The New Norm Coming Into Focus

The novelty of working from home is over. Oh, so over.

“Sometimes I look up at the computer screen during a video conference and wonder who the old guy that looks like my aunt Thelma is,” said a friend. “Then I realize it is me.”

Video conferencing might only be the tip of the sword.

The COVID-19 crisis is changing our lives in profound ways. If this is a disruption, then it is one akin to a tectonic behavioral shifting occurring within a generational gap. And if most of us experienced the coming of the internet, 9/11, and the Great Financial Crisis of 2009, this event is an attention-getter.

As medically dangerous the COVID-19 crisis is, the forced change in behavior could forever warp how we manage our days. And maybe there are a few positive takeaways.

My wife and I are getting to know each other in ways similar to when we first began dating. Without the constant pressure of having to be somewhere, we find ourselves sitting and talking more. One night we played a game of naming restaurants from our childhoods until the other called uncle. And with most, came a story or memory to share.

I’ve also learned my back might be able to survive multiple workouts a week, but whoever imagined doing a 1,000-piece puzzle would wreak havoc on my spine?

One morning I finished up a video call and realized I was wearing the clothes I’d slept in the night before. How did this happen to someone who is rather particular about his wardrobe and hair? If this is the future, I’m not sure I want to play. I genuinely enjoy a well-tailored suit, sharply pressed shirt and matching tie, and colorful pocket square.

This week another friend joked they’d put on 10 pounds.

“We better hope this does not turn into the COVID-19,” I said.

As much as I try to stick to my exercise routine, I’m beginning to think it might not be the dryer’s fault that my pants are barking.

On the other side of this, I am relearning to read music, reading more books, and carving out moments where I suddenly ask myself, “where did all these birds in the trees show up.”

The Wall Street Journal reports Americans are working more hours than ever during this chapter of work-from-home. On average, people are working up to 3 hours more a day – something I can personally attest. Days start early and run long.

Psychologists point to habits being taking root after 14-days. I’ve lost track. Some days I the only clue I have on what day of the week it is the little letter embossed atop my morning pillbox.

Suddenly I feel naked at the grocery store without a mask. When watching television and someone touches a door handle, I wonder wiped down recently. And a clip of a baseball game crowd doing the wave seems like a lifetime ago.

The world is changing. I guess I can, too.

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Never Forget The Value of Cheer

My grandfather successfully served in World War II yet never lifted a weapon.

Much like today, people were confused, uncertain, and struggling to make sense of their surroundings. And while his war – and the fear of a terrorizing invasion is vastly different from avoiding a deadly virus – he played in an important role helping people get through to next sunrise.

My grandfather, a father to 4 girls and too old to serve in the military, fought the Battle of Britain with the limited tools God gave him – a singing voice and empathetic urge to bring smiles to people’s faces.

Wars can be won and lost at home. Battlefield victories pale in comparison to the collective spirit of those back home. Without a shared purpose or vision, the pain of war can erode the mortar holding together the foundational bricks of the people.

My grandfather was generously known as an entertainer. Nothing professional, but always willing to lead a song or tell a story at the pubs dotting the Scotland and English landscapes. When I think of him, I picture him standing on a chair, belting out traditional folk songs, or telling stories to workers coming off a shift at the local shipbuilding port.

The government split my mother and her family apart during the war, scattering them across different towns as not to allow a single bomb to erase an entire family. And while the sisters lived on rural farms, my grandparents were assigned to work the underground trains in London.

As German bombers scorched the skies, sirens would send people underground for cover. And tunnels beneath the cities became a strategic fall out shelters for Londoners. It was in those musty caverns my grandfather fought the war.

With the muffled sounds of the nightly bombings dripping from above, he would take to a song to lift the spirits of those squatting against walls. My grandfather’s charge was to transport people away from pain and fear and to one free of bombs dropping from the skies above.

I recall the stories of how he would be singing and elevating his voice as the noise above sought to compete as if they knew he was fighting against them. In my imagination – the ones created while hearing the stories told to me as a child – his voice echoes down dark caverns while hundreds of people cover themselves and small children from dust and fragments of falling stone.

As an adult, I now understand my imagination colors these stories in romance, but the key elements remain. His job was to do whatever he could to elevate people’s spirits during a period of great despair and uncertainty. And although never issued a weapon, his tools moved people to want to see the next sunrise.

Today’s world is uncertain. We don’t know what we are dealing with or for how long. But the lessons of my grandfather still apply. We need to keep our spirits up, focus on coming together, and know – if we have the grit – we will see tomorrow’s sunrise.

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Easter Eggs And Making Memories

Baseball is not only American tradition gone silent during this COVID-19 crisis.

Easter Sunday always brings back memories of my brother and me standing in a long horizontal starting line of a hundred other kids, colorful straw baskets in our hands, waiting to race across a field finding and picking up colorful eggs hidden between the grass blades.

This year, this timeless tradition across American communities will not happen as we practice social distancing and shelter at home guidelines.

My memories always feature brilliant colors. Skies painted in radiant blues, white clouds billowing like dancing cotton balls, and breezes slipping by at a whisper’s pace – not too much, not too little.

The Easter egg hunt playing my head is no different. A half-century later and I still see eggs pushing the boundaries anything an artist ever dipped a paintbrush into, grass so green as to make a golf course jealous, and my mother’s dress drinking in all the available sunlight from above, cheering us on from the sidelines.

Yes, at that moment, life was perfect.

I don’t know how many eggs I collected that day or if I ever ate any of them. The moment is about being with my family and friends making memories I would faithfully carry forward with me for a lifetime.

Today we need to not let up on making memories. Yes, we should follow the guidelines in place to protect all of us, but doing so does need to mean living absent of life.

A friend shared he would be using a video tool on his computer to visit with his kids and grandkids on Easter. Don’t think the kids will ever forget the Easter spent seeing their grandparents on a video screen?

We need to understand this window does not equate to putting life on pause. We are exclusively in charge of creating the emotions and memories we experience and take forward. And that comes from plucking the emotional chords hardwired inside each of us. The only way the will sit silent is if we don’t make an effort to strum the strings.

This weekend is a great time to reach out to someone and create a time-traveling memory. Pick up your phone and calling someone you know or love. We all are in this great shared experience of temporary restriction, but without human contact, this moment can result in a painful window of isolation.

Make a few calls this weekend. Send a few texts to friends you’ve not heard from in a good while. And if you can, invite someone to figure out how to use a video conference tool. Memories result from experiences – mainly the actions and interactions with others.

There may not be a field of colorful eggs planted in the grass field of a nearby park, but there are plenty of opportunities to discover memories ahead of us. This point in time is temporary; the memories are forever. The memories you plant today will be yours forever.

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