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Finding a Better Way to Fill Our Social Calendars After Coronavirus

When I get my freedoms back, I'm going to use them differently

Calendar book open to the month view

Ted Cavanaugh/The Licensing Project

For many of us, it was a shock to our systems when our calendars were abruptly cleared of all appointments and events, celebrations and social gatherings. The halting of our volunteer duties or community service projects in favor of sheltering at home and losing some freedoms took an awful lot of adjustment. As did navigating sudden unemployment or learning how to implement distance learning for our children.

An equal if not greater jolt to our psyches is coming, when we’re cleared to reopen our calendars and we’re expected to resume All The Things. We’re going to need extreme patience with how rusty and out of sorts we all are likely to be. We’ll need to extend loads of grace as we flood our highways and stores again, and jostle for the necessary elbow room to conduct our activities.

To help, I hope we’ll consider easing back into unrestricted life — instead of going from zero to 60 as quickly as we had to cut our engines. Recalibration will be easier if we choose to leave some things off our calendars and to-do lists. If we thoughtfully repopulate our planners, purposefully restructuring our desired level of busyness, we can mitigate the jarring effects of post-pandemic life and better preserve our precious mental health — upon which the quality of our lives hinges.

I can’t count the number of girlfriends, relatives, colleagues and acquaintances who’ve told me at least one thing about sheltering at home that thrills them; at least one aspect of no longer being expected anywhere really that excites them. Let’s not snuff out the spark that losing freedoms surprisingly ignited for us by forgetting how free we are to structure our lives in ways that serve us, filling our cups to the brim. Overflowing even, to the benefit of others.

Once we’re done quarantining and social distancing, we’re going to need even newer verbiage for our after-isolation vernacular. It’s time to let loathed but accepted concepts, like running the rat race and burning the candle at both ends, go by the wayside in favor of fresher, healthier approaches to life — like cruising at optimum speed or cultivating serenity.

It might take awhile for these new tendencies to catch on. But also, maybe not, because thanks to the pandemic new ways of life already have been illuminated for us. We’ve already seen the light.

Many of us are realizing a cleared calendar doubles as a rabbit hole back to our essence we lost somewhere along the way. Or forward, to the best version of ourselves yet. That fewer commitments and less consumerism pave pathways to calmness and simplicity — soothing spaces we’ve allowed ourselves to forget how to dwell in.

A slower pace may not have seemed accessible to those of us who were caught up in the hustle of yesterday. Now that hustle has left the building, and the notion that we could’ve asked it to leave ages ago is dawning. If only we’d known we had the power, the right, the capability.

When we’re allowed to fling open our doors again and step out into the great beyond to gather to our hearts’ content, what if we first take a fine-tooth comb to the tangled mess of tasks, to-dos and expectations we’re going to encounter? When we can walk into any store or restaurant with any number of people, or when we can frequent any business or professional’s office with any level of frequency, what if we just don’t so much?

Can we decide to buy our stamps online instead of spending our time forming soul-sucking lines at the post office? Can we opt to stay home and stream the movie from our cozy couch, using less fuel to travel to the theater and generating less waste once we arrive? Can we choose one or two projects or commitments to focus our gifts and energies on instead of spreading ourselves too thin across too many?

To these and other questions asking whether we can continue to live well by doing and acquiring less, while finding new and beneficial ways to connect with others and support our local economies — the answer is yes. We can say yes — to ways of living that never seemed attainable or worthwhile but now so obviously are.

Remember all those systems, processes and beliefs we didn’t think were alterable? Especially the ones that harmed us or kept us small? Remember how stuck and hopeless we felt, seemingly trapped inside their confines? Can I kindly, with so much tenderness, point out how wrong we’ve been proven? Not only is big change possible — even when it doesn’t seem so — but it’s inevitable.

So, let’s reclaim the power we’ve wielded all along and decide to thoughtfully fill in our calendars, pen our to-do lists and take on responsibilities once the green flag is waved. Let’s consider hustling less and pausing more once the choice is ours again — so we can live more full of joy, purpose and contentment in the current moment.

For it turns out it was always possible for us to curate the kind of existence that thrills and excites us, while soothing our nerves and promoting simplicity at the same time. I’m so grateful for the realization and the opportunity for renewal.

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