by John Timmins
I look back on the past few months of the lockdown or restricted movement. The situation was challenging; however, it ended up being a positive time in terms of the growth of our relationship as a family. I am a Catholic school teacher, and my wife is a physical therapist in a hospital setting. We do feel very fortunate and blessed to be in these professions during these economically challenging times. My wife still had to leave the house and go to work each day, while I worked from home through virtual instruction.
I admit that it was not easy. In fact, there were times when each of us, all of us, or some combination of us would be angry, sad, upset, mad, frustrated, and/ or disappointed. However, looking back now, I can see that things would go very well when we focused on the following attributes that allowed our family to navigate through the challenging time together:
Gratitude is the quality of being thankful and ready to show appreciation for and return to kindness. I was fortunate that I was able to attend a presentation just before the pandemic, where the speaker spoke about making your first thought of each day be one of gratitude toward God. I was reflecting on this message as the lockdown took effect.
I invited my family, usually during dinner, to talk about how grateful we were for various things, including those that we usually took for granted. As the lockdown went on, we evolved from talking about important things we were fortunate to have, like our health, job, and home to such simple things as being able to continue having classes through virtual means, the availability of resources to do school work, having an air conditioning in the house, and a space to reflect on things.
I found that the virtue of being grateful kept us on the positive spin, rather than being pulled down with all the negative news coming at us. We would try to look for the good in anything that happened. Enumerating our blessings helped us focus on our gains rather than the things we lost, like my kids’ recreational sports seasons, school sports, social, art activities, etc.
Tolerance is an overused word in today’s culture. In its most basic form, tolerance means the capacity to endure continued subjection to something, whether it be environmental, behavioral, or opinion that one may not necessarily care for.
As a family of five with four working near one another in the house every day, you better talk about tolerance, or you will be dealing with chaos. We did not consciously have this attribute in mind when we first started the lockdown. In fact, it got pretty ugly and nasty fast. Some of the most common issues that came up were whether someone was talking too loud, needing to work in a certain area that was already occupied, and the myriad of other petty and trivial matters.
It was important to be conscious of how we affected others around us, whether we were working or simply relaxing or spending time together with the things we enjoyed. We realized that we were going to find ways to work with our different personalities considering that we may not necessarily agree with how each one of us work at things.
I personally found that I would become very short-tempered to those around me when I was focused on what I was doing at that moment. I had to make an effort to take into consideration that others around me had things to do too, and they were not less important.
We evolved to a point where we tolerated one another’s differences and found peace on it. This new awareness led us to an enlightening and insightful dialogue.
Solitude was born from the attribute of tolerance. Solitude is defined as the state or situation of being alone. It allows us to have a broader perspective of things. Solitude must be searched for and not thrust upon someone, otherwise loneliness thrives. That can be a negative form of solitude.
We all could see we needed some time of solitude to decompress from some of the negative feelings we would deal with when being tolerant. I personally found it very important to do what I call “practice my presence.” I would spend some time alone, usually on a walk, where I could pray and reflect on things that struck me on that particular moment. I felt it can be positive when we can recognize that we are an essential part of God’s plan.
Imagination is defined as the faculty or action of forming new ideas. This attribute allowed us to celebrate the positive things brought on by the pandemic and even create new activities and traditions. My daughters began to work on enhancing their gardening, cooking and baking skills. One of my daughters began preparing and cooking dinners each night. She would have restaurant dinner time or picnic dinners in the living room. My wife and my other daughter began collecting materials for making masks with their sewing machines for healthcare workers. The rest of my children learned more about introducing health and fitness into their daily routines.
I began doing online commentary on my gardening with extended family and friends. I also found a new quarantine skill. One day, my wife’s car would not start; the starter had died! I ordered a new set for $60 and figured out how to replace it. A savings of $500! My wife told me that I just found myself a side job!
We stayed on our usual routine of not watching TV during school days. The time we spent in the evenings became even more special. We rekindled the times of playing board or card games as a family. We found ourselves more interested in one another and do new activities together. We appreciated the need to allow some time for venting, whether positive or negative, and not being judgmental about it. We talked about issues that we usually didn’t spend much time talking about in the past.
When things did get hostile or negative, we would reflect on specific attributes, usually in the form of prayer to get us back to a respectful and reflective time together.
I would specially mention a very significant influence that would keep us working towards growing closer during the lockdown: Participation in the Holy Mass. We would all gather in our living room to watch the live streaming of the Mass. It would be untrue if I’ll say it went smoothly every Sunday. Some found it unsettling, while others found it to be more convenient. However, we tried to be reflective of our worship. We would talk about the Gospel or something that the priest had said during the homily.
We definitely do not want the lockdown to happen again. However, it slowed us down and forced us to take inventory of what truly matters in life. As we move forward, we hope that we continue to take time to be more reflective even when it is not forced upon us.
John Timmins is a the Middle Year Program Teacher at St. Ann’s Catholic School in Downtown, West Palm Beach, Florida.
Featured image taken from Anna Shvets Collections at PEXELS.