Sunday, November 27 2022 - 11:35 PM

New Pandemic Rituals

A ritual can be a breath of fresh air, something that breathes life and renewal into a person. It can bring out the spiritual in us—nourishing our souls—or it can be a curse, such as a mundane task that drains the life out of you.

Most everyone has a morning and nightly routine, and some practices feed us and nourish us just like a ritual. However, as the world found itself with stay-at-home orders, and our work lives and social lives stopped abruptly, old lifestyles changed or disappeared. Getting up and preparing for work, going to the gym, preparing our kids for school vanished overnight. The rituals that connected us with people in our circles vanished. Book clubs, game nights, church services disappeared. The very act of congregating became dangerous.

Rituals for many were lost. As the virus spread, new rituals came along, such as being glued to the TV to get the latest news on a pandemic, see if hospitals could keep up with needs, and learn who was hospitalized and how long they had been there. We tuned in to see the daily news brief from the White House, hear the statistics, look for guidance. We were immersed in a ritual of fact-finding and gathering information on a virus we had never met before. It changed so quickly that we were frightened and grasping for new ways to aid us, calm us, arm us with what we needed. We turned to loved ones by phone, video chat, and of course, Zoom. Hardly anyone knew of Zoom prior to the pandemic and stay-at-home orders.

New Pathways

We looked for new ways to connect since we could not visit in person. We were even off-kilter with finding a spiritual connection. I know some people had a hard time praying and meditating at first. They felt they needed prayer and meditation so much but were swept up into this whirlwind. It was such a scary and unsettled time at the beginning of the pandemic. And rituals changed, disappeared, morphed into other traditions.

My grown children and I spoke every day on the phone; it became a new satisfying ritual. It indeed was the most important ritual. I talked daily with co-workers over the phone as everyone needed one another in a new way, a supportive way. We shared news we had heard, information we needed to spread to one another to stay informed.

Events such as meeting friends for drinks and dinner disappeared. Sports, concerts, and weddings disappeared at lightning speeds. And everyday rituals left our lives, like going to classes, the gym, doing Pilates, practicing yoga at a studio. The rituals to keep us healthy left our lives, and we had to start new rituals at home.

People complained about overeating, not getting dressed in the morning, and staying in their pajamas all day. They complained of feeling anxious, scared, and depressed. But eventually, we found our way.

New Rituals

New satisfying rituals emerged. Neighbors and family began seeing the need for help and would take groceries, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and masks to others. We would leave items on front porches to ensure our community had what they needed; we pulled together.

I know some who started sewing masks when we could not buy them at first. I have a neighbor that did this and said she looked forward to sitting at her sewing machine and making dozens of masks every day because it brought her some comfort in knowing she was helping others. She had some control in her life, and it became her new ritual.

At 8:00 every night where we live, people went outside to sing and cheer for the hospital workers—an homage to their selfless service for all of us. I loved this. I looked forward to this, and it made me smile. It made me feel connected. We were in unity in this ritual.

Birthday parties and graduations that could not be held turned creatively into a new way of celebrating. Suddenly neighbors gathered on sidewalks as a parade would go by. We drew banners and signs, and we created artwork for these drive-by events. It brought us happiness and solace in these moments.  This was a way of connecting but not infecting one another. It was creative as we longed for each other again—a fun ritual that made all of us come together.

We used our cars for parties and gatherings. We’ve learned to have rituals on video chat, to gather for church services, prayer groups, counseling, and so much more.

The dating ritual became new—over phone and video chat: date night dinners with people cooking together, and families enjoying dinner.

Self Care and Hobbies

People learned more self-care through the pandemic than they ever have, and it was necessary because most had never lived through this fear and anxiety before.

A quiet corner in a room serves as a meditation spot. A sunny balcony becomes a place for yoga practice. A nook is perfect for more reading. Oh, and music! I’ve listened to more music through the pandemic, and danced around my house more than ever. This has power psychologically, emotionally, and physically.

The drab unfinished basement was transformed into a gym and training center to stay in shape both physically and mentally.

Gardening became a joyous new hobby—a ritual of creating something beautiful and useful—especially since there was a food shortage at the grocery store. A new skill was learned that provided a happy ritual. The preparation of going into the garden was itself a great ritual—putting the sun hat on, placing the gardening gloves on, toting all the tools out to the yard. It was a purposeful ritual.

It Makes Me Smile

The ritual of self-care became all-important. I’m a baker that finds peace in the process of baking. It relaxes me, it produces something, it makes me smile. Everyone found solace in everyday rituals that helped us cope, kept us creative, lowered our anxiety, and made us re-think and evaluate the old norms.

I read over eight books during the pandemic. I walked five to seven miles every day. These simple rituals fed me, nourished me, and allowed me to sleep better. These rituals I will not give up because they have power and purpose in my life. I am so fortunate to have discovered new ways of connecting to myself and others.

When the only place you can be is outside in nature, you learn so much about yourself. New rituals allow us to gain clarity and feed our souls. It sounds so cliché to discuss the healing powers of nature, the enchantment, and the wonder of being outside, but it is so beneficial. It fed my soul as nothing else could. I have always found that walking in nature is a great way to problem-solve, but I found it gave me quiet peace during the pandemic. It was something I could control. During a time when so much was taken from us, I looked for things to do that gave me a sense of control. Walking in nature does that.

Whether you believe in God or a higher power, experiencing nature is a ritual that is so soothing and healing. I think for so many of us, this ritual of communing with nature will be the most important and long-lasting.

I think that is also why we see so many people moving to different areas, leaving metropolitan areas to gain some solace. If you can work remotely, you can choose to live closer to family or nature.

There were lessons learned from the pandemic, and new rituals we adopted that will not disappear. We have reshaped our lives through this, and the positive is in the new rituals we have adopted.

If you liked this you might enjoy, My Corona Vacation | Take Heart

Leeanne Berry Kalne writes from Colorado.

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About Leeanne Berry Kalne

Leeanne Berry Kalne

writes from Colorado.

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