By Kathy & Jeff Richman, Salinas, California
We’re grateful that cases of COVID 19 are declining here in California, and that many facets of our lives are opening up. Children have returned to school, many laid off workers have regained employment, summer is beckoning. We feel fortunate to have weathered the past year as a couple; thankful to be active and in good health, and to be vaccinated. We ‘ve grieved for friends we lost to COVID over the past year, and for families we know that have struggled to make ends meet. We’ve increased our donations to our local food bank. But now what?
When we entered into quarantine in March 2020, we gave up volunteer commitments outside the home and routine visits with friends and family. We planned shopping and other necessary trips carefully to minimize time out of the home. Now, as we move away from the year of sheltering in place, we are determined to be intentional about what to change and what to retain as we move away from the year of mostly staying at home.
During the forty days of the Catholic season of Lent, many of the faithful examine and contemplate their relationship with Spirit, to see how they might have fallen away (the definition of sin), and how they might draw closer again. They practice giving up material and mental distractions, and add daily practices of prayer, fasting, and giving to others.
The past year of changes and sacrifices mandated by a global pandemic provided us a time to examine and to contemplate our couple relationship, and to recognize and draw closer to the Sacred within it.
We took daily walks together, first just near our home, and later throughout the neighborhood. We took turns cooking new dinner recipes for each other. We began listening in the evening to our old vinyl records, particularly the ones from Mexico and South America, remembering that when we’d first met more than 40 years ago, we’d done the same thing.
We replaced in-person gatherings of friends and family with online Zoom meetings, phone calls, email or sending letters or cards through USPS (perhaps resurrecting a pre-Internet form of communication).
And we had opportunity to talk to each other, and to practice listening as part of dialogue. Friends Couple Enrichment offered opportunities to practice witnessed dialogue each month by attending the drop-in dialogue.
As we start to emerge from Pandemic restrictions, we are fortunate to be able to make intentional choices: What pre-pandemic activities / commitments do we want to resume, and when? Are there some pre-pandemic routines we are ready to drop, for the sake of the quality of our relationship?
Further, are there practices that we started during the Pandemic year that we want to carry forward?
We have not yet finished answering these questions, but we have decided to carry on with our daily walks together, to make a priority of seeing F/friends in person, and to consider carefully whether or not to re-commit to a particular volunteer activity.
One big lesson of this year has been not taking any of our relationships for granted. During this year of more togetherness than we were used to, we have been reminded of our appreciation for each other and how important it is to name that appreciation for our partner. We have sorely missed gathering in person with the members of our Meeting community, and we look forward to being able to do so in a few weeks. As we experience the precious everyday encounters and activities that we used to take for granted, they become new again.