There are a lot of things I’m looking forward to in post-quarantine life: eating dinner on a restaurant patio, going to my favorite barre studio for class, meeting with my team in-person, actually hugging my friends and extended family again. But when the governor of Texas recently announced that reopening of services would begin this week, I surprised even myself by having a small jolt of anxiety at the thought of diving headlong back into the busyness of our normal lives.

The packed calendars and regimented schedules that always require me to be somewhere (and often running 5 minutes late)… I realized that a part of me didn’t want to go back.

image: jennifer rose smith

This quarantine has been a study in contrasts for me. I’m heartbroken for all the illness and suffering in the world right now, worried about my friends who have lost jobs and family members whose companies have been hard hit. I miss my friends and feel anxious about my kids missing out on this much school (’cause let’s be real, they’re only learning so much at home.)

But still. There’s been a steady thrum of joy in our lives at home, an inner whispering that the less-frenzied pace I’ve always said I wanted has now unexpectedly landed in my lap. We’ve had plenty of time for hikes and family soccer matches, jewelry making and so much cooking. Phoebe made peanut butter cookies completely on her own, and she was so proud – and for once, I wasn’t stressing about the giant mess in the kitchen afterwards. The challenges we’ve been having with Henry’s emotional issues miraculously disappeared within the first week of quarantine. Turns out, our boy thrives in a world where we don’t have to interrupt the creation of his massive lego battleship to hurry up and get his shoes on for school.

And now that I’ve had a taste of this slower, more soulful life, I don’t want to give it up. Of course, I know that’s not realistic, and the truth is, I would probably go crazy if told I had to stay home for too much longer. I miss the connection and freedom of being out in the world with others, and I’m so ready for all the struggling businesses to be able to open their doors again. But I’m also pausing to consider what I want to carry with me into post-quarantine life.

I think that what I really want is more margin in my days. More breathing room that allows for real connection with others and for deeper listening that allows me to show up for the people in my life. I want more space in my schedule to slow down and savor the moments, take in the beauty of nature, really taste my food and breathe deeply.

image: kristen kilpatrick

In a recent newsletter, Garance Doré shared how she’d been wrestling with a similar fear, that this whole experience would be for nothing as we all returned to life as usual and tried to forget that COVID-19 ever happened. She had her aha moment when she realized:

“It’s my job to give meaning to what’s happening. No one else will do it for me. It’s my job to decide who I want to be through this. It’s my job to look at what’s going on and decide that there will be a before and an after for me — because I want it. That I will think. That I will learn. That I will make this journey meaningful, because it can’t just be about rushing back into what is.”

Instead of just surviving this experience, I want to allow it to change me. This time at home has me asking questions like, “Have I made myself crazy busy to the point of squeezing out what’s actually important to me? What can I remove from my life that will create this breathing room moving forward? Which relationships do I want to invest in? What do success and happiness really look like for me? How can I simplify my life?”

At the end of the day, what I really want is to soak up life in all its beauty – both the complex things and the simple things. To be in nature every day. To be kind, to have plenty of time for the people I care about. To feel God’s presence in my life. To listen to music, to savor good food, to laugh big and be fully present. To create, and to celebrate the creations of people I love.

I just don’t want to miss any of it.

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Comments (21)
  1. 1
    Kelly Krause May 5, 2020 at 8:26 am

    Gosh I can relate to all of this. Here’s the other question: how will we decide to set these boundaries with other? Will it be as simple as saying, “No thank you, I’m going to make this a slow weekend,” or will (my) guilt kick in, and I’ll revert back to the old cycle. I hope I’m able to continue to set those boundaries and not offend, though as my therapist reminds me, “It’s ok to be empathetic, but not at the expense of your own feelings.” WHEW!

    • Camille Styles May 5, 2020 at 9:54 am

      Yep, such a good call… it’s that fine line between wanting to be there for your friends / family / coworkers, etc… and guarding your time so that you can actually do the things that make you the best version of yourself. And consequently, a better friend / family member / coworker. Hoping I can remember that, and let it guide my choices. Thanks for bringing this up, K.

  2. 2
    Sara Beth May 5, 2020 at 9:07 am

    I don’t have kids and I live in NYC, so our circumstances and experiences are a bit different, but I resonated with this SO SO MUCH. So beautifully and perfectly put. I hope we can all help each other remember the lessons of this forced and scary but much-needed time to BREATHE from the often toxic breakneck pace of what life was before this. Mindfulness is such a buzzword but it’s amazing how much easier it is to achieve when we actually slow down and realize what’s really important.

    • Camille Styles May 5, 2020 at 9:52 am

      Thank you for this, Sara Beth. One other silver lining of this time is the ability to see how much we share, even when our circumstances are different. And yes – the KEY in all of this will be for us to remember the lessons when it’s all over. It won’t be easy, but it’s so necessary! Sending love.

  3. 3
    Patty Harper May 5, 2020 at 2:07 pm

    For all of the above, thank you!!

  4. 4
    Erma May 5, 2020 at 3:52 pm

    This post really resonates with me. I’ve thankfully found some peace among the uncertainty and I’m hoping I can take some of that with me when the reality of our lives slowly come back. This near full-stop might’ve been the thing I needed to refocus on what’s important in my life and who I should be giving my attention and effort to.

    • Camille Styles May 6, 2020 at 7:16 am

      I love this, Erma: “…refocus on what’s important in my life and who I should be giving my attention and effort to.” It is so true that we have a choice on what we GIVE our attention to! Thank you.

  5. 5
    Sarah May 5, 2020 at 9:56 pm

    Oh my- I have really been having these same thoughts and feelings. I have to admit that I have a little pang of sadness when I realize that someday I won’t be sitting down at the table for all three meals with my family each day. I have treasured these extra moments with our four year old daughter.

    It’s hard to even imagine getting back to my pre-COVID schedule. Waking up at 4:45 to work out, trying to rush out the door in the morning, get my daughter to preschool, rush to pick her up after work, rush to get dinner ready, rush but to get her bathed and off to bed only to repeat it. Our weekends used to be so full have fun social engagements, none of which I ever wanted to turn down. But sometimes the weekends were even more tiring than the weekdays.

    Once our stay at home orders here in Colorado are lifted, I’m hoping to implement a 50% work from home schedule for my employees at our law firm. Hopefully by cutting down on their commute times they’ll each have more time
    To do the things that count, make it to school drop offs or pick ups, and maybe get dinner in the crockpot during a work break so that their evenings can be spent relaxing. My husband and I have also floated the idea of making Sunday our stay at home/ family day. No running errands, no social engagements. Just hikes, bike rides, baking bread, and playing board games together. It’s hard to say no to invitations to spend time with our dear friends but now that we realize what we have to gain- precious quality time with our family- it seems worth it. We’ll see how it goes!

    • Camille Styles May 6, 2020 at 7:15 am

      Your comments gives me goosebumps, Sarah! Thank you for sharing — I noticed how many times you said “rush” when describing your pre-COVID routine, and I identify so much with that. I feel like I was constantly rushing, and rushing the people around me. I love the idea of a Sunday at-home family day! Thanks for sharing.

  6. 6
    Claudia Orlando May 6, 2020 at 6:29 am

    Thank you for putting my same feelings into words.
    Beautiful article
    Xo Claudia

    • Camille Styles May 6, 2020 at 7:11 am

      Thank you Claudia, I’m so happy that this resonated with you. <3

  7. 7
    Kelly May 6, 2020 at 7:20 am

    So beautifully said. I’m on the other side of the world (literally) and agree with every thought and sentiment. It might just be time to change things up a little.

  8. 8
    Ellen Bowman May 6, 2020 at 7:37 am

    Beautifully said.

  9. 9
    Jen May 6, 2020 at 8:05 am

    It’s as if you took all my thoughts and feelings and put them in this post. Reading through the comments even further resonated. Thank you all and take care.

  10. 10
    chelsea May 6, 2020 at 8:35 am

    This is so beautiful and sums up so much of the thoughts and feelings I have right now. Thank you for sharing!

  11. 11
    Amanda May 6, 2020 at 8:47 am

    Thank you, Camille, for shedding light on the duality of emotions many of us have been experiencing with quarantine.

    I, too, have noticed anxiety creeping up with certain services reopening. In a way, this time, our most precious nonrenewable resource, has been what we have all needed and been asking for for a while. Our planet’s microbiome, which includes humans, was crying out. To preserve the yin we have experienced in quarantine feels not only necessary to my core, but to the health of our society, our planet, our universe!

    Thank you for this. ??

  12. 12
    Terry May 6, 2020 at 9:20 am

    I’ve had an underlying sadness and fear regarding the return to “normal life” for a few weeks now and it’s growing as restrictions are lifted. I feel a pressure to figure out how to slow down and bring more joy to our lives, and I am not seeing easy solutions. That word, “rush”….it’s every day, Monday through Friday, 5:30 to 10:30, cramming in exercise, finding the fastest recipes, hours in traffic, endless homework. We can’t go back to that, so digging deeper and making some big changes may be what it’s going to take.

  13. 13
    Jennifer May 6, 2020 at 9:29 am

    Great insight! Feel very much the same, but you worded it perfectly. As a homebody and introvert this has been a weird experience. The slower pace has been lovely but the lack of personal connection outside of my family has been a bit sad. My daughter turned 18 in quarantine and missed all of the senior year things. Church online just isn’t the same. God created us as social beings and staying six feet away from others just started feeling wrong. South Carolina is beginning to reopen and I pray the economy will rebound and the coming months show our country working together to get back on track—all the while remembering to focus on what really matters:)

  14. 14
    leslie teague May 6, 2020 at 10:18 am

    So wonderfully put. Yes! it is a tug between what things were and what they are now and what they will be. Like you, parts of me miss things, but another part awakes that I didn’t know stirred within me. A part that says, slow down and evaluate this. Take this opportunity to re image what post shut down will be for me. And, the fact is, there will be changes that will make a difference in my life for the better!

  15. 15
    Kris May 6, 2020 at 11:13 am

    Great post! This really resonates with me. From the comments, I see that so many others feel the same way as well. Let’s be mindful of our downtime now (trying to keep anxiety in check) and try to craft more sustainable days in the future. Thank you!!!

  16. 16
    Abby Rice May 7, 2020 at 12:47 am

    So beautiful, and well said Camille. I’ve been asking myself these similar questions- what I actually define as my success, happiness, etc. Like you said, it unexpectedly landed in your lap as I believe it did mine and so many others. I think it all had a purpose. Hoping I can take away so much from this experience and soak up all the goodness in this life. Thank you for posting!