Nothing bigger than the little things

If there's one thing that the pandemic has taught me, it's that the over-scheduled and over-consumerized lifestyles that we were once living is not sustainable. The societal pressure to excel at everything and "keep up with the Joneses" is slowly eating away at our collective mental and physical health.

For many of us, going back to basics has been a necessity. More home-cooked meals, fewer extracurricular activities and ample time in the home have prompted many to redefine what really matters.

When a vaccine for COVID-19 is found and successfully implemented, living a simpler life should be the norm and not the exception. After all, significant moments in life can start from something rather small.

During these past few months, I've realized that when it comes to my day-to-day life, I've been going through the motions. I'm never fully in the present moment. My mind is full of remembering the mistakes of my past and anticipating problems in the future. I'm on a never-ending carousel of parenting tasks and duties (to two elementary-aged children) and trying so desperately to be a productive adult that I'm not fully enjoying the ride.

I'm often reminded of this quote from "Tuesdays with Morrie" by Mitch Albom: "So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they're busy doing things they think are important. This is because they're chasing the wrong things."

I know that childhood is fleeting, and one day this carousel ride will end, leaving me with an empty nest and nostalgic memories. Perhaps it is only from the vantage point of time that you can look back and fully recognize the totality of life - the accomplishments, the regrets, the big milestones and the small coffee dates with loved ones.

In order to savor these fleeting moments, we must slow down. You don't get a trophy for being busy. An over-packed schedule is not a badge of accomplishment. For all of the discord and tragedy that COVID-19 has brought forth, it's bringing to light that having a deeply rooted peace of mind is essential. This collective chaos begs for us to center our priorities and clarify our core values. Over-sized homes, luxury cars, a closet full of designer clothes - will these things sustain your sense of self?

We are being called to assess our individual situations and make changes that can positively enhance our well-being. We need to stop committing to more than we should, acknowledge our limits - emotionally, physically and financially - and prioritize the present moment.

As author Robert Brault once wrote, "Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things."

- Gabriela Garcia of Hinsdale is a contributing columnist. Readers can email her at [email protected].