I know this may seem like a silly thing to post in a time of global pandemic, soaring unemployment rates, great social and political division, and NOVEMBER (my least favorite month), but I’ve been feeling really grateful lately. I’m a little embarrassed about it, but the more down in the dumps I get, the more I realize there are still so many things to feel thankful for. If you’re finding your own self buried in the mindset of November, maybe this blast of gratitude will help you generate your own list. I promise it will help you feel better!
Right now, for the first time in my half-decade memory, I am seeing more people empathizing with the situations of other people. Whether it’s a parent trying to balance work, home and online-school life, a person who just lost their job, or a college student trying to stay safe while still living on campus, people are *trying* to be kind and understanding of one another. I know we lose patience sometimes, but the kindness shines through in road and house signs, drop offs on porch steps, and random acts of hope and generosity.
What has happened with less “in-person” noise? I’m seeing people find themselves again. Whether practicing yoga or karate more intensively, reading more (can’t binge Netflix FOREVER, right?), or spending hours and hours working on complicated marble raceways…it’s like we’re trying to find ourselves again. Maybe what we are finding is that the answer is NO, we can’t do another thing, or maybe that it’s OK to let the dishes stay in the sink and work will only get the version of you that work gets, but the point here is that we are figuring out who we are and what we WANT to create for ourselves (even if it doesn’t feel like we can do that exactly right now).
In our town, a Mutual Aid Network has been established to connect people in need with people who have time or resources to give, as well as special projects like safety kits for school kids, emergency financial help for community members, and local-dollars buying programs. Our food shelf has expanded its hours, community members organized a drive-through Halloween, and there are lots of holiday lights already going up to help people feel more cheery. We are trying to do our part, and you can help! We are holding a whole pig to send to the Randolph Area Food Shelf in the form of tasty and useful sausage. Will you join us in covering the costs of raising and processing that pig? We can ALL be part of feeding our community!
Maybe it’s the large number of people with more time on their hands, maybe it’s the increased visibility of racial disparity brought to light by the pandemic, maybe the public are more ready to get involved in the events around them, but the 2020 election included the largest percentage of registered voters in a U.S. election in more than 100 years. Regardless of who each person voted for, the fact that MORE people are participating in democracy hopefully(!) means that policies and future directions will better represent ALL people. The best path forward is where we develop policies that include all perspectives and voices; hopefully more votes will lead to more voices.
- Real conversations about lots of things
Have you noticed more real conversations this year? I have. If we are meeting people on Zoom, we see into each others’ homes and are watching each others’ kids grow up. People with toddlers are muting themselves to stop their kids from eating sticks of butter (I was on that call!) and regular video meeting attendees are learning the names of our dogs (who also need to be muted). Suddenly it’s become OK to voice your anxiety. It’s OK to say that you haven’t seen your mom in a year (like our Governor did this week). It’s OK to just say “I didn’t get to it because my kid (who we’ve gotten to know through meetings) was sick or had to use the computer for THEIR meeting.” The false idea of separating work and home life feels unimportant now. I actually hope that is a thing that stays after this. NOT the part where people have to balance everything at home, but the acknowledgement that we have real lives outside of work, and everything is a tradeoff, and we can be our best selves when we are whole selves.
- Less driving!
For the past fifteen years, I’ve done a lot of driving. Lots of trips to Burlington, conferences, meetings, farm visits, family visits. Lots of car time. How about you? Long work commutes or special trips? The funny thing is we bought a new (to us) car back the first week of January and it took ten months to get it to its first oil change. And our insurance rates have gone down $30/month. No complaints there! If your rates haven’t gone down, you might want to check with your agent. Just saying. J The drop in car time has meant a bit more time for me to be a better farmer. Maybe it’s helped you find a little bit of time for you, too.
- Global creativity
I have a friend who does the most incredible watercolor art pieces. Some are stand-alone pieces to hang on your wall forever, but many are simpler everyday items like calendars, notecards, Christmas ornaments. Much of her work has a repetitive element. She’s explained to me that repetitive motions are healing in times of anxiety, and there’s a soothing function to creating art in the way that she does. Other friends have been taking the time to create art as ways to separate from the world outside and just channel what’s inside them to document this moment. Amazing visual art pieces, whole albums of music, sewing and knitting projects. After decades of rushing around from place to place and never feeling like there’s enough time, it feels a little like the days when humans were more accustomed to settling in for the winter by sitting next to the fire and doing handcrafts. Incredible pieces were produced in those winter nights…what are we going to see coming out of this experience? Maybe a rebirth of art and culture, after years of decline? How amazing would that be!?
- More cooking and more demand for local food (ours included)
Maybe you noticed this spring that all the seeds at the local farm supply store were sold out. I’ve mentioned that our pork for the year sold out in a week. This year, the demand for local food skyrocketed as national supply lines were interrupted and people began to look around for ways to feed their families with local products bought or produced themselves. The shutdown or change in service of restaurants has limited the ability to eat out, but everyone needs to eat, right? So we are eating in, and doing a bang up job of it. Not only are people better understanding where food comes from (especially when its availability is interrupted or newspaper articles describe the supply-lines holes of the modern food system), but they are better able to make choices to participate (or not) in that food system. We are so pleased to be able to feed our community, and we’re really grateful that the community has reached out to farms like ours. I have farmer friends who wonder how long the increased demand will last, once things go back to a kind of “normal”. I have a theory that once people get used to the great taste and the personal connection of buying food from neighbors again (as we have historically done), a good portion will likely keep doing it. I think this pandemic is the start of a local food revolution.
- Dark humor (spamming friends with memes)
This is a rough time for literally EVERYONE, whether directly or indirectly touched by this pandemic. You know what gets people through? Humor. You know what kind of humor is the most appropriate in times of bleakness, sadness, anxiety, and depression? Dark humor. Whether that’s a ridiculous Stephen King meme, or a Facebook group like Crap Wildlife Photography or Jurassic Park Updates (the comments on both of these are as good or better than the original posts—I highly recommend), there are ways to keep laughing. Let’s keep finding them. Laughing heals, and whether it’s kitten videos or pictures of animals in compromising positions on highways (seriously, check out Crap Wildlife Photography, it’s a winner)…the laughs keep us going. There’s science to this, I swear!
- Connection, in every way possible
OK, how we connect has changed. It’s just the truth of our pandemic situation. For our family, there were ¼ of the in-person events, with a fraction of the people we might invite. Our farm events, classes and dinners were cancelled. We love in-person evens, but this wasn’t the year for it. Some of the other ways we’ve adapted to still be able to connect? Watching things together on Facebook, online card games, that silly meme sharing, all sorts of electronic messaging. I have a ton of colleagues who’ve taken to doing check up phone calls while walking with babies or dogs in the morning. Teaching our moms to Facetime. Emails. Cards and letters—how retro and awesome! Right now, while we feel disconnected, taking the time to connect in any and all ways possible is one of the most important and most hopeful things we can do. Even the dreaded and awkward Zoom video calls—no matter how awkward and silly they might be, seeing the faces of our loved ones is a joyful and wonderful thing.
Have a wonderful Holiday season, friends. Let’s be safe, let’s be grateful, let’s get through this to see each other joyfully in person in 2021.