The Only Thing That Feels Right

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river, trees in autumn

I remember pre-2020, pre-COVID-19, back when decisions circled around “What’s for supper?” and “How did our calendar get so full?” Sure, there were decisions that felt heavy, but usually they were either low-risk, or didn’t really matter/were a matter of preference type of thing. For the bigger decisions, I felt like we could weigh them out, make the decision that feels right, and then be content with it, believing that it was the best for us and our family.

Enter 2020 and COVID-19. Nothing feels right, ever. There are no “good” decisions. I mean, there are definitely varying degrees of bad-worse-terrible, and some that could be classified as ok-doable-reasonable, but nothing is just “good.” Nothing feels right. I’m second-guessing and fifth-guessing everything, constantly. Nothing ever truly feels like a great decision.

The parents who sending their kids to school full-time in class are wondering if it’s the right decision, if they will stay healthy, or if in-person school is going to last even for more than a few weeks. They’re wondering what they will do if the kids are sent home again. The parents doing the part-time hybrid model are feeling the same way, and are juggling both. The parents opting to do full-time distance learning or homeschooling are wondering if their kids are missing out on important social experiences, and struggling to balance school/home/work, being both teacher and parent.

Even the things that used to bring us a sense of normalcy no longer do. A solo trip to Target, which used to feel like a mini-vacation, now feels tense. The masked shoppers rush through, trying not to touch too many things. The shelves are emptier, likely due to the uptick in online orders, as well as supply disruptions. About 20 minutes in, it gets to me, and I just want to go back home.

Home. We’ve spent more time home in the past 6 months than in the last 2 years combined. It’s become our place of safety and simultaneously a cozy prison. I can’t wait to escape and go somewhere…anywhere!…and then after a bit, I can’t wait to go back to the safety of home. It’s so strange, but none of the escapes ever feel right.

Except one: nature. Nature is literally the only thing that has consistently felt right this year. The sun, the grass, the birds, the plants, trees, and flowers. None of it has been worried, stressed, or stifled for one single minute by any of this. If anything, our slowdown has led to nature flourishing all the more. When my anxious mind is racing and it feels like an elephant is sitting on my chest (more anxiety), getting outside is the right answer, every time. It calms me in a way that no amount of scrolling, Netflix, baking, cleaning, or striving can. Nature is not worried or anxious. The birds are going about their bird business, unaware of the pandemic circling the globe. The butterflies flit about, the flowers bloom on their own schedule, the leaves on the trees continue to sway in the breeze. The deer wander through our yard and chomp down my hostas and dogwoods, again (sigh).

So while it may not feel like there are any right or great answers this year, there is one: go outside, even for a few minutes. Sit on your front step. Breathe the air. Feel the sun on your face. Drink your coffee outside. Listen to silence. Take a walk. Take your kiddos to explore nature. Pick up rocks, and really look at them. Watch birds. Look for toads, caterpillars, and grasshoppers. Admire all the various shades of green that you can see from exactly where you are. Look at the sky. Watch the sun rise, or the sun set. Look for stars. Howl at the moon once or twice (always good to keep the kids on their toes!). Break up with the news, put down the phone, step outside, and just be in the one place that still feels right.

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