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Social Distancing is Producing Pearls of Opportunity

How life’s irritants are uniting us


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Brenda Mahler

3 years ago | 4 min read

When the schools closed, teachers opened communications through online education.

When the parks closed, parents created scavenger hunts and obstacle courses in their living rooms.

When the libraries closed, authors released books for free on the internet, celebrities began reading books aloud on YouTube, and adults began sharing stories from their youth.

When the museums closed, new artwork emerged as sidewalks became canvases, individuals freed their creativity, and youth found time for self-expression.

When the restaurants closed, homemade bread came back in style, crockpots regained popularity, and cookbooks emerged from storage.

At first the words “new normal” produced negative responses in my mind, but I am beginning to accept the current situation as an oyster accepts irritants into its shell.

“The formation of a natural pearl begins when a foreign substance slips into the oyster between the mantle and the shell, which irritates the mantle. It’s kind of like the oyster getting a splinter. The oyster’s natural reaction is to cover up that irritant to protect itself. The man­tle covers the irritant with layers of the same nacre substance that is used to create the shell. This eventually forms a pearl.” How Stuff Works

Like the oyster, with each little annoyance, I am learning to accept the restrictions, lack of resources, and new expectations with a simple shrug and then approach problems with a workaround.

Obstructions that a few months ago would have halted us in our plans now simply require a new perspective, challenge our thinking, and inspire creativity. With each experience, problems are being resolved and pearls are taking form.

I expect to be adorned with a pearl necklace of perseverance when the old normal returns.

A pearl

Because my father is 84 and has underlying conditions, I am unable to visit him weekly as I once did. But we talk on the phone more. I send pictures almost daily of his great-grandchildren. And his great-grandchildren write letters. Communication has increased since the quarantine; it just takes a different form.

Recently our daughter has started thinking outside the box. Since the weather is getting warmer, she plans to let the children play in his front yard so he can watch from the window or maybe even the porch. A pearl is taking form.

A pearl

My daughter made a loaf of homemade bread, which I believe may be her first. With pride, she shared a picture and proclaimed a feeling of satisfaction as the aroma filled her house and fulfillment as her family devoured the warm, buttery sustenance. A couple of days later their family gathered in the kitchen to make pizza — from scratch.

More pearls

COVID-19 Activities — Image by Author

  • My son-in-law taught his daughter to shoot and clean a pistol. Two life skills that there had been limited time to pursue.
  • My daughters purchased chickens. One to enlarge her flock and the other to begin a new hobby, educate her children with the long-term goal of gathering eggs. Together they shared knowledge, laughter, and made memories.
  • My granddaughter is developing a love for baking. Oreos have taken a backseat to home-baked cookies, cupcakes, and last week she not only baked a cake but decorated it. Her skills increase as does her confidence and creativity with practice.

Photos by author, B. Mahler

  • Our 3-year-old grandchildren refurbished the front door welcome mat with the help of paint and created chalk art on the sidewalk. She also drew a picture on a letter she dictated for a friend. She was proud of the results and ecstatic when she received a return letter in the mail.

A pearl

Sure, social distancing makes life challenging but not impossible. And with the absence of a demanding schedule, time is available for some family bonding and memory-making experiences. I walked with the grandchildren to the river where we saw deer, a coyote, a bald eagle, a woodpecker, and two cranes. The kids threw rocks in the water, pretended to fish with a stick, and enjoyed nature’s offerings.

I have noticed a change in their demeanor. They want to be outside and the adventures continue to grow more elaborate daily. Yesterday, they set out with a bag of trail mix, paper, and pen for creating a map, walkie talkies, bottles of water, a wooden play gun, and their imaginations.

I listened as their plans started as an imaginary bear hunt, changed to exploration for buried treasure, and grew to an adventure as they added code words and a treasure map.

Sure, I wish we could avoid this “new normal” but I am thankful for what we are able to experience to replace what has been taken away. We are fortunate to have a cabin in the mountains for a retreat and thankful for this blessing. Each day is not taken for granted, and I understand how lucky we are compared to many others living in more confined space. However, I believe when guided by a positive attitude, this experience can end with a wealth of positive experiences for everyone.

Identify your irritant and forge a pearl

What aggravation has prompted something positive in your life recently? Has an annoyance from isolation prompted something constructive? How might you build upon dissatisfaction, exasperation, and frustration to make life better for yourself and others? I encourage everyone to put on some rose colored glassed and examine your life. We have the opportunity to see that the glass is half full if we choose.

The world is your oyster. It’s up to you to find the pearls. — Chris Gardner

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