lockdown wore on, something interesting happened. I started to actually like this new pace. I was spending quality time with my kids and some long term house guests who were marooned from previously scheduled travel. My new extended family decided we needed to find ways to entertain ourselves whilst confined indoors. After we finished our remote workday we would take turns at cooking family meals, then play monopoly or cards, have ping pong tournaments and even sing karaoke. I even picked up my trumpet which I hadn’t practiced in years. I had forgotten how much fun it was to be, well, normal.

I found that working from home was not that difficult and video conferencing was a perfectly adequate substitute for travel. I like this new pace so much that, truthfully, I am not looking forward to the prospect of going back to the old normal.

I soon discovered I wasn’t alone in feeling this way. So I asked a few friends to tell me what these few months of confinement has taught them. The answers were varied but a there was one common thread that emerged: That slowing down life’s hectic pace was an awakening of sorts. One that gave everyone an opportunity to reconnect to what’s important in life, being of service to your community and celebrating your family and friends.

A few friends told me that the slower pace allowed them time to become more creative. One pointing out that Isaac Newton did his best work while being quarantined at home during a plague. And at that time he was just a 20 year old university student. It turned out he thrived learning on his own at home.

Others talked about the positive effects this global lockdown is having on the planet. Less travel and commuting has reduced air pollution and less consumption has reduced the negative effects of manufacturing on the environment. It’s the sense that humanity may be waking up to a new reality that we must change our old ways of thinking and living, and embrace a more mindful way of life.

Many talked about how this has given them an opportunity to reconnect with family. One dear friend told me, “spending the past five weeks with my 81-year-old mom has afforded me the opportunity to create some of our most precious moments together.  We have cooked, laughed, played games, taken courses online, reminisced about life, and truly connected. Through the devastation of this pandemic we have been given the gift of time.”

Time is the most precious thing we have and the one thing we usually disregard until it’s too late. I also heard a story about a family that had a parent in a long-term care facility. They moved him back into his old house on a farm in the countryside. Apparently he is happier then he has been in 10 years because he is back in his home and being supported day and night by his family. 

Overall, the theme that resonated with me most was about getting to connect with special people on a deeper more sincere level. Stillness allows for longer conversations and the longer the conversations, the sooner you do away with small talk and get into deeper, more meaningful subjects. For my part, this time has been life changing.

As we slowly come out of lockdown, I hope we can retain the beautiful lessons many of us have learned during this time and incorporate them into our lives going forward. If we do, I feel we will all live happier, more peaceful lives while pleasing Mother Nature at the same time. In these dark times, what a wonderful silver lining that would be.