Like everyone else in the world, I have been blindsided by the appearance of COVID-19 and its onslaught against humanity. After the first cases were reported in the U.S., I tried to keep up with my regular routine as much as possible; for example, I continued teaching piano lessons in my home studio for a full week after local public schools closed their doors, believing that we would be safe one-on-one, as long as we all kept our hands washed and I was diligent about sanitizing the doorknobs and piano keys. The following week, I was scheduled to attend a national music teachers conference in Chicago which was, of course, cancelled; the week after that, last week, was spring break, so there were no lessons then either. As each day unfolded, it became more and more apparent that the only way to stay safe was to isolate ourselves from one another. One by one, all the activities events that filled my days fell by the wayside: weekly piano ensemble rehearsals, monthly music teachers’ meetings, student events that happen just once a year, even Wednesday night and Sunday morning church services. All cancelled.
For the past two weeks, I have been kind of floundering; perhaps I’ve been in a mild state of shock. Other than venturing weekly to the grocery store, during the special hour set aside for senior citizens – after all, I am 60 now – and walking my dog several times a day, I have stayed inside. I’ve been reasonably productive, given the circumstances. I’ve done a lot of work on promoting the new album I’m releasing this Friday; I’ve created out a couple of hymn arrangements, composed one original piece, and started writing some new original music. I’m all caught up on album reviews. I’ve done a lot of cooking and a lot of baking, I’ve read a couple of books, and I’ve kept the house tidy as it is currently on the market and needs to be ready for showing at a moment’s notice. (That’s a story for another day).
But there have definitely been some dark moments. I’ve spent too many days in my pajamas, watched too many hours of television, drunk too many glasses of wine, consumed too many calories, spent too much time on social media. I have shed many tears: of grief for friends with loved ones who are sick and dying, of concern for the frontline and service workers who put themselves at risk every day, of fear for those who have lost jobs and income, of frustration at having no idea whatsoever how long this might continue.
This afternoon I will return to full-time teaching, but all my lessons will be done online. I am looking forward to “seeing” my students, and I hope that making music will bring them solace during these challenging times. There is no doubt that having more structure to my days will be beneficial for me, as well. And I have come to realize that I need to do a much better job of taking care of myself, of my physical and mental health, if I am going to survive, perhaps even thrive, over the coming weeks and months. I am renewing my New Year’s Day resolution to nurture myself.
Towards that end, I am working out a daily routine that includes healthy meals and exercise, meditation and gratitude, and consistent going to bed and waking up times. I’m going to drastically reduce the time I spend on social media and reading the news, focusing instead on creativity and productivity. Where work is concerned, I will set goals and deadlines for myself, but also plan time for reflection and relaxation. I can’t be with people physically, but I can make phone calls and write cards and letters.
It is my sincere wish that some of this might resonate with you and your own state of affairs. Undoubtedly there are rough times ahead, but by taking care of ourselves we are also preparing ourselves – for the “new normal” that will exist on the other side of the coronavirus pandemic.
Stay in. Stay safe. Stay positive.