By Dana Clary
I can remember walking into my local Bi-Mart about a year ago and not only seeing but feeling all the emptiness of the shelves where serious cleaners like bleach and anti-bacterial soaps used to be. There was no paper product available. Rugged notes written by management clung to the stations where the company was only authorizing a one item purchase per customer, like toilet paper. They were sold out.
I thought I was being smart and proactive by getting online to buy toilet paper.
I think it arrived at least two months later. Smaller rolls than American toilet paper, by far. Like baby toilet paper……and it was expensive.
I can remember one day I was cramming as much of the last half of the Costco case of toilet paper as I could into the vintage dresser-turned-bench at the end of my bed. My teenaged daughter walked in and we both laughed as she realized what I was doing. Hoarding the TP from the children. It had to be done. There is no shame in a pandemic.
As the months would pass, I completely forgot about the secret stash of bathroom tissue. It wasn’t until Christmas, eight months later, when I needed to hide away presents that I realized we had a case of toilet paper stuffed into my go-to hiding place. We hadn’t needed the stockpile, after all.
While it seems that paper products have since been restored to full inventories at every store, there are still remnants of the eruption COVID has caused in our lives. Masks. 6’ apart. Online shopping is crushing it. Some of the reactions of this virus have created a new normal. We might be masking for forever, right? Some of the negative responses to the virus I am not even aware of because my world is so small.
Living in rural Weiser, Idaho, I often forget that there are still parts of the country struggling to re-open and contain the virus. It sort of feels like Weiser, and maybe Idaho, just went for it and opened back up, through the winter, enough to let the major influx of the illness flow through the community and thus, crack open society for a bit of normalcy. I often forget my mask; they are not required here, and most locals don’t wear them unless the store posts a requirement on the outside. Other places, it seems, are still in a type of “lock down.” Poor folks contained to their homes, consumed with fear and anticipation about what would happen if this contagion erupted in a highly populated area. I am so thankful I don’t live there.
Despite all the seemingly negative changes we have seen in our society because of the messy wash of COVID over our earth, I am pausing to create a moment to reflect on more positive consequences. I have included a list below of five ways I think COVID has made my world a better place. I am hopeful that this article will inspire you to respond with your own ideas and allow us to focus on the good for just a bit.
- Family Time. You can’t quarantine without seeing the people you live with. Frequently. Playing games, watching a show, having conversation. We played badminton, hiked the local Indianhead mountain, found more hiking places, went geocaching, found our first Morel mushrooms, camped, paddle boarded, fished and more. I’ve done all these things with my people tremendously more than I would have without a pandemic.
- Home Projects. When the virus first hit, my business slowed way down, and I was scared. I thought I would die if I got the illness. I took to my hammer and drill and used my nervous energy to make one of my little critters a small decorative barn in my back yard. I used old boards we had on hand and took my time to saw, measure, and plan the whole area. Later in the summer, our family improved our rental house with the time and intention we wouldn’t have without COVID.
- Reading. I started reading hard core last year. I am a so-so reader most of the time. Last year, I stepped it up several notches. I closed the tab of my computer marking the Johns Hopkin’s virus tracker and opened the classics, mystery, fiction, non-fiction, self-help, Christian. I have read and listened to more books in the last year than I have the last 15 or 20. I am now nearly addicted and can’t sleep at night without checking into my latest reading material. My mind is expanding. I might need a bigger skull to hold all these brains I’m growing.
- Health awareness. Because of COVID, I’ve realized that my body and my health need to be in the utmost condition should I ever get an illness like the Coronavirus. I have an auto-immune disease to begin with. I have read many articles that indicated those with pre-existing health conditions are the ones who are struggling the most when they contract COVID. Conditions like heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, chronic lung impairments, and obesity are all contributing factors to the severity of this viral infection, much less one’s overall quality of life. I’m working hard to put positive materials, food, vitamins, and plenty of water into my system so my body has the best chance at fighting this virus. I’m exercising and I’ve addressed sleep issues to make sure I am getting a sound eight hours per night. Being aware that I can take steps every day to assist my body, should I get sick, brings back some of the control that it feels COVID took from me. In April of last year, with the knowledge the media was providing, coupled with my anxiety, I really believed that if I got the virus I would die. I basically had my funeral planned. If this Earth is a game of survival of the fittest, I was not the fit. I’d be breakfast or second breakfast, for sure. I even admit that I was angry my husband was still going into the public with such a “lethal” virus lurking around. My mama has no spleen. Surely, she would die. Maybe we would have a joint funeral. We could share a casket and save money. Not only did my mom not get the virus from a random carrier, but she didn’t even get it with my COVID positive sister living in the same house as her. With the numbers provided about COVID this year and the chance to educate ourselves on the illness, we now know the virus is not a death sentence for most. However, I am still thankful that because of COVID, I got the chance to take some good strides for my physical health that will benefit long past the year that changed everything. I have a new baseline for my overall health and it just takes one day at a time to create your own.
- Renewed gratitude. I can’t tell you how many things I’ve taken for granted. Things that I didn’t even know were extra life bonuses and not rights. Things that we don’t realize we have until they are gone. This virus has taught me the joy and importance of watching my kids play sports-in person. My kids getting to play sports-at all. Realizing the simple pleasure of a gathering with my close and extended family is a blessing that I didn’t appreciate before. Connecting with others in person is a surprising comfort to an introvert like me and I didn’t realize I desired that connection until it wasn’t there. The beauty that there is so much to be thankful for in light of a pandemic warms my heart and I hope you’ll be encouraged to make a list of your own experiences to look back on and remember how we all joyfully survived the last year.