Now that the school year has started, our chaotic pandemic summer is now settling firmly into a routine again. It’s not exactly my favorite way of doing things, but with time, everyone in my family is adjusting and finding their way. Surprisingly, it’s not too different from the routine we had before the pandemic. Then, it was pretty standard: kids to school, things to do, kids home from school, playtime, homework, dinnertime, bedtime, rinse and repeat. The things I was able to get done when the kids were in school varied, but I was busy enough to miss them once my kids were sent home last March and the rest of the year stretched out in front of us like one long, dark tunnel.
Now, it’s similar: kids to school, things to do, kids home from school (or out of their rooms during the school days at home) playtime, homework, dinnertime, bedtime, rinse and repeat. I’m not so busy in between if the kids are home (they always need one form of help or another), but I am too busy for a lot more than I thought I’d be; and now it’s autumn.
The leaves are starting to fall from the trees, we’ve had to run our furnace a few times, and the sweaters I’ve been longing to wear are now shaken out and ready to go. The squirrels in our yard are getting fatter, and our family is planning out what our “Pandemic Halloween” festivities will be instead of the usual trick-or-treating. (We’re still planning on loads of candy being present.)
But even so, I’m not fully present for any of it. There’s so much that I’m missing. It was a feeling that was difficult to articulate, but I figured it out the other day: I was missing wonder. Don’t misunderstand: I’m thankful to have a routine again, but that routine has now taken the space in my mind where all of the marveling used to be. Instead of taking a few extra minutes to notice how slowly the oak leaves outside are changing (by gradients, little by little, instead of a mad rush), I’m worried about whether my daughter can find her Kindergarten paperwork before she logs on to the computer to join her class virtually. Instead of taking a deep breath of the downright chilly morning air, I’m gulping down coffee and checking to make sure multiplication facts are memorized.
There is a beauty to that, too, honestly. There is a comfort in coffee, in the times tables, in needing to be somewhere at a certain time (even if it’s on a screen). There may be comfort, but…that doesn’t mean there’s wonder.
In Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451,” a young girl named Clarisse, raised in a stressed and chaotic world that moves a million miles an hour lives a countercultural life: she allows herself time to slow down and look at the world around her:
“I sometimes think drivers don’t know what grass is, or flowers, because they never see them slowly,” she said. “If you showed a driver a green blur, Oh yes! He’d say, that’s grass! A pink blur? That’s a rose garden! White blurs are houses. Brown blurs are cows.”
Like the world Bradury paints for his readers, our lives also move incredibly quickly. Information, whether it’s the news, a new schedule, an uprooted routine, is thrown at us, and before we have any time to process it, we’re forced to leave it aside and keep going until it’s all different color blurs. We don’t stop to wonder about anything anymore.
But Clarisse does, mentioning something beautiful to the novel’s protagonist:
“Bet I know something else you don’t. There’s dew on the grass in the morning.”
What do you see in the morning? In all-of-the hullabaloo of your current pandemic routine, what are the things you notice – really notice – first? Is there room for an extra 30 seconds as you start your day to notice something you normally don’t, or room for taking in an awesome sight, even if it would seem ordinary to someone else? I am going to try to make a real effort over the next few weeks to try to give myself some time for wondering. I’m hoping it will bring some much-needed peace and calm to these very hectic days. Maybe you’ll give it a try, too!
Wishing you a peaceful autumn season filled with hope, joy, and a refreshed sense of wonder!
Until next time, be well!
About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.