I recently served as a substitute Bunco player with a group of ladies who’ve been enjoying a monthly reunion for over twenty years. They were a friendly and lively bunch who had quite obviously become quite close through their tradition of sharing their homes to host dinner, drinks and gaming twelve times a year. They were particularly excited because the pandemic had halted their get togethers but this year they had managed to meet with regularity.
They spoke of watching their children grow into adulthood over the span of time that had united them. They shared stories of teachers, sporting events, churches that they had mutually attended from the time that they were young mothers leaning on one another for advice and support. They were a happy and friendly bunch who warmly welcomed me to their circle if only for that one night.
I realized as I listened to their chatter and laughter how much I had missed such gatherings during the past couple of years. I also felt a bit out of step, unaccustomed to being around so many people at once. I had somehow lost my ability to be relaxed in a crowd. It felt as though I had been in a long slumber like Rip Van Winkle and I had awoken to find that I was struggling to resume my former enthusiastic and energetic interaction with the world outside my home.
I mentioned to the ladies that I had somehow lost track of time and found myself constantly having to refer to my calendar and my reminders to keep up with the rush that is resuming in my life. I had slowed myself to days, then weeks, then months of journeying from room to room in my home without the least bit of urgency to follow any kind of routine. In the process I had grown to enjoy the solitude, especially on days when the weather turned cold and rainy. I began to prefer the lifestyle imposed on me by the virus and my own sense of caution.
I opened a big discussion with my observation. Each of the women admitted that they had lost all sense of time and place and were still struggling to return to a way of life that they had hitherto taken for granted. Part of them longed for the old days and part of them enjoyed the slower pace and the quiet that the pandemic had granted them. They had adjusted their lives to a new way of doing things.
I have always liked the colder weather of winter and even the days when rain chills my bones and makes me think of warm cocoa, a comfy chair and a good book. Those are the times when I did not want to have anything to do on my schedule. I gloried in being able to stay at home back in the days when I was mostly rushing from one place to another, one task to another, but most times I did not have the luxury of halting the demands on my time. Then came the pandemic that changed everything. Slowing down so dramatically during the past many months has made me more inclined to cancel an appointment when the weather or my mood yearns to simply enjoy the quiet sound of rain falling outside my windows.
Even my students and their parents trend toward more a more leisurely way of enjoying life. They are more likely to cancel a lesson if they feel a bit under the weather than they once were. If they are overwhelmed by commitments they back away from rushing to meet every demand. It is as though all of us are reassessing what is important and how we want to proceed forward with our lives. Old habits are being called into question as we put our routines back together and decide what we really want to do.
I learned from the ladies at the Bunco party that everyone’s life has changed in some very dramatic way. Each of us had spent time assessing our values and determining how we wish to proceed. Most of us have chosen a slower pace, a desire to devote ourselves to enjoying small things, the favorite things, rather than attempting to do everything. Some of the women are exercising more. Others are traveling. They are leaving jobs that make them unhappy for those that give them a sense of joy and purpose. They are scaling back, taking time to sit with a warm cup of tea and just relax on a cold rainy day.
I enjoyed the Bunco party even though I was a bit anxious about being with strangers and wondering if I still have a knack for chatting. I found that listening was much better than talking. It was quite enjoyable to learn how people that I only met for that one night were coping with the craziness of the world. There were many commonalities among us even as we were also so very different.
I am glad I had the opportunity to meet them but now I plan to hunker down for a couple of days as a cold front with rain is coming my way. I want to balance my interactions with quiet and serenity. There’s another party in a couple of days and I am not yet back in my old form. I’m not so sure that I can handle so much gaiety without balancing it with alone time.
I sometimes wonder if those of us who have traveled together alone will ever re-adjust to the old ways of living. I know that I missed my busy schedule when it first became interrupted. Now I find myself questioning why I ever rushed so hectically from one hour to another. I hardly ever stopped long enough to really enjoy what I was doing. For years many of my dearest friends and relatives have cautioned me to slow my pace, allow myself time to just relax. I always protested that I did not know how to do such thing, but now I do and it is gloriously freeing. I have learned how to come inside from the rain without feeling guilty and I like it.