I Chose to Become Obsessed with Gnomes

Today I woke up to news that the National Guard is coming to our quiet little town to help with Covid. I’m not sure how they will be helping, but the fact that the military is being deployed to a place that most of the country has never even heard of is a bit unsettling. This news came on the cusp of receiving word that it is mandatory for my daughter to be tested for Covid if she is to attend her college this fall. It truly feels as though we are living a dystopian novel.

At the beginning of each new year is a certain level of hope and optimism. You aim to make this the year that counts, a year of change and getting things done; it’s another chance to work on the bucket list and to just live life. 2020 has done nothing to provide that opportunity, if anything it has been a year on hold as we take one day at a time and hold our breath for what is to come.

Normally, July brings forth a certain level of anticipation and excitement in our household as we enjoy the fun of 4H Camp and the beginning of marching band season. On the heels of these activities is back to school shopping – all those pens and notebooks are too hard to resist. It’s a frenzy of lists, and dates to remember, all to ensure the kids get a fun send off for the school year and we have our game plan for all the chaos and hectic schedules.

But this is not the normal year.

My two college students have been home since their spring break in March, following shortly on their heels was my son who saw his Junior year of high school come to an abrupt end. We managed it though, kept our attitudes positive and followed the rules of social distancing in the hopes of salvaging something of the summer and normalcy in the fall. We, like many others, would be erroneous in our optimism.

Flights canceled, camps canceled, school delayed and the pandemic seems to be only getting worse instead of better – I could list the reasons why, but that would help no one at this point. This time of year we are usually planning out our fall calendar for band competitions and games, making traveling arrangements to PA. This fall would even include winter graduation for our first born, but still the calendar sits mostly empty. We have more questions than answers and nobody is able to help with the clarification of uncertainties as we take the early steps of functioning in a Covid impacted society.

So what do we do? How do we handle the unknown?

I don’t know about you, but for me, I have found it sometimes challenging. I have had to swallow down disappointments, be a firm foundation for my kids, and smile through the fear. By putting others first I find that I don’t have time to dramatize the situation in my mind, and that’s a good thing because who needs more drama. In a world obsessed with Covid, I chose to become obsessed with gnomes, and masks.

Ever since I lived in Germany, I wanted a rock garden with gnomes. Each year that vision has slowly come into a reality. However, this year, thanks to social distancing and a new job, I had the time to truly work and enjoy that garden. It’s a happy spot and when I am working in it or simply sitting down to look over it, I feel at peace and the problems of our world disappear – I guess you can say it is my way of meditating. Find a hobby that you can become obsessed with. Whether it’s reading, painting, hiking, or knitting – a hobby frees your mind from the intensity of the day. Don’t have time? Make time. Your mental health is a priority. Just like eating nourishes the body, relaxation nourishes the spirit.

The other thing I mentioned is masks. As these face coverings have become a way of life now, my family has fully embraced this new opportunity to express our personalities. Like t-shirts, necklaces, or any other item you wear, masks can become an accessory instead of a burden. There are so many patterns, styles, and fabrics to choose from to ensure comfort and uniqueness. I even catch myself at work complimenting people on their masks. It’s actually become fun to go mask shopping! And as mask wearing will be around for a long while still, we might as well embrace it and make the most of it instead of complaining about it, and in doing so, the world becomes just a little bit brighter.

Change is inevitable – be it good or bad – and it is always different and different can be scary. Sometimes change comes and we barely notice it’s passing, other times it hits you over the head. Either way, the attitude in which we view change and make that transition is the defining element, not the mechanism of change itself. I’m just as confused about the school setup as every other parent out there. I’m just as afraid of what the future holds as most, but I do not let these things define my life. Instead, I choose to make the best out of the situation, to smile and laugh and enjoy the simple things of life, and in doing so I can breathe freely and easily even when wearing a mask.

-Pax tibi


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