We’re in the eighth week of “Shelter in Place,” here in Los Angeles. I’m still employed + working from home, surprisingly almost as much as I was working before everything closed — but even still, an influx of time has been deposited into my life.
During these weeks, I’ve painted with my daughter. We’ve filled up her plastic water table almost every day, and I’ve sat with her while she’s splashed and wet the concrete and nearly drowned most of our poor plants. We’ve made forts in her bedroom; we bought butcher paper and drew pictures that ran the length of the living room floor. My husband and I have gotten through our list of every.single.thing we’ve ever wanted to watch (and then some), and had more time to talk than we’ve ever had. We’ve left surprises on doorsteps and gone for drives simply because there was nothing else to do.
And I haven’t written a word.
“I must not really want to be a writer,” I told him a couple of weeks back. “Because here I am with all the time in the world, and I haven’t written at all.”
But then, on a lululemon call this week, the question was put to us:
What gifts are you withholding?
Caught me, I thought immediately, my pen frozen over my notebook.
I think what’s so interesting about having a blog called Small Life, Slow Life for EIGHT(!!!!) years now, is that I began it as a place to escape, a place to long for. I created it as a North Star, knowing you never actually reach your North Star. It guides you, but you don’t get there. In this life, there is no finish line.
But what this time has done, this era of COVID, is actually plopped the thing that I’ve wished for right into my lap.
And while I can confirm that there have been long days of boredom, and that being cooped up with a three year-old is challenging (I truly never want to hear any music that has ever existed in ANY Disney film EVER AGAIN), and that I miss certain stores/places more than I can ever express…
…I’m delivered upon this shore to find that I wasn’t wrong. I wasn’t just dreaming. It wasn’t an impossible wish.
The small, slow life is actually what I wanted, all along.
I interviewed for a lateral position recently — one that would have given me no more money but a lot more work — and by some merciful swish of fate, I didn’t get it. My ego stung, but my gut felt relieved. I still trick myself into reaching for that bigger, faster life. The branches of my tree still shoot too dangerously close to what’s on fire.
Maybe this is just what it is to be human: stagnation = death. Yet as I gaze out my window at the perfect pine tree that somehow grows undisturbed in the middle of a Los Angeles neighborhood, I feel peaceful. (So why do I keep reaching?)
(I had a dream I got everything I wanted.)
These eight weeks, I’ve felt so relaxed. Comfortable. There’s no rush. So much time, oozing into everything. I’ve embraced failure (planting things that definitely weren’t ever going to make it), adventure (stepping calf-deep into a river on a hike with my family), and mostly, I’ve embraced my own sadness that this world is just not complete without my brother in it.
When I think about things re-opening, about rushing back into normality as soon as possible, there’s a sinking feeling of doom in my stomach. Our corporations are eager to recoup lost ground. There are bids on our time — to the point that we’ll fill the earth with plastic coffee lids because there isn’t enough time to enjoy a cup of coffee at home.
Do we have the courage to say “No thank you” to returning to that world we were in, the one whose beauty we
were destroying had destroyed, where everything was about growth and profits and what’s next, where we were all climbing frantically over each other all the time?
Do you have that courage?