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OP-ED on Opinion page by Jacquelin Sherman: 'What has changed?'

web 4 30 Jackie Sherman
By Jacqueline Sherman
This past year has been a very difficult one for most people, and life-changing as well. We have had the opportunity to reassess our priorities in life and re-evaluate how we might want to move forward in the “new normal.”
When I think of what has changed in my own life, I have experienced the benefit of having much more unstructured time. I am a faculty member in Nursing at California State University Channel Islands and live in Ojai. My two-hour round-trip commute has been eliminated, so I have had much more time for other activities such as hiking and yoga. I have also enjoyed the luxury of wearing comfortable clothing at all times! I have also reassessed what is important in my life and have prioritized my relationships with family and friends. 
Because of the changes I’ve noticed in myself this past year, I decided to contact my friends to see how this year has affected them. I decided to query my Facebook friends and email those who aren’t comfortable using Facebook to share their feelings about ways in which their priorities in life have changed this past year. This was a convenient sample of 15 people, male and female, between the ages of 50 and 80, who responded to the following open-ended question:

 

As a result of the pandemic:
Have your priorities of what’s important to you in your life changed, or do you have a new appreciation for what you might have taken for granted?
If so, can you please explain in a few words?
I share here the common themes that surfaced from the data received, in hopes that you, as the reader, might take a look at your own life and see areas you may choose to re-evaluate for the coming years. A short questionnaire at the end can be used to address how you may implement change as a result of the pandemic in your own life.

Themes 
Several significant themes emerged from the respondents. One theme was that “Friendships and Companionship” seemed to be of top priority to most who participated in this survey. This was interestingly described by many in several ways. Missing the closeness of family and friends, and on the other side of this, enjoying the quietude of spending time alone with less frenzy to over-schedule one’s time. Some direct quotes from a variety of respondents included:
• “I have very much prioritized my friendships.”
“I have liked Happy Hour in the back yard, Somehow we hardly ever sat out there that often, probably too busy going out? I did not realize what a beautiful botanical garden we are fortunate to have!”
• “One priority that has changed for me is to value the warmth and intensity of companionship as much as I have come to value the sweet times of reflection and quietude afforded by being alone-both are enjoyable-they enhance each other!”
• “In a nutshell, with introspective time I have learned how to be me and simply enjoy.”
• “I realized how much I miss seeing friends and spending time with them and hugging people.”
The next theme that emerged was the “Unscheduled Life” of the pandemic, giving people the opportunity to spend more time reading, writing, taking Zoom classes, gardening, wearing comfortable clothing, and cleaning and downsizing household items. Some quotes:
 • “I’ve started taking online classes and learned a lot of new computer and iPhone skills in order to connect with people.”
• “I have spent time in my garden planting 45 new perimeter trees and mulching/seeding the growing areas. My concept was to upgrade my garden with global-warming techniques, increasing foliage through the philosophy of Ojai Trees, creating a village forest. My garden is now drought-tolerant and gorgeous!”
• “Being stuck at home kept me from my usual travels, so I spent time writing and leading Zoom writing workshops. One upside of teaching on Zoom is that it attracts students from all over the world.”
• “I have come to a deeper appreciation of my home than ever. I have identified a number of improvements that it needs that are on my bucket list! I’ve been walking, meditating, looking at the mountains, sky and praying.”
• “I appreciate the time I have given to clean out my garage, closets, drawers, and repair tasks that I had not taken care of. I have spent hours gardening and reading.”
• “Sweatpants are, of course, the new normal. I don’t shop for clothes any more and kind of enjoy not shopping!”
The final theme that was addressed by the respondents was learning to “Go with the Flow and Trusting.”  Respondents stated:
• “I’ve gone from feeling like I had at least some plan for my life to realizing I am in God’s hands dangling at the whim of forces far beyond me. I have learned to Go With the Flow because I had no other choice. I am trying to transition from knowing to trusting.”
• “The pandemic has made me much more aware of my mental, physical and emotional heath if I truly want to help others.”
• “Gratitude has been a part of my meditation/yoga practice, so I have always tried not to take anything for granted.”
As you can see from the participants’ responses, the pandemic has had some positive effects on people’s lives, and whether these changes will be only temporary or may be more permanent if one so desires, I have developed a questionnaire below to help you determine how you might operationalize the positive aspects you gained from the pandemic into your future.
The questions will relate to the themes that emerged from the respondents.

Lasting change?
Friendships and Companionship
1A.  Name three people you have been in touch with during the pandemic who you would like to continue to be in touch with after the pandemic.

What qualities do you appreciate in each of the people who contribute to your well-being?

  

1B. Is there anyone you spent significant time with before the pandemic that you plan to spend less time with after the pandemic. Why?

Unscheduled Life 
2A. List three activities that you have engaged in during the pandemic that you would like to continue to be involved in after the pandemic is over.

2B. Are there any significant activities pre-pandemic that you plan to curtail? Why? 

Go with the Flow and Trusting
3A. In what ways will you continue to incorporate the “Go with the Flow” attitude in your daily life? List three examples.

   

3B. Do you plan to be more focused in your daily life? How?
May 2021 and beyond bring you a newfound outlook on your life!

  

— Jacqueline Sherman R.N., Ph.D., of Ojai, has been a registered nurse since 1977,  and is a faculty member in Nursing at California State University Channel Islands. She teaches Community Health Nursing, Psychiatric Nursing, and Complementary Alternative Medicine. She moved to Ojai in 2008 from Tucson, where she was an associate professor of Nursing at the University of Arizona. She also teaches yoga at the Ojai Valley Athletic Club and organizes yoga retreats in Ojai.