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I suppose that back in 2019, when we were celebrating the end of that year and preparing for 2020, few of us had any idea how much would change in the next many months. Somehow the numbers 2020 foretold the insights into life that many of us would experience as we began to see the world more realistically. Things slowed down, kept us in a quiet state, allowed us to observe, contemplate, heal. 

I am one of those people who was always rushing from one activity to another. I planned trips, parties, activities that kept me so busy that I had little time for sitting in silence. I admit to having a mind racing so quickly in pursuit of accomplishing as much as possible in a single day, that I sometimes gave only cursory attention to conversations or even prayers. I was always thinking of my to do lists, and calendars. I potted and planned, and rushed from one thing to the next. 

Suddenly, in March of 2020, I had an empty planner save for the Zoom lessons that I held in my home. I was free to slow my pace because I was not going anywhere. One day was like another and it was difficult to cope with the silence. I threw myself into projects to stay entertained. Then I grew weary of even that, and along the way I learned how to meditate. I was able to sit quietly and listen to the sounds of my heart and my breathing. I heard to birds and insects and the whispering of the wind. I began to reassess what brought me the most joy and comfort. 

When the vaccines came I was overjoyed. I have been able to return to the outside world, but I have found that I no longer want to do many of the things that once entertained me. Eating out only entices me if it means being with family or friends. I’d just as soon pay for a movie through one of my online subscriptions as go to a theater. Shopping holds little interest, and I now tend to go straight to whatever I need and leave quickly. I mostly enjoy quiet, intimate gatherings rather than raucous parties. I prioritize my time for meditation and prayer. I feel more in tune with nature and all of the people of the world. Somehow the sacrifices and suffering of the pandemic have reminded me to focus more on people. 

I sometimes think that even those of us who did not catch the virus were still sick from the rapid pace of the world and its demands. Slowing down gave us an opportunity to reassess how to do things. Sadly, so many fought against introspection, and missed a rare moment in which to grow. They stuck with all of their old ways and refused to even consider that change comes to us in many ways. While it often challenges us, it can be just what we need to be healthier and happier versions of ourselves. 

I read that researchers are leaning more and more toward the idea that depression is a mechanism that the body uses instinctively to help with the healing process. It is a natural response to illnesses, losses, abusive situations that can actual protect us as long as it does not become too intense. Those who allow themselves to express their feelings of sorrow or lack of control often return more quickly to a state of strong mental health. Depression slows them down, alerts them to troubles, helps them to work through problems. Acknowledging difficulties is the first step to solving them. 

I suppose that in spite of the horrors and grave costs of life and income, the pandemic might have brought us closer together with all of the people of the world. Sadly, we seem to be more divided than ever. Too many insist on doing things their way, or doing nothing at all. They appear to want to turn back the clock and pretend that 2020 never happened. They missed the glorious joy of quieting their minds and viewing the world as they had never before seen it. They rejected the heeling moment that nature had provided them.

Each of us experienced loss. People that we dearly loved have left us for the next world. Some barely hung on to their security, their homes. It was a scary time, but if we do not see how many heroes rose to the occasion, then we have missed the point of it all. If we did not help in our own ways, then we do not yet understand how gloriously wonderful it feels to focus on others. Before we rush back into the race that once so consumed us, we would do well to ask ourselves how willing we have been to understand others, and change the ways that we all might live together. Have we heard the cries of injustice, inequality, need? Do we really want to continue to ignore them? Are we willing to face even ugly truths so that we might all move forward?

Our calendars are filling again. We are rushing around in pursuit of our own lives, liberties, and happiness. Our old habits are vying to overtake us again. Let us not ignore what we learned, not even if it requires us to change. I now have antibodies working inside my body to prevent the virus from harming me. Hopefully I also created antibodies in my mind that will prevent me from allowing the toxicity of neglect to continue to inflict pain and suffering on my brothers and sisters all over the world. We all can give a little so that everyone gains.