Flower

Even in isolation, we can experience and be surprised by joy if we allow ourselves.

As I write this, I was supposed to be packing for a week in San Diego, attending a conference with two of my friends and coworkers. I’ve never been to California, or the West Coast, and I have been ridiculously excited about the trip for six months. 

This spring was supposed to be one of the most exciting in years, as my husband and I were also planning a surprise trip to Disney World in May with our three daughters, followed by a family reunion on the Atlantic coast of Florida. 

Needless to say, all of those plans have been canceled by the global pandemic.

I spend a lot of my life eagerly anticipating fun events on our calendar. Even week to week, I look at my meeting schedule for the week and, if it seems too bland, I figure out when I might be able to grab lunch with a friend or schedule a fun outing. I live my life a bit restless, always seeking something fun to fill my days, something to look forward to.

It’s a surreal feeling to have life hit the brakes on everything you’ve been anticipating. Life as we knew it always could be halted at any time, by a diagnosis, a death, a loss or a disaster. We just happen to be living in a unique moment in history, where that screeching halt has happened to the entire globe. 

When I can get past the disappointment that comes with the unexpected disruption to our lives, there’s a raw, aching realization that, if we’re able to shelter ourselves at home, we’re the lucky ones. If we have a safe home with our needs met and don’t have to leave our homes, we’re blessed. If we don’t have to leave our homes to work, and we’re not among the heroes that are tirelessly saving lives in the face of the greatest challenges they’ve ever known and keeping our civilization intact, we’re privileged. If we’re healthy enough that we simply need to find ways to keep busy in place of our usual routine, everything else seems pretty trivial.

There’s a strange beauty in the communal aspect of isolating together. After all, has there ever been a better time than this to stay home? 

We’re alive in an age when we’re more digitally connected than ever, with access to everything we could need or want from the palms of our hands. When our children can video chat with their grandparents all day if they like. When our groceries can be delivered to our homes without ever interfacing with a human being. When business can still be conducted, for some, in yoga pants from the couch in our living rooms. 

Truthfully, living my life in anticipation of exciting things to come isn’t a great way to live. My eyes are always set ten steps down the road, and I often miss the goodness right where I am. 

Right now, I’m learning to settle my focus into today, find the joy in solitude and in the community I’m provided within the four walls of my house. I hope that, on the other side of this, I can stay centered on the goodness of today. 

On each new day, I’m looking around for the shiny joyful bits, inviting God to highlight them for me and feeling deeply grateful for the immense blessings I’m experiencing right now in this strange season.

Sometimes joy looks like a text from a friend who was thinking about you, even though you haven’t seen each other. Joy looks like a precocious toddler, full of words and giggles, who grabs your face and plants a big kiss on your cheek. Like the fresh air on a sunny day as new life springs forth from the ground. 

Some days joy looks like a fresh perspective, a delicious meal that you finally have time to cook, or the most sleep you’ve had in years. 

Or perhaps joy is simply that resilient, tireless hope that on the other side of this dark night, the sun will rise again. 

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