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Finding gratitude in a challenging time

By Maria Scrivani 

About the last thing anyone would accuse me of is being a Pollyanna, but I have been thinking about, and trying to focus on, what’s good about the restrictive lives we are all now living. On the chance that it may be of comfort to someone else, here is my list, in no particular order:

  • People really mean it when they ask one another, “How are you?”  What used to be a throwaway greeting is suddenly code for a long list of questions, asked and unasked: How are you coping?  Are you feeling well? What are you doing all day.
  • Sudden waves of gratitude wash over me at odd moments. On my last stop at the grocery for fresh produce, the worker who smiled and asked sincerely if I needed anything else, and could she help me find it. Early one recent drizzly cold day, the physically distant walker, a stranger,  in my neighborhood who nodded a silent good morning.  The maintenance guy in my building remains unfailingly cheerful, wiping down elevator buttons and the door frame with sanitizer like it’s a pleasant diversion, and not another task added to a list that grows onerously longer every day.
  • My husband is working remotely, and now he gets to see what I have long enjoyed as an at-home worker: The way the light changes at different times of day in our apartment. The wash of yellow on sunny afternoons that butters up the walls; the pink streaks on the ceiling above our west-facing windows heralding sunset at day’s end. At night we look at the lights sparking the urban streetscape in our corner of Buffalo, imagining all the people inside those homes, lives upended as ours have been.
  • Sharpening self-reliance is surely a good development. Making food we might have ordered out before. Tuning in to old movies when we might have gone out to the cinema before. Challenging ourselves, erstwhile gym rats, with home workout routines.
  • Renewing contacts with far-flung family and friends. Not just birthday/wedding/funeral schedules that knit such connections, but just checking in, by phone or electronically, to see how folks are faring.  I’ve also been sending out notes and postcards, grateful that our postal system is still running strong.
  • Maria Scrivani

    Learning to enjoy this enforced leisure, and real respite. Not feeling guilty about not doing much— sitting quietly and just thinking. Or just letting the mind wander. Meditating, breathing. This has not been the norm in our fast-paced society. Just slowing down feels like a precious gift we’ve been given.

  • Developing a new respect for, and interest in, science and math. I really appreciate the scientists who can explain flattening the curve, and the mathematicians who interpret predictive stats.  Amazing how meaningful it’s all become.
  • Reinforcing long-ago lessons in civic engagement and leadership. Recalling what it means to be a good citizen, and what it takes to lead responsibly, and admiring anew those who exhibit such traits.
  • Enjoying spring, as never before. It’s always a thrill to see the first crocuses pushing up through still-frosty lawns, and this year it’s a steadfast glimmer of hope that will get brighter every day, despite the bad news we keep encountering.
  • Thanking the neighbor who left two freshly baked brownies on a plate outside my door. A sweet gift, literally, but also a touching reminder that we are thinking of each other, doing what we can to reach out; remembering always the human connection, however long we must retain a physical distance.

Maria Scrivani, a freelance writer in Buffalo, is learning to enjoy enforced leisure.

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