By Erich Wallace
Happy Resurrection of our Lord to you! I can’t believe Easter is upon us and that we have once again witnessed the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Because of this quarantine and the help of those who have shared their life and love with me this year, I have been able to internalize what this all means a little bit better than in the past. I hope you can, too. Seeing that life is different now as a result of COVID-19, I am hoping to offer some tips to do just that. Now, I know there have been 15,000 different blogs and TV bits done about how to cope with social distancing, and you may be sick of it by now, but as a Catholic, with some encouragement from the wonderful founder of Superior Disciple, I decided to share what I’ve been doing to stay engaged during this “downtime.” Maybe you’ll get some ideas to better enjoy your quarantine so it isn’t such a bore-antine (I heard that on a show).
Here we go with a list of ways to stay sane and happy during the quarantine:
- Make an uninterrupted Holy Hour every day
I know to some, praying/doing spiritual reading for an hour seems like an eternity, but I just watched Bishop Barron’s Pivotal Players’ episode on Venerable Fulton Sheen last night, and that was the advice he would leave people with at the end of every retreat he led, and it was something he practiced throughout his life (disclaimer: his retreats were usually directed at priests, and he encourages the Holy Hour to take place in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and neither of these may be possible for your state in life, but if you can practice them, give it a shot!). I will be honest, I don’t do this every day, but the last couple days I have, and it has been a game changer. Having an unrushed, designated time to spend an hour with the Lord, talking to him about my problems and concerns, journaling, reading spiritual works, and doing Lectio Divina is such a strong way to build a friendship with Jesus and has helped my days to become more peaceful and focused.
I know you’ve heard this a million times and probably know that many fitness apps are offering free trials during this time, but I’ll bring it up again. I subscribed to the Peloton workout app and have been doing a few workouts a week (I tend to do the strength or HIIT workouts that are 20-30 minutes and then add a core workout), and they have been awesome! I have been learning new movements, focusing on muscle groups I didn’t know existed, and feeling good afterward! Regardless of your fitness level, get those endorphins going in some way! It will boost your health and your mood.
- Be a blessing to others
Despite the fact that many of us are stuck at home in some capacity, it doesn’t mean that we can’t love on others. This can start in your own home. Help out with chores, make doing the dishes a regular practice, clean things that haven’t been cleaned in a while, and maybe devote 20-30 minutes a day trying to focus on how you can make your living situation better for all those in your house. On top of that, connect with people. My spiritual director was talking to his sister, and she said she was trying to call two people a day to connect with them and see how they were doing. Don’t feel you need to make that big of a commitment, but make a regular practice of reaching out to people, friends or those you haven’t talked with in a while. I know my Facetime hours have been higher in the last few weeks than the rest of my life combined. Maybe there are people who could use some help that you know personally. Consider donating to them or to a charity that is serving the basic needs of those really struggling in this time. I bet you won’t regret it.
- Purge your stuff
I heard something that really inspired me on the Catholic Stuff You Should Know podcast. A group of three priests who don’t live together, go to each other’s rectory every Lent, and the two that don’t live at the house of the priest they are at get to go through all of his things and throw out or donate what they think he has too much of, without him saying a word! It is a way to help the priest stay detached from worldly possessions and better live out his promise of living simply. Furthermore, Matthew Kelly, founder of the Dynamic Catholic organization and author of about 500 awesome books goes through every room in his house once a year with a black garbage bag and throws away or donates things he isn’t using as a way to declutter his life. This can be an incredibly freeing practice, and I have started to do it with my own belongings.
- Manual labor
If you haven’t worked with your hands for a while on a task that makes your body sore, give it another go. I’ve been blessed to be able to work on a duplex with vacant apartments that my sister recently purchased to rent out. Painting, doing minor repairs, and cleaning up the yard has been a project to focus on that has given my day structure and something productive to focus on. Manual labor is one of the most rewarding things there is because you get to see the fruit of your labor and your body feels good afterward (or not so good, depending on your perspective). I give it two thumbs up.
- Cook yourself a good breakfast
I don’t know about y’all, but I have never been one to make a nice breakfast. I literally ate Cocoa Puffs every day of my life for about 12 years straight and went to chocolate chip Eggo waffles from there. A couple years ago, I realized those weren’t the healthiest of choices (I know, I was surprised too) and tried to do a little better with a bagel and peanut butter, but then I read a quote that really struck me, “Be an oven man, not a microwave man.” What it meant was, “Don’t be the kind of guy or girl who needs everything in an instant, who settles for the immediate gratification when you could wait a little longer, put in a little more effort, and make something beautiful.” I took this quite literally in how I cook and hope to let it permeate to the other areas of my life. I’ve been trying to make a nicer breakfast with lots of protein, and it has definitely been worth it. I can’t believe how long I feel full after adding some eggs and excessive amounts of peanut butter to my morning routine!
- Learn a new skill
I heard a comedian say that if he doesn’t come out of this quarantine with an impressive new skill, you know, the kind that makes you the entertainment at the party like juggling, magic tricks, or origami, he’s gonna be really upset with himself. I learned to use iMovie from a twenty minute tutorial and have been making silly introduction videos for the girls’ soccer team I used to do the announcing for with my buddy, Willie. It’s a skill that has made me feel more confident in what I have to bring to the table in whatever setting I may step into, because being able to make videos is so relevant nowadays. It’s also been a heck of a lot of fun coming up with the scripts. What’s a skill you might be interested in developing? How to play the bagpipes? Learning Polish? Learning how to put up drywall? Yeah, me too.
Learn about a topic that has interested you, but you’ve never really had the time or energy to devote to learning about. I’ve been watching documentaries about saints. A wonderful parishioner I met in Eau Claire this past fall sent me a film about the life of Pope St. John Paul II called A Witness to Hope (based on the book by George Weigel), and Bishop Barron had four episodes of his Pivotal Players series up for free at wordonfire.org this past week. I watched films on St. Benedict, Ven. Fulton Sheen, and Flannery O’Connor. So. Stinkin’. AWESOME! Learning about these people’s lives and just hearing Bishop Barron speak and has filled my mind with truth and inspiration and makes me feel much more confident in my Catholic faith.
- Not having to figure things out
I’m not going to lie folks. I have enjoyed this quarantine time, but part of it is because it has kind of put my life on hold and somewhat allowed me to not have to focus on making big decisions about my future right now. I do think I have grown slothful in this, and it has been the one thing aside from the OCD that comes with a somewhat deadly, contagious virus going around that I have allowed to steal my peace… But I hope through my prayer I will have the courage to face what I need to when the time truly comes, which leads to my last point:
- It’s okay if you are just trying to get by and haven’t done many (or any) of these things
A friend of mine from college recently started fostering an infant and has been seeing all of these tips for the quarantine but hasn’t really been able to do a lot of them because she and her husband are now taking care of a six-month-old child who takes up much of their time and energy. If you’re like her, maybe a parent working from home while trying to figure out how to homeschool your children, or are a health care worker, grocery store worker, bank employee, construction worker, or any essential employee for that matter, it’s okay. I think all of these tips can serve for a happier experience while we socially distance, but our society is also hyperfocused on productivity and if you come out of this time without any new skill, aren’t super fit, or haven’t read 15 books, but you tried to do the tasks before you with great love, you can hold your head high. And even if you got lazy and just watched Netflix the entire time while eating excessive amounts of spinach and artichoke dip, know that you are still loved, and you can start today embarking on the path the Lord has for you.
To conclude, in this difficult time, my hope is that we can stay sane, grow in love, and do what my buddy Casey Cooney and CVS commercials say to do: “Come together, while remaining six feet apart.”
God bless your Easter season, and may we all gain a greater gratitude for Jesus’ death on the Cross for us and a deeper understanding of what His rising from the dead actually means.
Prayers for you,