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The Silver Lining in a Lost Year

Spinning a Positive Narrative on a Depressing Situation

I’m an optimist. I don’t recall always being so, but I’ve always liked the adage that “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” It’s not always easy, especially when things seem to be spinning out of control, uncertainty rules, and the bad news piles up. Like current events today. Still, I’m pretty optimistic and I’ve taught my kids to look for the good in even a nasty situation.

I’ve heard it said that people become more positive-minded as they age. There must be something to it, and I think it has to do with gaining perspective with the years, learning to weather the tough times, and cultivating an attitude of gratitude. 2020 has given plenty of opportunities to test that theory, and it’s held true, at least for me.

So here’s my list of things of silver linings that I’ve discovered during this seemingly never-ending Great Shutdown:

1. During the last few months of the 2019-2020 school year, I didn’t have to spend a good part of the day driving my daughter to/from school and activities. This is a big one, because I figured I might as well have slapped a big yellow sign on the side of my car proclaiming “Mom Taxi.” Also saved gas and wear and tear on my car.

2. I was able to sleep in later on school days (see no. 1). Hallelujah! Now that it’s summer, I can still sleep in a bit, though I’m trying not to turn into the complete night owl I seem to be naturally designed to be.

3. While I’ve been cooking dinner every night (NOT part of the silver lining list), at least I’m not rushing home doing so, pressed for time. (Again, see no. 1.) So my overall mood is better, too. And that’s much better for everyone. What’s the saying? “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Aint’ it the truth.

4. I’ve had time to really work on updating the tools of my voice over business: website, client management system, demos, marketing, etc. All of which would have taken much longer to accomplish had this pandemic never been. Of course, many clients have dramatically slowed down their work, too, so there’s been less demand for voice over services, but … oh, well. Still good stuff.

5. Many of my favorite workout instructors have been generously offering their classes on-line. Thank goodness! I’ve always been full of energy and have to exercise every day without going nuts. Maybe when I’m an octogenarian, I’ll slow down. Maybe. In the meantime, I’m loving the fact that I can still get in some great exercise without dealing with traffic to get to my favorite group classes. And I get to sleep in a bit longer! (See no. 2. I love my sleep…)

6. I’ve discovered - and cleaned up - the dirt and dust under my bedroom furniture, where I’ve been getting a good eyeful of it every time I use my exercise mat for said workouts. Probably not the most exciting thing in the world to be doing, but I feel so much better looking at a clean floor, which I can’t really avoid doing when I’m doing those push-ups and sit-ups.

7. Atlanta enjoyed one of the most gorgeous springs I’ve ever experienced here. What a pleasure to be outside! I appreciate watching nature move through the seasons: the unfolding of new leaves and the gorgeous blossoms of camellias, azaleas, and dogwoods, followed by roses and the summer flowers. Of course, now we’re fully in “Hot-lanta” mode, with temps in the 90s and humidity nearly to match. Not so pleasant. And I suspect that we’re all going have the dubious pleasure of still being pretty much at home as we eventually move into the fall. But – and here’s that optimism again – autumn is the most glorious time of year in Atlanta. Can’t wait for the lower, but still warm, temperatures, brilliantly blue skies, and low humidity! Being able to enjoy and appreciate it that much more is definitely a silver lining for me.

8. I’m seeing neighbors I haven’t seen in a long time, or had never met before, while walking around the neighborhood. And everyone’s outside! Well, not as much as in the spring when the weather was just about perfect, but still enough to feel like I’m living in a neighborhood with sights and sounds that remind me of growing up in Cleveland way back when: kids on bikes, families hanging out in their front yards, small children running through sprinklers, and people enjoying long walks together. And I feel like I’m better connecting with my neighbors, especially the elderly couple down the street whom I’ve been helping with their grocery shopping while they self-quarantine. Helping one another certainly makes us feel good, too.

9. Along these lines, I’m also getting a kick at seeing my daughter and her friends rediscover the simple pleasures that I remember growing up. They may be disappointed at not being able to hang around the mall, but they’re having socially-distanced picnics, biking riding in the parks together, going on walks, and visiting each other in their backyards. They’re outside, enjoying each other’s company, and having truly human experiences. Not that shopping isn’t a human experience, especially for teen girls, but they’re even realizing how much fun they can have without needing to spend money.

10. Spend time, not money. Yes! And there’s been much more time to spend with immediate family members, too. We’re actually all getting along pretty well. Yeah. Most of the time.

An added benefit has been having my son home from college. Yes, I am so disappointed for him that his last few months of college were abruptly cut off, including his graduation, and all the celebrations we’d planned as a family. But the silver lining is having him at home for longer than I’d ever expected. He’s now working virtually from our house in his new job. Hopefully soon, he’ll be able to move to his new city and establish himself truly as an independent adult, but for now I’m loving having him around.

11. Some of the tributes to our first responders and health care workers have been awe-inspiring. A few months ago, the Blue Angels put on quite an air show and criss-crossed over our neighborhood several times within fifteen minutes as they flew in formation around the city. Such a treat! And what a wonderful way to demonstrate how much we all appreciate the work of doctors, nurses, and other medical staff.

12. A bit tongue in cheek, but it occurs to me that I’m acquiring some amazing memories that I’ll no doubt exaggerate when telling stories about this pandemic one day to my future grandkids. Just like my own grandfather did when he was a boy selling newspapers on the corner. (With every telling, he became younger, the bullies older and more numerous, and the odds against him greater. Whatever the truth was, at least we know he survived to become a grandfather.)

As we go forward, I’ll continue to knock on wood and be grateful that we’re all still healthy. I wish the same to you and yours. And let’s hope that this very soon will become a distant memory.