How living a life in quarantine helped me bloom in unexpected ways
It’s been a minute since I’ve found myself “back in the saddle,” and by that, I mean sitting in my cushioned chair, with cute bows on the back, ready to write. It’s been a while since I’ve let my fingers fly across the keyboard, with countless random thoughts coming through their tips. When the idea of this topic first floated through my head, I had finally overcome months of feeling “stuck.” Stuck in Bluefield, and close to my hometown, that I forever thought I would leave and never return. I’m so sorry to anyone who is reading and thinking, “GEEZ Mary, is it really that bad?” I’m not in the business of offending people, but I AM in the business of honesty. My parents have a beautiful home here with no intentions of leaving. I’m surrounded by wonderful friends and family, but those are the things that keep me sane, happy, and content with life – while many of my peers have chased dreams elsewhere, raising families in large, progressive cities. When I was wrapping up my career at the University of Tennessee, I envisioned myself somewhere pretty big. I wasn’t sure exactly where, but Nashville felt good – and a few other southern cities. Then BAM, I meet David, and the best laid plans… Well, you know how that goes.
We’ve been blessed to raise our children in such a safe place, surrounded by my family and a few old friends, combined with some new ones here and there. However, I would be lying if I said that we aren’t often wondering where our “forever home” will be, or what life will look like for us five, even ten years down the road. These thoughts became so consuming to us at one point in our lives and marriage, pushing us over the edge to completely relocate to Charleston, SC. We had absolutely no idea what we were in for, and we lasted barely a year before we were brought back to Bluefield, Virginia, close to the family businesses, and close to my parents who were extremely hands on with our girls. I knew that was all I needed at the time. That feeling was fleeting though, as I navigated living in yet another small town, sending my children to a new school and feeling like I was close to home, but it wasn’t home. Living four years in Knoxville, TN and one year in Charleston (one of the fastest growing southern cities), I knew what it was like to have super-competitive schools, resources at my fingertips, great weather, culture, a church full of young couples with activities for us and our children. I soon became resentful of where we were, feeling like we always needed more, or rather something different.
Living this way was exhausting. The unknown was literally wearing me out. I decided one day to give it all to God, and start living for NOW. Loving my home a little more (even though I still struggle when the wind hits), digging in to the relationships I do have even more and enjoying the things we love most about where we live. I remember telling David I was done with the unknown, and ready to embrace house projects and life as it was TODAY. With some mindful practice and thought training, it became a much better way to live, and I was excited to write about it.
THEN COVID-19 hit – and my mind shifted. How do I BLOOM where I’m planted? We were “trapped” in our home day in and day out, full-time parenting, teaching, cooking, nurturing. The topic suddenly had a whole new meaning. I was struggling in the beginning, especially with the stress surrounding David’s case of COVID-19, at really blooming. I describe the reasons why in my article “When Covid Hits Home; In a Small Town.” I kept pushing off this topic, knowing if I wrote about flourishing, it would not be authentic. However, the topic has lingered in my thoughts, and I’ll say to myself often, “Hey, you’ve bloomed, and here’s how.”
I continued pushing forward with James Dean Lane, as time and my heart allowed it. There were many times blogging felt unnatural to me. I knew I started off really excited about launching my website and starting the journey, but then I became really scared of the commitment when my life changed so drastically. For those who have been at it for some time, they probably could continue easier than I could. I hadn’t quite found my “groove” yet, and when I was home with the kids all day and homeschooling, I couldn’t dedicate the time I once had to learning website software, networking and growing a following. I decided to give it what I could, and I felt an overwhelming responsibility to be a positive light on social media. I decided I wanted to organically grow a following by sharing the things I truly love by partnering with some amazing women who agreed to do giveaways with me. Laurie, Susan, Lauren, and Trisha – I’ll forever be grateful for your willingness to participate, include me, and believe in my purpose. Also, thank you Kacie for working with me, side by side, as we put our families first but also enjoy Modern Southern Mother, as our time (and hearts again) allowed it.
I also began a new fitness regimen and way of eating. Since April, I’ve rarely gone 2 days without exercising. And don’t think I’m down in my basement doing pullups and lifting crazy amounts of weight or running 5 miles! Sometimes exercise for me is a walk around my neighborhood. It’s not always super challenging, but it is a way for me to move. I often joke with David that my exercise ramped up when it became my ONLY break from parenting, but in all honesty, it has helped me connect with myself again. I’ve taken responsibility for the miracle I’ve been given – the human body. I’ve treasured its ability to heal, be strong, and fight off illness. I’ve also appreciated what exercise has done for me mentally and emotionally. Reading Carrie Underwood’s book, Stay the Path, has been a huge inspiration to me for nutrition and exercise. It really is a never-ending path. There is not a finish line… until you croak! I’ve finally changed my way of thinking when it comes to all of it, versus letting busyness, travel, motherhood and any old excuse be things that I allow to end the path.
I feel stronger connections with my family members. Our family was delivered the news of my sister’s pregnancy in May. I had actually learned of it a month prior. Although every child is a blessing from God, we were a little blindsided by this one. I went through literally ALL the feelings. Sadness, anger, confusion to name a few. But one always trumped any feeling I had. I found myself even expressing anger in words, but they felt like lies coming through my lips. I knew what I felt deep down, and that was an unconditional love for her, no matter what choices she has made. I began to deal with it all in my own time, and knew that acceptance was far more powerful than holding on to any anger or resentment. Where would anger get me in my relationship with my sister? I would continually see her 3-year-old face in my head, and be reminded of the love I have carried for her since she came into my life. Nothing seemed to overcome that. We’ve enjoyed connecting with each other through my blog. She’s an excellent photographer, and has taken photos for me. We’ve kept up through phone calls, texts and enjoyed talking about fitness and our goals. It feels good to let go of the negative, and start to embrace what the future holds. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8
Blooming in these ways has made me appreciate my life and home here in Bluefield more than ever. I’ve been digging deep into the present moment, giving way to my worries of the future. The power of NOW is just that – extremely powerful! Although I’m blooming, I’ll never stop looking, endlessly searching for what comes next. I’ll just do it in a quieter and healthier way than before. I’ve learned to embrace the feeling of looking, because it keeps me from being complacent, comfortable, finished. The legendary song by U2 “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” is one of my favorite personal anthems. Joshua Rothman, a writer for The New Yorker says “it’s a song that celebrates wanting.”
“I have climbed the highest mountains
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you
Only to be with you
I have run I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
These city walls
Only to be with you
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for.”
Just because I’m wanting, doesn’t mean I’m not present, and so damn thankful – for all of it.