“What will I keep?” I’m finding myself asking that question often during this season. My entire “normal” life has been thrown out the window, along with everyone else in the world. What will I keep? What routine will I try to hold onto during this season of staying at home? Will I hold to normal work hours or allow my mood to dictate my schedule? Will I get dressed every day or merely change into “daytime pajamas?” Is an early bedtime still important or do I revert back to my college sleeping hours? Do I still hold to the USDA’s recommended food pyramid or do I snack incessantly on Wheat Thins and bowls of cereal?

We’re all grasping for pieces of normal right now.

Turns out, we seem to be creatures of habit. Who knew? And that’s fair. Right now the world feels heavy, tragic, even dark. Pieces of normal help us cope and feel comfortable. But as much as I’m missing my normal habits, my normal routine, my normal people, I’m finding pieces of this quarantine that I sort of love. Pieces that I didn’t realize were missing from my life. I find myself looking into the future and asking “what will I keep?” when this is all said and done.

I don’t want to make light of what our world is going through during this time. There really is tragedy and loss and hardship and it’s important to feel each of those. But I keep reminding myself to hold both the grief of the losses alongside the joy from that which I have gained during these weeks. Though they feel in opposition, the truth is that sadness does not negate joy, nor does joy cancel out sadness. One of the beauties of being human is that we can hold both of these emotions at once.

So back to the question at hand: what will I keep? After a little bit of math and some rough estimates (read: shot in the dark guesses) on how long this will last vs. how long the average life lasts, this is most likely less than 1% of my entire life. At some point, this will be over. I will be back in my normal habits, following my normal routines, reunited with my normal people.

But, there are pieces of abnormal that I’ve picked up during this time that I want to become a new normal.

For example, my roommates and I have been eating dinner together every night, around a table, while talking to each other—what a novel idea! There’s something powerful about sitting down together around a meal—it’s nourishing in multiple ways. There is something important about looking someone in the eyes while they tell you about their day. There’s something life-giving about laughing about things that wouldn’t be funny to anyone else, but we find hilarious. Is it reasonable to expect that the four of us will be able to sit down to dinner every single night once this is over? No, our normal schedules are crazy and we’re constantly running in opposite directions. However, we can certainly make a point to sit down together once a week. This is something I want to keep.

I’ve started taking more walks. Partly because it’s literally one of the only things we’re allowed to do outside of our house and partly because it feels like a nice transition from one part of my day to another. The idea of allowing myself a walk as a treat, something meant to be enjoyed, is a new idea to me. Instead of focusing on speed and heart rate (my normal habit), I’ve noticed fun architecture, offered socially distanced greetings to neighbors, and admired dogs from afar (ok, this will need to change, I would definitely much prefer to admire dogs from close up). This is something I want to keep.

The acceptance of downtime. The freedom to not feel busy. The days where I haven’t gotten in my car once. The purposefulness to check on my people in creative ways. The grace I have tried to give myself and others (sometimes, very brokenly) while we all face a lot of newness. These are things I want to keep.

So, as these days continue and we learn of extensions, this is the question I find myself asking over and over again. What will I keep?

As I said earlier, this season is a small fraction of my life. But it has the potential to have a big impact on how I choose to live in the future. I want to hold tight to what the Lord is teaching me in this season. The lessons He’s probably tried to teach me time and time before, but I was too “busy” to learn. That’s what I want to keep.

Maggie Bertram
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