We can’t go back. 

I’m not saying we shouldn’t open America back up again. We have to do that. We have already been doing that and please don’t get me wrong, I am very happy that we are. Businesses need to have their doors open. Kids need to be in the brick and mortar classrooms where they thrive. We have to congregate, and hug, and feel free and safe again. It has started and we are getting closer, but it will take time to get past all of this. But, it will happen. I’m confident that what fills our hearts will be a part of our lives once again. 

Normal, though? We can’t go back to “normal.”

For the past several years, a deep part of me has sat at unrest. Even as a person who considers herself generally content and happy, I often feel unsettled. Disoriented. Lacking peace in a part of my life. 

Yet, in the past several weeks, a light bulb has gone off in my heart. 

I just needed to be still to put words to it. 

As the mother of four children, I’m physically still when I’m sleeping. That’s the only time my mind and body are not moving. Many of you can relate. We are managing calendars that are absolutely filled to the rim. We are racing our kids to activities every night of the week, while juggling careers, volunteer roles, relationships – all while hoping to sneak in a moment for ourselves. We reflect on the “good ole’ days,” which for me are the magical 80’s. Yes, a time when unicorns really did fly free, without technology, standardized testing, or global pandemics clouding our vision. My husband and I love to tell our kids about how beautifully simple life was when we were their age. 

And, for the past several weeks, they’ve actually gotten a taste of it themselves.

We’ve sat around the table every night for dinner. We’ve watched movies and played games. We’ve lived outside, taken family walks, connected with friends and family members more regularly {albeit, virtually}. I am smelling all the flowers, hearing all the birds, and really listening to the people who I love most. I’m not distracted. There’s nothing impeding me from being truly present. 

I’m physically and emotionally STILL. 

Just like we all used to be in a different day and time. 

We can’t go back. 

A friend of mine recently wrote a blog post about waving. Yes, waving. The simple, ubiquitous gesture that she saw when she moved into our neighborhood back in 1999. Kids played everywhere in the streets, neighbors congregated in each other’s driveways, and everyone waved. In 2020, that scene had diminished… that is, until COVID-19 came on to the scene.

Her anecdote is a metaphor. We were just too busy, too distracted, too self-absorbed to wave in the days before this virus entered our lives.

When the coronavirus is gone… we’ve got to keep waving.

The greatest failure in the midst of our global bout of grief will be if we simply go back to business as usual once it’s over. Our biggest heartbreak won’t come from the virus itself, but from not learning from this experience. Could you, in your lifetime, ever have imagined a complete global shut-down of “life as we know it”? It’s been heart-wrenching and full of grief on so many levels. But, this forced pause has also been a gift. If we don’t learn something from this, it will not only be a waste, but an absolute tragedy.  

I can’t tell you what this will look like for your family. I’m still trying to figure that out for my own. But, what I do know is that I have to build margin for what’s important. And, my definition of what’s important has dramatically changed since last March. 

What is really important? 

Business leaders: Please ask yourselves that before you send moms and dads on planes when they could be taking more virtual meetings from their home base. Youth sports organizations: please ask yourselves this before you schedule football practice, three times a week, for a bunch of eight year-olds. Educational decision makers: please ask yourselves this when designing curriculum and setting standards for children who desperately just want to be children. Moms and dads: please ask yourselves this when you are tempted to put work, or outside activities, or social media “moments” before face-to-face time with your kids. 

We are all obligated to ask ourselves really tough questions right now. 

Don’t miss this chance to bring “the good ole’ days” smack into the present. In the middle of a tornado of uncertainty, what I know for sure is that we’ll never have this opportunity again.