One night I was 17, my friends Joe, Peter, and I watched Monty Python’s The Life of Brian. (As with all Monty Python, this is not a film to watch if you are easily offended or if you take your bible quite seriously.) We lay on the floor in front of the T.V, ate popcorn, and giggled ourselves silly. In fact, we heaved with laughter, tears streaming down our faces, clutching at each other and holding our aching bellies.
At the climax of the film, Brian, who is decidedly “not the Messiah... just a very naughty boy” is nonetheless dying as Jesus did, on the cross. Next to him, another man on a cross begins to warble, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” It is a silly, irreverent tune, full of ironic jokes about suffering. This song plays in my head today as I write.
Suffering is not new. Human history is full of great pain, from slavery to the Holocaust, from AIDS to the Plague. Also, being told to stay home for two weeks is not really suffering. Social distancing is disruptive though, as is the constant drumbeat of ominous news. Lots of people are super anxious, listening to reports of ever-higher numbers of infections. The economic news frightens us as well. Like many of you, I am home, trying to make the best of things, trying to look on the Bright Side of Life.
So, let’s talk about that.
I’ve been walking the dog more. It’s lovely outside, with the blessing of an early spring. The sunshine streams in and the sky is clear blue. Out and about, when I encounter other walkers, everyone smiles and waves. The pace of life has suddenly slowed, with more walking and less driving. Even the drivers smile and wave as they pass. Because we all have more time, no one feels rushed, and there is more civility in the air.
I’ve been listening to music, which lifts me up. I am a great lover of show tunes, and I’ve been dancing around my house while I clean. Armed with my headphones, I have halfway cleaned our outdoor porch. I have picked up all the junk piles I kept meaning to pick up. I even sprayed cleaned our neglected tray tables, which I always put off, to that mythical date when I would “have more time.” Well, friends, that date arrived today.
Speaking of cleaning, I started washing my hands (the full required twenty seconds) to the tune of “Tomorrow." In case you are interested, the following takes exactly twenty seconds:
"The sun’ll come out, tomorrow.
Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there’ll be sun.
Just thinkin’ about tomorrow clears away the cobwebs and the sorrow
‘til there’s none.”
Twenty seconds having passed, I rinse my super clean hands. I intend to find a different hand-washing tune for each day, just to keep cleanliness more enticing.
Honestly, I recommend it.
I’ve been meditating in the morning, trying to start the day with peace and calm. I’ve been exercising every day, breaking out my dusty hand weights from the back of the closet. I think I might get back to the piano. Next on my list, I intend to de-clutter my desk. I can’t believe how many minutes there are in a day!
Phone calls seem easier to make now. I don’t feel like I need to text people before I call, to see if it’s a “good time to talk.” Now, everyone is home, so it’s easy to connect with loved ones. My high school friends started a Facebook messenger site, and we are sharing old photos. I called my favorite aunt to check in and catch up. It’s all kind of… nice.
So here's my suggestion: let's embrace this weird wacky social distancing phase. Go with it, and enjoy it as much as you can. Trying to enjoy this time is not only good for you, it is good for everyone. If we can relax and embrace these days, our calm will be contagious. Anxiety and panic spread like wildfire. If one person panics, everyone around them starts to ramp up too. If we can stay calm and even enjoy ourselves, that peace will spread to others just as quickly.
Smiles spread smiles.
So, looking on the bright side of life, try to enjoy these extra hours to rest and nest. This odd period of social distancing will end, sooner or later, and we will all be right back in the thick of things. We will rush to work, a hundred worries in our head. We will race through our days, crossing items off our to-do lists, and adding five more tasks in their place. We will speed home, dodging traffic, trying to get to daycare before it closes. All that will return.
In the meantime, let’s try to find the bright side of life. It is spring, flowers are budding. This year, you may even have time to notice them.
Lise Deguire's multiple award-winning memoir, Flashback Girl: Lessons on Resilience from a Burn Survivor, is available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Newtown Book Shop and The Commonplace Reader.