If there’s one thing we have all learned in the past year, it’s that we are creatures of habit. And when something comes along that upends our lives and forces us to change our way of life in unexpected and often extreme ways, we may experience a wide range of emotions:
- Frustration at being faced with unaccustomed restrictions and upsets in our daily routines.
- Disappointment over cancelled vacations.
- The stress that comes with sidelined career plans and deferred education.
- Sadness at being separated from loved ones.
- Loneliness if we are living on our own without social contact.
- Anxiety when lives and livelihoods are in jeopardy.
- And fear of the long-term impact of a virus we don’t fully understand.
We’ve all had to redefine what’s normal and live our lives to the best of our abilities. Here are some gifts of enforced isolation to make the best of a difficult time and get the most out of our new normal.
1. The Gift of Introspection
We are all creatures of habit. And under normal circumstances, we follow our daily routines without giving them much thought. We go to work. We pursue our education. We take care of our families. We socialize with friends. And we spend the rest of our time on social media where our self-image is validated or watching television where our sense of reality is reinforced.
Some of us may have moments when a vague sense of disquiet disturbs our status quo. “Am I happy?” “What am I doing in this job? “Am I doing enough to express my social conscience?” But for the most part, our busy lifestyles provide us with ample excuse to keep the soul searching to a minimum.
Then along comes an unexpected tsunami that wipes out every sense of normalcy we hold dear…a pandemic that shuts down our institutions, threatens our livelihoods, cuts us off from contact with friends and families, and even puts us at fear for our very lives. Suddenly nothing is certain, nothing is normal, and everything simply stops.
With all the uncertainty comes an unexpected gift – the chance to get to know yourself all over again. To sit with your own thoughts and reevaluate your own priorities from a more heart-based perspective. To show up as someone you may have put on the backburner for too long. A helper. A teacher. A problem solver. An activist…A leader. Because all of a sudden, the world around us needs all of these and more.
2. The Gift of Clarity
Let’s face it…most of us are procrastinators. We can put off something that needs doing until the cows come home. But when suddenly nothing is calling for your attention; no job to go to, no school functions, no family gatherings or social obligations; life bestows upon you a unique gift – that of stillness.
With stillness come revelations. Heart-based messages from yourself about who you really are. Without the noise. Without the distractions. Without the hustle and bustle of daily life drowning out the still small voice that is you, striving to be heard.
This is why so many of our mentors and teachers recommend meditation as a way to achieve clarity and relieve stress. Because inside you there’s a being who knows exactly who you are and who you are meant to be.
So when the world is put on pause for an extended time, it’s like a gift from the universe inviting you to go within and find your hidden treasures. Your compassion. Your resilience. Your creativity. And your God-given ability to make a difference.
3. The Gift of Creativity
We’ve all done it…put off pursuing new hobbies or interests until we had more time to devote to them.
Every now and then one of those Masterclass catalogs comes across our desks and we page through it and maybe even dog-ear a couple of pages that pique our interest.
Cooking classes, piano lessons, painting, a foreign language…somehow our passions always fall short of the available time we have to pursue them. But while we’re sitting around worrying, waiting for life to start up again, it seems like the perfect time to do something that makes us happy.
So take out that old guitar, brush off Grandpa’s chessboard, or plan out that vegetable garden you’ve been wanting to plant. You can even get the kids involved. Let’s build a birdhouse. Or bake some banana bread. It’ll be a nice change from video games and social media. And it just might spark some conversation and quality time together.
4. The Gift of Rebirth
The more new interests you pursue, the greater the chance that one of them will turn out to spark a lifelong passion. Maybe even one that will propel you into a new career path.
Think of this “downtime” as a kind of school. Especially if you’re currently unemployed. Maybe your daily journaling will spark an idea for that book you’ve been wanting to write. Perhaps your desire to help others will open the door to a long-term position in social work. Or maybe your newfound activism will lead to long-term participation in an environmental action group, or even a career in politics.
The truth is the world is changing. The pandemic has forced us to see how so many systems we’ve depended on are in dire need of change. Clearly our new normal will require more socially committed people than ever before. If you feel a calling, it just might be you.
5. The Gift of Technology
Humans are social beings. Lockdowns and social isolation go against everything we hold dear as a species. No parties. No dinners out with friends. No face-to-face interactions, and worst of all – no hugs. But technology and resilience have combined to provide us with new and innovative ways to get together, hold meetings, celebrate each other, and even take classes, courtesy of virtual online platforms like Zoom, Facebook Portal, or Microsoft TEAMS.
Now we can meet face-to-face on our phones, tablets, or home computers, whenever we want, for activities that include family reunions, book clubs, prayer and meditation groups – or just those impromptu check-ins with friends both far and near.
In fact, the positive impact of video conferencing is that it has connected us with others across the country, and even around the globe. Special interest groups like those found on Meetup, Groupspaces, or uGetTogether used to meet in person, but now have online participants from all over the world, bringing us all a little closer.
So until we can all meet face-to-face once again, find a virtual platform and connect with old friends – or pick a special interest group and find new friends around the corner, or around the world. You’ll be surprised at how much you have in common.
6. The Gift of Togetherness
2020 brought families together in ways we never expected. Parents were suddenly working from home, and their school-age kids were learning from home as well. College students had to come back to the nest, as did many suddenly unemployed young people whose career paths were sidelined by the pandemic.
Some of us took in grandparents living alone or moved in with them for temporary support. Suddenly we are not just families – we are a village; taking care of each other in ways we were totally unprepared for.
But in spite of the headaches of being all together all of the time, the frustrations of having to share space and share technology to keep everyone productive – there is a gift there for us if we’re willing to see it. A chance to reconnect with family members we spent so many years seeing only in passing or even avoiding altogether. An opportunity to build something new together that our generation seemed to have misplaced, with our heads buried in our smartphones and our identities shaped by social media.
It’s called togetherness. By finding ways to bond, we can help each other get through what is undoubtedly one of the toughest times we’ll ever face, and maybe discover the true meaning of family in a way we might have otherwise missed altogether.
7. The Gift of Literature
Remember when you used to be a voracious reader? Before you got that high-powered job? Before social media monopolized your life? Or before life got so hectic, you just couldn’t find the time?
Well, guess what? You’ve probably got lots of time now. So why not use some of it to reacquaint yourself with an old passion. Pick up a good romance. Or dive into an engrossing spy thriller. Whatever floats your boat. You might even dip your literary toes into some new waters and pick up a book on this evolution of humanity your woo woo friends are all talking about. It might just change your perspective.
Besides killing a few hours in a really enjoyable way, the right book can lead you down some very interesting paths. Maybe you’ll question things. Perhaps you’ll want to explore things further. And maybe you’ll even be motivated to write your own book. You just never know where reading will take you.
8. The Gift of Inspiration
If you’ve ever envied your neighbor’s handcrafted bookshelves or wished you could sew like your Aunt Joan, there’s no time like the present to learn a new skill. Whether it’s baking like the Cake Boss, or faux finishing the guest room walls, all you need is a few do-it-yourself books or YouTube videos to help you turn isolation into inspiration.
And if Aunt Joan happens to be living with you during the pandemic — you’ve got it made.
9. The Gift of Spirit
In a world abounding with uncertainty, many of us are finding solace in strengthening our spiritual practices. Yoga classes, prayer groups, meditation practices, and even channeled information from ascended masters are widely available through online videos, webinars, and video conferencing platforms.
So even if you can’t go to church right now, or go to your local yoga studio, or even enjoy a face-to-face session with your favorite psychic – you can do all this and more on your smartphone, your tablet, or home computer. Online organizations like Mindvalley and Humanity’s Team offer a wealth of self-help and spiritual webinars that can help empower you and give you purpose in this never-ending pandemic world
10. The Gift of Service
When everyone is feeling overwhelmed and there is so much loss everywhere you look, often the best gift you can give is the gift of yourself. Whether it’s shopping for your elderly neighbors, supporting our first responders, sharing what you have with those who have lost so much, or becoming a voice for the voiceless – you can find a multitude of creative ways to put your unique talents to work for the betterment of humanity.
When we give to others we usually get much more than we give. And suddenly, despite the death of so much – we feel more alive than ever.
Wrapping Up the 10 Gifts of Enforced Isolation
Between Covid, lockdowns, political strife, and personal setbacks, we’ve all had to dig deep to find opportunity in adversity, but if we can accept every setback as a moment to learn, evolve, and see things from a different perspective, we may look back on this time and find we were blessed beyond measure.
About the Author, Karen J. Gordon
As a freelance writer and copy editor, Karen J Gordon has had the pleasure of assisting others with their book proposals, memoirs, novels, and non-fiction projects. Whether she’s crafting her own ideas or is in collaboration with others, Karen takes great pleasure in working with the written word. Currently, she’s delighted to be part of the nonprofit organization Humanity’s Team, contributing her skills in the role of Director of Communications. Her work has been published in The Oregonian, the anthology The Knitter’s Gift, and on medium.com, as well as several writing sites and ezines.