Rhythms of Lockdown

We’re in lockdown. Again.

Do you remember the moment you realized all of this wasn’t going to be over in six weeks? I remember thinking all we had to do was hunker down, stay at home until the end of spring. Once warmer weather hit, we’d gradually go back to normal. By fall, everything would be like it was before.

It’ll be over by summer. By fall. By Christmas. By 2021.

Next summer. Next Christmas. Someday. Maybe.

I don’t mean for this to sound negative or depressing. Quite the opposite, in fact—by the end of this post, I’d like to infuse a little hopefulness into the conversation, an element of rest to counteract the anxieties we already have in abundance.

If I’m going to do that, though, I have to first acknowledge the fact we’ve all gradually come to accept: we do not have an end-date for all of this.

Instead of the pandemic being a single episode of our lives, it’s become a rhythm. It’s evolved into a repetitive cycle of tightening and loosening restrictions, an all-too-familiar back-and-forth as we collectively try to keep ahead of the constantly shifting circumstances in our cities, our nations, our world.

Cases rise, we lock down. Cue the sourdough.

Cases fall, we venture out into the world again, cautiously. Cue the outdoor barbecues.

Cases rise, we stock up on toilet paper and hunker down again.

Rise and fall. Ebb and flow. Stock, use up, restock. Stay home, venture out, return home. Repeat.

It mirrors the seasons, in a way. Each year, as the weather cools, we turn our attention homeward. Picnics and ice cream sandwiches in the sun give way to warm cups of coffee and steaming pots of soup. As the winter sets in, we adorn our homes with cozy throws and ourselves with scarves and mittens. We drink hot cocoa more than lemonade, seek fireplaces more than beaches.

And then the frost melts, and we venture out. We shed our layers, open our windows, set chairs on our patios. My social calendar always explodes in the summer, the weather nudging us toward backyard barbecues and Saturday volleyball and spontaneous trips to a lake or beach on a Thursday evening because the sun is warm and won’t set until late.

Then the weather cools. And we drift back indoors.

Sound familiar? Go out, stay in. Expand our world, contract it again. Ebb and flow, as predictable every year as the phases of the moon or the ocean’s tides.

Of course, the tightening and loosening of our restrictions is nowhere near as predictable as the rhythms of nature—and I certainly don’t mean to suggest that it will last long enough to become as familiar as the changing seasons. All catastrophes, whether wars or pandemics, eventually do come to an end, as history has showed us time and time again.

For now, though, this is the world we inhabit. These are our seasons, governed not only by the changing weather we can see but also by the changes we cannot.

As we move into a holiday season that feels both familiar and very strange, let’s lean into the new rhythms the way we already lean into the old. By now, eight months into this new reality, we are no longer novices. We know some things that work, and some things that don’t. We know what makes our anxiety rise and what sets us at ease. We know what makes good memories and what feeds our overwhelm.

No winter lasts forever, and no lockdown is without end. Just as we lean into the coziness of winter, secure that spring will come again, let’s lean into our empty calendars, confident that the time for filling them will cycle back around.

Let’s embrace the homebound evenings, whether they hold more quietness or more togetherness.

Let’s find ways to help our lives ebb and flow with the seasons we have been given, embracing and then releasing each phase in its turn.

Venture out, return home. Look out, turn in. Inhale. Exhale.

We’ll be okay.

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