Situation Normal

I’ve always loved fall, and this year I’ve been figuring out ways to celebrate the season while still practicing good public health recommendations. I’ve eaten outside at restaurants, gone to a fall festival at Triple B Farms, taken walks, carved a pumpkin, and even made a wreath (which would impress you if you knew anything about my crafting skills). I’ve also welcomed the creativity so many entrepreneurs have shown: a Strip District drive-in, a virtual beer festival, comedy in an alley Downtown.

Fall has always been a time of reflection, too, as I look back at the summer and ahead to the winter and the holidays rapidly approaching. This year, my thoughts have more than once turned to the things I miss. There are so many ways that my life has changed because of the global pandemic and our response to it.

Thankfully, I have not lost anyone to the virus and my heart goes out to those who have. Having lost my parents, I know the pain that death can bring and the void it leaves. In thinking about how things have changed since March, I can’t begin to address how the pandemic has wrecked the lives of those it has directly affected.

I also acknowledge the severe financial impact people are suffering in the wake of the virus. Very few of us, myself included, are untouched by that. There is no mask or vaccine that can protect us from a loss of income.

But this fall, I’d also like to acknowledge the ways we are adapting.

My life has slowed down considerably. Comparing my calendar from 2019 to now, I see I have fewer activities in the entire month than I did in a single week last year. Like most of us, I was overbooked. Weekends were hectic. Meals were rushed. Friends and family were ignored. Now, I have do more things I love, cook nice meals at home, and have engaging conversations.

It seems almost quaint now, but articles in business magazines and self-help books published just a few years ago told us how slowing down is essential to being healthier, gaining clarity, enjoying life, focusing on what’s important, and appreciating the people in our lives who matter. The experts had been telling us how we needed to slow down even though it went against everything our society seemed to value. They said we needed to give ourselves permission to recharge our batteries. Now, we have had little choice but to follow their advice. Rather than protest the things I miss, I am choosing to celebrate the ways my life has changed for the better.

In many ways, how I am living today seems like the simpler life I had growing up. My family spent time with relatives and close friends. Dinner was mostly at the kitchen table. We took the time to play games, read and watch TV together. And in the fall, we put on warm clothes and went outside and talked about how the air never seemed as wonderful as when it’s crisp and smells like the leaves crushed beneath our feet.

One day the virus will no longer be a threat, and we can safely return to doing many of the things we used to do. When we do, I hope I don’t forget the things I have re-discovered and a lifestyle that many of us abandoned too quickly in the race to stay busy.

Brian can be reached at bhyslop@pittsburghmagazine.com

Categories: Editor