In small spaces

I woke up with a sweaty little foot in my face. And no, it wasn’t my husband.

My toddler woke up in the night with a nightmare and he found his way between us, and like clockwork, he turned horizontally and pushed both of us to the edges of the what’s supposed to be a large king size bed. And to my left, of course, is my four-month-old.

But there was no getting up and getting ready for work and slipping out the door for eight hours. And there’s no saying goodbye to my husband.

It’s quarantine.

It’s a time none of us alive today have even experienced before.

And I know, as I write this, that half of my audience reading this are reading it because you now spend a large chunk of time on your phone as you’re stuck inside, avoiding people just as much as this infamous virus, and you happened to click on my headline.

So welcome. If you are a first-time reader or a reader that started with me back in 2011, welcome to my space.

It’s funny to me, with a foot in my face every morning and my family closer than ever before, how we are in a world promoting “social distancing” yet in so many ways, I think we’re coming closer than we have before. With the rule of six-feet-apart we have seen whole arenas house the homeless, small businesses who have had to close their doors feeding the hungry with what they have left. We’ve seen medical teams stay awake 48 hours at a time to care for the sick, faces bruised from tight plastic masks. We’ve seen parents push away their usual responsibilities to read an extra story or make cookies in the kitchen with the kids, and we’ve seen couples reconnect during lazy mornings. As some of us work from home, we’ve seen self-motivation and self-ambition to keep revenue rolling and keep departments cohesive over FaceTime meetings, phone calls, and emails. We’ve seen greater lengths being taken to check in, wish others well, and jump up to help.

It’s amazing to me how COVID-19 has rebranded our ways of talking to each other, of living more simply, of placing importance on the things that we once took for granted like a full fridge, healthy kids, fresh air, or a handshake. It’s not even about the virus most of the time. It’s about what it’s forced upon us, and our culture, during a time when we frankly needed the reminder.

In this time of social distancing and widening the gap I think the greatest blessing of all has been to see that in this large, overwhelming world we really do occupy such a small space.

We really do need one another.

As I plunk syrupy pears out of a can and watch my toddler dive in, I’m more tuned in to how lucky I am to have that can of food on my shelf. Beforehand, I wouldn’t have noticed. Not like this.

I hear my co-workers on conference calls and realize how much I miss their laughs around the boardroom table. I realize how lucky I was to photograph clients out in open fields and hug them goodbye. I breathe deeply on my walks with the stroller as I hear my newborn coo against the breeze and I feel grateful that we can go outside and still see the sun. I wave to my neighbors as they walk with their dog on the opposite sidewalk and honestly, we may not have even noticed each other before.

Life is so much simpler than how we have made it. And as awful as 2020 can seem, I think it has taught us that much. That we occupy the same small space.

In a strange way I think we needed to be forced inside and forced to stay home to give us the time to look outside our windows and see what people need. Our hearts have turned toward others cabinets and fridges and livelihoods and kids. Our eyes have kept track of the businesses that need our attention during times of need. Our families have become top of mind as the static of normal day-to-day has sloughed off, sharpening our vision, humbling us, and grounding us in the process.

As we’re distancing to stay safe–I think we are actually embracing each other in other ways to stay alive.

And that’s beautiful, invigorating, and breathing life into a world that was dying simply from having too much space, too much distance, and too much indifference.

I love this foot in my face and I’m embracing working in my pajamas on my bed instead of in my heels in an office because for at least two weeks I’m “forced” to share a small space with the only important things in my life. I’m forced to hone in, distraction free. I’m forced to look into the lives of my colleagues, my clients, my friends–and evaluate how I can be better for them.

And when my space becomes smaller, I have more room to take in the burdens without having to also measure my own, fill needs, hold my babies longer without checking the clock, and reading that book that had been gathering dust. In this small space, my capacity has widened.

I hope you stay healthy. Stay grateful. Stay humble. Stay vigilant of others. I hope you make goals and keep them. I hope you achieve at least one thing from the comfort of your living room during all of this. I hope you ask to help. And I hope you ask for help when you need it too.

And while you are ordered to–enjoy your small space.

Once the “open” sign in society click on again, you can return to the madness and then resort to that small space after each busy day– and I hope we remember what 2020 has forced us to learn.

That this small space right here where you’re at is where the whole wide world actually turns.


(NY Times image)

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