Sorting boxes of photos and keepsakes means we are finally doing what we have avoided for decades. A pandemic offers a perfect opportunity. Don carries the boxes up from the basement. Now our family’s story spreads across the dining room table and part of the family room. Birth announcements, letters I wrote from Spain are mixed in with loads of snapshots.

Our cherished basset hound, Patches, is featured in one family photo.

We still miss her.

Memories are ignited by photos. Don and I share many stories as we look over this mountain of memorabilia. We stare at ninety-nine years of stuff. It starts with the birth of Don’s parents in 1922 and stretches till today in 2021.

I wonder, how will we remember this pandemic? Clearly it is not over. Yet, we are beginning to see a glimmer of more freedom. Lockdown is starting to loosen.

Something huge has happened to all of us. It has reshaped our lives in a variety of ways. Changed our work patterns, the way we marry, how we worship and even how we grieve those we have lost. Will we go to the office again – and, if so, how often? Will there be a new hybrid way of work or school?

Life in lockdown for this last year has altered us in some fundamental ways. We will need time to understand the personal and cultural shifts created by the pandemic.

One shift is being stuck at home. That change lets us reevaluate our busy lives. Are we doing what has the most meaning for us? Are we spending time with the people that bring us the most joy? Do we schedule enough quiet time? What is the cost of “success” and how do we measure it?

Many of us have decided we do need to slow down. Of course, that is difficult for some workers. Their schedule and job demands have increased. Millions of others still search for employment. Parents who work from home are balancing childcare and work. Anyone in these situations will struggle to alter their pace.
It is good to remember that slowing down is a privilege.

Suddenly Don and I find ourselves in ongoing Zoom chats with our four granddaughters. We celebrate birthdays and holidays with our family on Zoom instead of in person. We visit regularly with our friends using FaceTime, even two who live in Mexico. Ironically, in this time of separation in some ways, we have more contact with friends and family.

Using zoom for retreats, workshops and monthly Women’s Circles has been surprisingly effective. However, a screenshot is cold comfort compared to being physically present with each other. Electronic hugs are no replacement for the real thing.

Some of the photos I sort through are of women who have attended retreats with me. I look at their faces and remember the value of stepping out of our usual routines. Lockdown and retreats are both times of seclusion. Both take us away from our routines. Both offer an opportunity to examine how we have been living.

When this period ends our pace will change. It is bound to happen. Before it does, consider what you want to take away from this experience. The three following questions are what I use at the close of my retreats. They are powerful. They invite exploration.

After lockdown…

What will you keep doing?

What will you stop doing?

What will you start doing?