It’s been 72 days since my family came home and stayed home. We abruptly went from two different whiteboard calendars filled with color-coded plans, times, and appointments to completely blank slates. Our once jam packed days that were scheduled down to the minute have since slowed to a crawl. Some changes have been hard to accept. Schools closed their physical doors and learning moved online. One by one performances were cancelled and there was no prom. Long-awaited dreams of trips popped like soap bubbles, and celebrations started to take much different shape.

We now eat every meal at home. We don’t get to see our friends or extended family in person. So many birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays have been celebrated quietly with the same three people. The world looks very different through these new and suddenly acquired pandemic lenses. It has been a stormy season for sure, but if you sit still and look, you can still find some rainbows.

“So many tiny bright spots and rainbows can be found in the present if we all just learn to be still enough to embrace them.”

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard or said the words “when all of this is over” in the past few months. When all of this is over, I am going to take that trip. When all of this is over, I am going to make those plans and see those people. When all of this is over, I am going to go to that restaurant again. With such an uncertain immediate future I found myself only making plans for “when all this is over.” But then I sat and began to think about all the little ways that life has slowed down and created positive change. So many tiny bright spots and rainbows can be found in the present if we all just learn to be still enough to embrace them.

Before the pandemic, I usually traveled a few days out of the week. I’d leave the house at 7:45 am and return about 12 hours later having had two of my meals in the car. Don’t get me wrong. I love being busy. I thrive on it. But being busy had become a habit that I built up and placed on a pedestal, and I thought I couldn’t live without it. If I found myself with spare time, I quickly looked for ways to fill it. I remember once my parents took the kids to the beach for spring break. I don’t schedule work on spring break, so I wasn’t traveling, and I found myself at home. I scurried around town looking for places to volunteer. I spent a few days at a nursing home, volunteered to speak to representatives at the State Capital, and I read Shakespeare to some hospice patients. It was a glorious week. As much as I loved it, I found myself exhausted and frustrated when the kids returned home. I hadn’t given myself time to relax.

This pandemic has forced me to slow down and embrace stillness. These days, instead of bouncing out of bed, rushing for coffee, packing lunches, dropping off children, getting ready, and then go, go, go … I am still. Instead of waking up at 6:00 am, I slowly roll out of bed around 8:00 am. I have made a habit of practicing yoga in the backyard before even getting dressed. I am much less inhibited in my pajamas! Who knew? (Sorry, neighbors.) While in the backyard on my yoga mat I have started to take notice of the birds. The same birds I’ve looked at a million times but never really seen! Am I a bird lady now? I have bought three different bird feeders online. And I have given all my regular bird visitors names. I guess I am a bird lady.

I’ve started a garden even though I have never gardened in my entire life. One day I made every member of my family come outside in a rainstorm to look at the teensiest, tiniest tomato buds and take my picture as I smiled proudly beside them. Normally my cooking talents include opening a box of cereal and making sure we are good on clean spoons. But now I have learned how to (kind of) cook! I made soup and everyone actually ate it without complaint. We are even making our own sourdough bread almost every day.

Before all of this, my friends and I could go weeks, sometimes months, without checking in, but now we text, call, or Facetime every day. One friend sent me a four-minute video of a hummingbird, and I gleefully watched every second. Perhaps the most astonishing thing to come out of this pandemic is the fact that for the first time in my adult life I have found the bottom of the laundry basket. It exists! The only clothes that need to be washed are the ones we are wearing. WHO AM I? Not only am I shocked that, after decades of washing and drying and piling, I actually have an empty laundry room, I am also shocked at how happy that empty laundry room has made me. To me, an empty laundry room is a giant rainbow.

The pandemic has robbed many people of once in a lifetime memories – yearbook signings, prom, graduation, and a semester-long goodbye that marks the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next. But if you look close enough, there might be rainbows.

This year our entire neighborhood held a graduation parade. It was heartwarming to see the excited faces of the many high school seniors who grew up on the sidewalks and swing sets in our neighborhood. Seeing them proudly wear their cap and gown while waving from the back of their parents’ pick-up truck seemed somehow perfect.

“You can’t see a rainbow if you are running too fast chasing the sun.”

Everything is suddenly different, but different doesn’t mean bad. In no other timeline would I sit in the backyard with my two teenagers and sing the Top 40 of the 1960s for an hour. In no other timeline would I see my kids this much or talk with them this much. In no other timeline would my laundry be done. The pandemic has taken away many things, but it has also gifted us stillness. You can’t see a rainbow if you are running too fast chasing the sun.

This pandemic has forced me to slow down enough to look for all those little rainbows. Instead of trying to plan what I will do when all of this is over, I am focusing on how I will show gratitude in the present. When all this is over, I will appreciate so much more. When all this is over, I wont take a hug for granted. When all this is over, I will not complain about the length of an awards assembly or having to sit on hard bleachers. When all this is over, I will have the ability to be still by choice. When all this is over, I hope I will still look for birds, tomato buds, and rainbows.

Carolyn Brown

Carolyn Brown

Carolyn Jennings Brown has been serving public schools in the state of Texas for nearly two decades. She has a unique perspective that spans from being the daughter of an educator to a student, teacher, and parent. Today, Carolyn travels the state sharing her anti-bullying/pro-kindness workshop. She is an honorary lifetime member of Texas PTA and a recipient of the National PTA Lifetime Achievement Award. Carolyn lives in Austin with her husband and their two daughters.