I will say it I love[d] quarantine.

Okay, love may be an exaggeration, but let me differentiate between COVID-19 and the quarantine. COVID sucks. COVID has brought tragedy and death. COVID has driven small business owners to close their doors. COVID has shut our schools and penalizing weddings and divided partners throughout the arrival. But the quarantine which came as a consequence of COVID? For me, the quarantine has led to learning and growing. The quarantine has started distance for me to look inward. The quarantine has attracted me.

Today allow me to provide you a small frame. Your day ahead of the quarantine began. I had been working as a senior high school assistant principal, a college softball pitching coach, side hustling a little photography, finding my way through my Ph.D. dissertation defense — yeah, also eight months old — with my next baby.

“Wow! I don’t know how you can do it all!” People would tell me in some awe-inspiring. Me, I would think to myself personally. But looking back now, I’m finally figuring out how I made it happen. Quarantine has left me to realize this: ” I achieved it all at huge costs. Huge but imperceptible costs — costs for my physical and emotional health. I was irritable. I was drowsy. I was anxious. I wasn’t moving my entire system or eating enough. I was occasionally a distant wife and a distracted mother. I had been creating mental checklists and answering emails after hours. I was getting up from the dining room table to pack the next day’s lunches and contending with my husband about keeping our dry-erase schedule organized. I was such a thing but genuinely current.

Possessing the pace of my entire life come to a screeching stop on a Thursday afternoon in March was probably the most helpful thing that happened to me. This societal pause was the one thing that forced me to hold up the mirror and begin to question the condition of my life and my happiness. This disturbance of normalcy has compelled me to start to test what was my usual. And since we’ve slowly started to turn out from quarantine (for better or worse), I find it essential to stop and reflect. To journal. To speak with my people. To honestly think about how I want to set myself in this next chapter. I read an Instagram post from Dave Hollis, nevertheless, “In the rush to come back to ordinary, use this time to consider that portions of ordinary are worth hurrying back ” YES. This.

This is what I have been challenging myself to consider lately. I’ve been considering my”taken from quarantine” process similar to a giant sifting of my life.

I have vivid childhood memories of looking for shark teeth on the Florida Gulf shores along with my grandfather. He hacked-together a sifter at the ending of a very long rod. We’d drag the sifter, fill it up with sand, and shake it away. Then we had to ditch what was left behind onto a beach towel and examine it for shark teeth and different sea treasures. So that’s how I’m trying to process through what’s next for me. I’m representing on the sand versus the shark’s teeth. I am asking myself to think of what material is rolling back out with the wave and landing in my beach towel to look at a little more closely.

Courtesy of Danielle Ricci

So exactly what exactly are my shark’s teeth? What has worked for me with that period? First of all, and most likely the most impactful, is that I have dwelt at an entirely different pace—a slower, quicker speed. And I enjoy it. I feel as I could breathe again. I used to pride myself on multitasking and believed I was happier if I had been on the run. You know what? I wasn’t wrong! Do you know what it is? I like naps! I’ve got a tendency to fill some open space within my lifetime — however it simply isn’t beneficial for me to do that. I need to get familiar with that space and utilize it to you should be. Even though this exact pace and extra space might not be completely sustainable, I am contemplating ways to create slowing a more routine aspect of my own life.

I have also been present. As a mother, I have had the opportunity to spend time with my kids that I could never have had otherwise. Yes, there have been days when I had been on a Google Meet while nursing one baby, building a PB&J for a second, and keeping a watch out for the next whenever she explained, “Mom! See this!” (If I had made a buck for every time I’ve heard that term during quarantine!) However, there have been many more days when working from your home has allowed me to have time with my babies — a morning walk casting charms in our neighborhood with your tree bench wands, time picnic in our backyard using fancy hats, or a daily treat of homemade cookies and milk — because let’s be honest, baking has been a quarantined item!

I’ve been more active, logging 10 k steps most days. I have started journaling again and taken on meal-prep to avoid trips into the shop. And also you guys, I have read books! (Well, I have paid attention to four audiobooks, and possibly I should blame this on gruesome newborn nursing rather than quarantine, but you get my point)

So what is the sand? What didn’t work for me? Well, I have not had as much alone time with my husband as I want. Between owning a toddler along with few places to flee, our just”lonely time” was between whenever we put the babies to bed so when we go to bed.

I also have fought with the anxiety around COVID itself and the tough decisions that have been a part of it all. (Who do people see? Do we send the kids back again to care? Should we proceed into restaurants? What about the infant?!) I’ve spent too much time going down social media rabbit holes, and I’ve eaten plenty of chocolate, but it has black chocolate, so that’s okay, okay? I’ve blurred the boundaries between work time and family time as I’ve tried to balance working from home with looking after three girls. And I have struggled with overlooking social interaction.

However, today, my occupation is to process most of this and plan the season as we slowly emerge from quarantine. I will have to locate methods to sustain the positives that the quarantine indicates to me. That may suggest getting up a little early to do some journaling and saying no to taking on another work project. It might mean selecting a walk within an Instagram binge or an art project with my kids over folding laundry. It will look like being purposeful regarding date night and also ongoing therapy for my anxiety.

But here is what — it’s going to have to be intentional. Humans? We are like elastics. We can extend, but we tend to snap back to our original form. But elastics can loosen over time. You realize this one used to closely wrap around your pony in 2 loops, and now it won’t hold your hair up? That’s what I’m trying for this! I will have to keep stretching so that I don’t snap back. I will need to be mindful of my decisions and be sure they align with the aims I’m setting with this reemergence.

I don’t want to get it done anymore. And I don’t need my”doing it ” to amaze people — as it has been quite the farce. I want to breathe. I want to maintain the present. I want distance, and I wish to learn to become more comfortable within that space.

So that’s what I will continue doing. Combing. Sifting. Searching for the shark teeth and watching the waves take back the sand.

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