Tea parties before COVID-19
By
Susan Hatten, Holmes Murphy Senior Manager, Corporate Community Engagement

As we embark upon eight weeks, 56 days, 1,344 hours, and 80,640 minutes of recommended social distancing and isolation, I have slowly come to embrace this new environment.

I have been a Downtown Des Moines dweller for more than five years, after selling my bungalow in the charmed Beaverdale, Iowa, neighborhood in late 2014. When I made the decision to move downtown to a high-rise condo overlooking our beautiful Des Moines rivers, the golden Capitol domes, and iconic I-Cubs stadium, the move and purchase were very intentional to support my active lifestyle — that of which some may classify as hyper-social. A butterfly does not thrive when being tethered to one environment, you see. 

I live alone, and I am not ashamed to say that. What I perhaps hold more trepidation to share is that our current situation of social and physical isolation is one in which I have had to mentally absorb, internalize, overcome, and embrace — on my own terms.

When one grieves, there is a known five-step process: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I liken social distancing and isolation for any overly-social specimen to be going through the same.

I gain my energy, creativity, and spark by being around people — whether beginning early in the day in seeing fellow fitness lovers at my gym, throughout the day convening with my coworkers and business partners at the office, taking in productive board meeting lunches, or after-hours networking events, fundraisers, or galas in the evenings and on the weekends. As of March 17, 2020, I went from hyper-social to no-per-social in the blink of an eye.

The weeks ahead would prove to be a challenge for me, and I truly had to make concerted effort to not only create but also support a new normal for my life. I had to pivot my morning routine to speed walks and jogs in the Des Moines skywalk, in-home weight sessions, daily virtual Zoom team and board meetings, and much-needed happy hour gatherings over FaceTime, Marco, and other convening platforms. 

Give Yourself Grace

It was also during the mid-period of isolation I received an Easter basket from dear friends. Inclusive of wine, sweet treats, sidewalk chalk, and a baby poppy-plant, which included the tiny Terra-cotta pot, seeds, and growing instructions. Clearly, my friends selected 3 of 4 of my strengths (and weaknesses). Admittedly, I’ve never been able to keep a fern alive and thriving;  thus, why I also do not bring any plants, hamsters, or goldfish into my lifestyle. 

Nonetheless, one afternoon I decided I would see if I could infuse life into this tiny little poppy plant. I read the instructions (several times), carefully selected the water temperature, and made space in the sunshine for her to have the greatest opportunity to live — and to thrive. Admittedly, while I followed all instructions, my expectations that any of the seeds would truly come to life, sprout, and grow was minimal at best.

Several days later (and stepping away from my 1000th Zoom meeting), I wandered over to my tiny poppy plant in the sunshine only to be welcomed by the sight of green life emerging from the soil. 

In summary, here’s analogy for us all as we navigate this new normal, this new adventure in life.

Within us all is life. Within us all is energy. Within us all is an opportunity to embrace new, routines, adventure, and new journeys. And yes, please give yourself grace to breathe and to expect the unexpected. None have said it better than Robert Frost, “Two roads in the woods and traveled thy, I took the road less traveled by. And, that has made all the difference…”

I select to take the high road — the road in belief of the human spirit and that of positivity. And while I may end my days in physical isolation and current social distance, I know I am not. We are all in this — together!