This New Pandemic Life – Focus on Simplicity

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We’re two months into this strange new world. How are you balancing this whole shelter-in-place thing? Are you thriving or barely surviving? What have you learned about yourself? For me, I’m working on simplicity.

My New Normal

In my other life, outside of writing, I’m a teacher. As you might have heard, teachers have just faced the steepest learning curves of their lives. 

Like a finger-snap from Thanos, everything I’d planned for the rest of the year disintegrated. In the span of one week, I had to set-up a classroom in my home, rewrite my entire curriculum, and attempt to master technology that I had previously barely used. All this while putting on a happy face and pretending that everything was okay. Why? Because my students deserve to see strength and confidence. It’s been a tall order.

I now work around the clock, sometimes from 7 am to 8 pm, to deliver the same level of excellence that I’ve always brought to my teaching. But it’s come at a price.   

Setting Boundaries

It would seem that I am a workaholic. It’s not a coincidence that my husband calls me ‘Heather Too Much.’ This revelation has more severe consequences in the world we now live in. I can’t sustain endless hours of teaching duties while taking care of myself and my family. 

Last week, when my state announced that online learning would continue for the remainder of the school year, I wept. I felt sadness for the seniors and all the other grades who would no longer publicly celebrate the end of a pivotal year. My heart felt heavy at the thought of not completing the projects that now sit, unfinished, in my classroom. Also, I felt the crushing loss of my school community. 

My fellow teachers have historically kept me in check. A quick talk between classes could prevent me from making a lesson too elaborate. Collaboration between myself and another teacher might take the load away from some of the content I needed to cover.  

Now that my community is no longer nearby, I realize that I need to regulate myself. I need to set better boundaries and know the signs when it’s time to stop working. To pare back, simplify, find meaning in less, not more.

Health Check-Nurture the Physical, Benefit the Mental

Because I no longer climb at least fifteen flights of stairs a day at my school, I find that I need more exercise. Since my child is on a mountain bike team (that’s not meeting as a team), we need to take her out on our own. 

Leaving my one-woman attic classroom is my first difficult step. I don’t want to tear myself away from work, but I’ve been doing it. Going to the forest and riding my bike has become my salvation. I can’t think about work because I’ll crash. Nor can I worry about the world–because I’ll hit a tree.

Mountain biking has become meditational. I breathe in the fresh air, notice the world waking up from winter, revealing itself slowly with brilliant yellow-greens. I focus on the trail in front of me. That’s it. When our ride is over, I feel refreshed, ready to take on the next day. I sleep better, too. 

Finding Simplicity

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not lost on me that my plight is not the same as everyone else’s. Some of you might have lost your jobs. Some of you might have had your hours slashed. Others might be fighting with your children about their homeschooling while trying to work your own job and throw in a load of laundry. My heart goes out to all of you.

If I can give you any advice at all, it would be to strive for the pureness of simplicity. Consider what you need and what you don’t. If all you can do is go outside and walk, do it. Feel the sun on your face, listen to the birds, breathe.

Wherever you are, I hope you can find simplicity in whatever shape it looks like for you. It’s not easy, but I hope you can discern which is the least of what you need and embrace it. Let it be the light to guide you through this darkness. It’s the best we can do for ourselves right now and, when this is all over, it should be a practice we continue.

Take care out there.

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About Author

Heather Rigney is a fiction writer, blogger, journalist, and art teacher based in Rhode Island. Author of The Merrow Trilogy--a dark, historical fantasy novel that deals with homicidal mermaids, the colonial suppression of women, and a present-day alcoholic funeral director trying to make sense of it all. Her writing has been featured in Motif Magazine and Stone Crowns Magazine. By day she teaches art at an all-girls Quaker school and at night she tries to be creative while avoiding too many sweets. You can read more about Ms. Rigney on her website:

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