I hope things are going well in your world. Here, at Sunset Beach, Alberta, Canada, we have experienced an unusually vibrant spring and an early heat-wave to kick off summer. Here, nothing seems normal. Nature is busy displaying its beauty and brilliance. I can’t recall a year with as many birds and bird song as we experienced this spring.
I find my observation of the brilliance interesting, and I question if it’s truly any different or if each year I say and feel the same way. But upon further reflection, we have never had more than one pair or Northern Orioles around, and we usually only see 1 pair of goldfinches at the feeder. This year we have many orioles and goldfinches! Any many other species that seem to be in greater abundance than ever before. In fact, last week I had two of my live outdoor qigong practices interrupted by bears!
This brings me to the topic of this blog post. As things begin to open up again and people start resuming many of the activities that have been on hold for over a year, I wonder about how you feel about ‘returning to normal’.
During the pandemic, many of us experienced a forced pause.
A pause from busy-ness, travel, going to the office, commuting, seeing friends and family, in-person classes, retreats, workshops, and trainings, dining out, and social events. Many of us experienced loss and isolation. Many of us used this pause to go inward and look inside of ourselves; and for some of us this was intentional, for others it just happened. And for those of us who looked inside, some were challenged by what they found and others were surprised at how much they enjoyed self-reflection. But I think all of us re-evaluated our priorities.
Mountain Man and I have chosen a fairly secluded life.
We live in the country and we both work remotely. In all honestly, other than travel, our lives did not change much during lockdown. In fact, my business grew and I felt more connected to my on-line community than ever before. I was (am) also healing from an injury and surgery to my knee, which was some sweet divine timing (i.e., the kids were home to help and I didn’t miss out on anything).
But now as freedom slowly returns, I find myself a bit hesitant. During this past year, life was simple, and surprisingly, richer than it was before. Life slowed down and it felt like time did too.
My daily routine involves coffee, meditation/qigong, work, walking/gardening, physiotherapy, preparing a nice meal, reading or watching a show, and then bed. I am more focused on my health and wellness than I was pre-pandemic. I don’t worry about my house being clean all the time, or not being invited to things (=no FOMO), or getting too busy. I have more healthful rituals, I’m more aware of my emotions, I’m more mindful in my activities, I feel more present, more grounded, and more connected than ever before.
So as the world around me gets busier, I want to bask in the slowness and savor the simplicity.
I want to enjoy more being and less doing. One thing that resonated with many of my students during a recent in-class discussion was the topic of relationships. Pre-COVID, many of us did things with others—or participated in activities—out of habit or because it was better than doing nothing or we liked to be busy. But now that we’ve been away from these activities (and people), many of us are questioning whether or not we want to return to them; we are questioning if we want to go back to the old ‘normal’. I know for me, the old normal is no longer acceptable.
The practices of spending time, killing time, or wasting time don’t interest me; nor does being busy.
I was feeling uncomfortable and unsettled, and it took me a while to figure out why. You see, I strive to have a peaceful life. I’ve worked hard over the past five years to develop and grow my online business. I was used to being busy all the time trying to make it work. Then after a few years, it started to work. Now it is working! Which means I don’t have to work long hours. How amazing!! But I’m used to working long hours. So when I found myself with more time in recent months, I felt like something was missing. I felt like I should be working. So I would create new projects, ideas, or offers. Then I would be busy again, working long hours. See the cycle?
I had an epiphany a few weeks ago. I didn’t need to work more, I needed to live more! I felt guilty that I wasn’t working more. And due to our current social restrictions, I noticed I had more time to myself. It didn’t feel familiar. And then I realized, this is what peace and spaciousness feel like! I don’t need to be busy working or filling time, I need to be enjoying time…enJOYing! This was a big one!
So off I went and I found myself in the garden, on bike rides and forest walks, reading more books (even fiction!), mowing the grass, clearing out clutter, meditating longer, and feeling lighter. I am still not used to this way of enjoying time, but I am getting better at it, and better at not feeling like I should be working. Which brings me to the new normal.
I don’t know what normal is, but I do know that I don’t want to go back to the way things were before.
I want to be more intentional, with both my time and my energy, and the people who I chose to spend them with. Social media is not the best place to hang out. Outside in nature, doing the things I love with the people I love and who love me (or alone if I chose), is the best place for me. I will be teaching a new Level 1 class, but aside from that and my weekly classes, I am pausing.
I’m sure you’ve discovered some silver linings to this pandemic in your own life. I’ve heard so many wonderful stories from my online community. I feel like I’m coming off a cleanse of sorts and now I want to be very particular and discerning about what I want to put into my body, or my life in this case, so I don’t ruin all my hard work. I want to protect my spaciousness and maintain this conscious awareness. I want to be with like-minds. I want meaningful conversations and experiences. I want to experience more meaning in the things I do. And, I want to travel again. I am more aware of the energetic and environmental costs of flying around and between countries for meetings, trainings, conferences, etc. So much can be done online and done well (like teaching qigong and meeting with clients!). But seeing the beauty of this world and connecting to other lands has become even more of a priority to me. Not just yet however.
For now, I am going to savor what I’ve created given the circumstances of this year.
Even my daughter Claire recently commented that this past year was one of her best. At 22, she experienced a healthful and more mindful year. There were no bars or raves to keep her up late, her anxiety dissolved because she wasn’t worried about what she was missing or if she was invited or what was happening without her, she focused on her university studies and achieved near-perfect grades, she secured a great job, she spent more time at home here with us, she moved into her first apartment (solo), she started exercising and learned to meal plan, cook, and enjoy good food.
It’s amazing to me that when you slow down enough and look, you see amazing things that have been there all along.
When I think of the vibrant spring filled with bird song, I believe this year I was more connected to nature; more observant and engaged. So perhaps the birds and vibrancy weren’t any different than in previous years, but I was different. I am the one who has changed. By slowing down, simplifying, and staying put for a year (and a half), I observed, loved, and appreciated my surroundings (and those close to me) more than ever before. What a gift to feel this connected to a place, to land, to sounds, to sunrises, to green leaves and blue skies, to the deer and their fawns, to the fox and her kits, to flower blossoms, peas germinating, and even to the bears who’ve passed through (keep it moving, nothing to see here!).
This year-long pause has led to a deeper connection to myself and to the universe.
My wish is that you are also more aware of the deeper meaning life holds; how important love and loved ones are; how simple it is to help and support one another; and how anger and judgement have no place in health, peace, and healing. I hope you too have learned more about yourself and brought in some healthful practices to help you maintain your energy and sense of peace as life resumes. But I don’t see it as a resuming or returning to normal. We are entering a new normal. It can be up to us to decide how we want to feel, what we are going to experience, if we want to keep it simple and go slow, and who we are going to share our lives with. Life is precious, so is time, so is nature, and so are you.
I hope your new normal is everything you want it to be.
I’d love to hear in the comments what’s changed for you. I know you are feeling this too.
Sue Crites MSc, NCP Holistic Healing & Qigong
Spring Forest Qigong Instructor & Energy Coach
Beautiful blog post….Thank you!
I resonate with it SO much! I also feel that there really is no (healthy) way to “go back”, and am very grateful for the opportunities that have arisen this year…and those that will continue to arise.
“Normal”…. is highly overrated…. lol…. what is it anyway except a statistic~ we are so much more than that…each of us…
I admire how you are weaving your spiritual/qigong “practices into every aspect of your life! For me, this is what it is really all about: living authentically, moment to moment, with an appreciation for all that arises.
Thank you Lisa for your comment. I agree that normal is overrated! And yes, I too am working on welcoming all that arises!
Sue, your blogs are always thoughtful and this one is no exception! Beautiful, peaceful life!
I am also in no rush to return to “normal”. I’ve always been told that my introverted nature needs outside stimulation and other people, but in the past 15 months I’ve learned that is only minimally true. It’s perfectly fine and healthy to simply sit on the porch and enjoy the birds, breeze and growing things, or take a second or third walk or bike ride! The housework can wait. I’m learning not to feel guilt over that type of “laziness” (as my grandmother would call it), but to simply trust my body and heart to tell me what I need at any time.
I think, in a way, the pandemic has given introverts “permission” to be who they are. .Yay, introverts!
I love how you have learned to appreciate your life and the simple things that are actually quite meaningful! Thank you for your comment Kathy! You are an inspiration to me!
Loved your blog. I feel exactly the same as you. I got tired of figuring out who to invite for dinner “. Whose turn?” I love my garden. Reading. Slowing down. Taking qigong on line. Thank you 🙏
Beautiful Bonnie. Your garden needs you! Slowing down has become once of my life goals. Thank you for reading!
Thank you for sharing . This is so true and I am feeling less guilty of not being able to do that good a job in these challenging times .
I do qigong practice and am looking forward to level 3 .
I get a lot of inspiration from you . You are the best my lovely teacher . You work hard with all of us and I am happy to have met you though not in person ,.. It is my greatest wish. It will surely manifest as it comes straight from my heart .
Warm regards and soulful hugs
Love and roses
Vinita you have such a lovely spirit that oozes gratitude! I am grateful for you! Thank you for your comment.
Thank you for these wonderful insights, Sue, on a topic so many of us are now processing. I am currently navigating what balance of social time/quiet at home time works best for me. I am a social person and this is summer, the big season where everyone wants to invite their friends over to sit out on the patio. The fact that vaccinations happened and the restrictions lifted during this time is a bit challenging, but it’s working out. My husband and I love attending and giving dinner parties- that’s our favorite way to socialize with friends, relaxed in a home. What’s changed? I am more relaxed about entertaining. I still love to set the table, but I don’t stress so much about all the other details involved in entertaining. The important thing is being with our friends. Another thing that has changed is that my guideline of having at least one day during the week that is unstructured and I don’t leave the house, has evolved into securing two days a week like that. I am really looking at that when I make plans. I am getting better at not overbuying vegetables! During the height of the pandemic, we only went to the store every two to three weeks. Sometimes things would spoil. I am grateful for feeling comfortable just popping out to the store for parsley or cilantro whenever I want! What luxury!
Thank you for your comment Sheila! I love your insights and how you are living a bit ‘lighter’. I really like how you are carving out two days to yourself. I too love that feeling of spaciousness when you don’t have a set of commitments. Much wisdom was gained in the past year, and now you are applying it!
I find your blogs to be awesome. I keep re-reading this as it hits home for me in so many areas. I finally printed this out as I was afraid of losing it. Thank you for sharing your many insights. Hugs to you, Imo Jean
Thank you Imo Jean! I would like to return to more writing this year! I’m glad it resonated with you.
Thank you for the lovely insights of life as we now know it. The importance of enjoying life and the things around us. As my Gran use to say “don’f forget to take time and smell the roses”. The idea behind that thought can be applied to many other things in life.
That is the wisest saying! Thank you for your comment Barbara!
AMEN! Sister. …
You know ‘hurry-up’ is already starting to happen in our individual worlds. I just slowed myself down to read your blog (which I had planned to do since receiving the email a couple of weeks ago) I wanted to make sure to really be attentive to your words, to be present and receive their wisdom. Didn’t disappoint. So much of your writing—your Sue-isms hit home for me. Thank you for sharing this with all of us. C
Thank you Carol for reading and for your comment. Good job on slowing down! Glad it resonated!
Thank you so much Sue for your wise and insightful words. You echo completely what I am feeling. These last few months have brought additional serious health problems for my husband and long standing health issues for myself into the spotlight and I find that I am drawn more and more into quiet time and self reflection to navigate the journey. I am 68 and have worked hard and long all my life making sure I didn’t ‘drop any balls’ and now the awakening thought is that I don’t need to continue along that path any more. It takes me nowhere I want to be any more. The quiet time refinding myself is an interesting journey and I find I want to find my new normal in quieter days reconnecting with Nature and the Nature that is me and within me. I found reading your blog was peaceful for me and I felt myself at home with your words and wisdom. Thank you
Thank you Lynda for sharing and taking the time to write. I appreciate where you are and congratulate you on having a new vision for your life and future. No regrets, you did what you thought was best at the time! Now you can experience more peace and healing as you slow down and work on your own healing. Much love to you.