The city of Chicago, where I live, has been under a shelter-in-place order for over a month, like much of America. I think most of us are struggling with this. Everyone feels anxious: There are so many sick people, and there is so much uncertainty. I’m a super-extrovert, so I started clawing at my front door about two days after lockdown.
Despite how scary the world is, the last few weeks haven’t been all bad. My new lifestyle has pushed me to discover new ways to navigate the day-to-day, and I think they’re going to make me a better person when everything gets closer to normal.
I talk with more people
I’m a pastor in a small church just outside of Chicago, and my job is to help people get through tough times like this. I can’t visit people face-to-face, like I normally would do, so I’ve decided to make phone calls to all the people in my congregation once a week. Honestly, that’s more connection with my congregation than I would normally get. There were people who really needed to talk. Increased isolation hit previously isolated people hardest, especially those caring for elderly relatives. It’s an opportunity for me to offer emotional support, and I am blessed by it.
It’s not just my congregation, either. I am spending more (virtual) time with my friends than I normally would. I’m part of a monthly beer tasting club, and four or five people typically attend. We had our last meeting online, and there were more than 10 of us. There were people in the group that I hadn’t even met! Taking my usual interactions “virtual” makes me feel more connected than ever before.
I learn new skills
When the governor issued the shelter-in-place order, I had to scramble to learn how to work from home and offer spiritual care online. In a week, I had to learn how to livestream worship services, piece together a basic video production setup, and learn how to direct virtual preschool lessons with only Youtube and my search engine as a guide. With some help from the pages of Open Broadcaster Software, I learned things I wouldn’t have even thought of three weeks ago.
I find creative ways to exercise
When all the gyms in Chicago closed, I lost access to the pool, weights, and the treadmill I love to hate. I need to exercise to stay sane, so I have to be creative. Fortunately for me, Chicagoans are still able to go outside (six feet apart!), so I get to run. I also head out to take photos of my beautiful city.
I can’t run all day, and I know some people can’t get out at all. I’m lucky to have a great training community that is working hard to find creative ways to stay in shape. They’re doing live strength training workouts, virtual group bicycle rides, and stretch-n-sips (yoga and booze…can’t be healthy the whole time) which makes it easier to stay in shape and be safe.
I get more done
The first 10 days of shelter-in-place were non-stop work while I caught up with everything that had to change. Now that it’s over, I have more time at home. With no commute, I just go straight to my computer to get started. So, I have a lot more time to get things done.
No late nights and long commutes means that I have more time to research delicious, healthy food, and I cook it more often. I’m cleaning the house more, because cleaning is way better than working. My wife and I are planning to go through all our stuff to get rid of anything we don’t need.
I pray daily, like you’d expect a pastor to, but the pandemic is pushing me to pray even more. We’re all anxious and stressed, and I am feeling it. There’s a low hum of anxiety buzzing from everyone, and it’s pushing me to pray more. It pushes me to trust in God, because it reminds me that I don’t have the control I thought I did.
I am going to nightly online prayer vigils with Scripture readings, hymns, and prayer. A group of churches started hosting it right after we started social distancing. It’s been a great comfort to take more intentional time to trust God. Honestly, self-quarantine is pushing me to focus on the spiritual practices I was previously too distracted to do.
This pandemic is scary, and we are all trying to figure out how to live in new ways. While much of it is driving me crazy, shelter-in-place is also pushing me to do new things or old things in new ways. While I can’t wait to get back to normal life, I think I will be thankful for the good that came from it.