Helping & Healing
What the Pandemic Has Taught: The Sparkle Team Reflects on the Past Year

2021-03-10
What the Pandemic Has Taught: The Sparkle Team Reflects on the Past Year

This past year has been challenging for everyone, including all of us at Sparkle Stories. We want to take a pause to reflect on the lessons we’ve learned, the ways that we’ve grown, and ultimately what has kept us going.

We know it is important to make space for what we are feeling, whether those emotions are gratitude, fear, anger, or even just exhaustion. We take this opportunity to remind ourselves that we are still in this together. Read the reflections of the Sparkle Team below, along with their favorite story recommendations!

Lisabeth
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I’m appreciating small, basic things so much more: the hug of a close friend, being able to see someone’s full, gorgeous face, a park full of active people, delighting over the joy of another. And then there are the little luxuries: a restaurant meal, an extended conversation over tea at an outside cafe, a delightful conversation with a stranger (even masked).

It’s forced me to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable: the masks, the social distancing, the underlying fear that most people carry. I continue to be deeply uneasy about our human separateness when I go in the world, but know that it’s also okay for me to be deeply uneasy. In fact, I think it’s a sign of inner health that we continue to be uneasy, as it points to how connection and closeness are with others are essential to human health.

I am still learning patience and the value of cultivating gratitude. Goodness! How being grateful for what you have makes the days sweeter!

It’s also driven me to more inward time — time to get to know myself and what I truly value and want most. It’s showing me my own inner wisdom and teaching me to trust it. I think it’s making me fierce!

My story recommendation:

"Stone Soup", from the Martin & Sylvia Collection


Stone Soup

Stone Soup



David
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This past year of pandemic has been a wildly swinging pendulum from wide-eyed waiting for the next bit of bad news to uplifting moments of inspiration. One boon from the pandemic has been the license to ask anyone and everyone how they are doing — the chance to connect around a common trauma. I like that. I like waving afar to people and knowing they understand what I’m communicating: not just hello, but a desire to connect, relate and even see how they are doing. Waves have deeper meanings now. Oddly one of the biggest discoveries I’ve made this year is an app called Wecroak. My co-teacher Meredith introduced it to me with apologies that it may seem morbid, so I offer the same caveat when I say that it reminds you five times a day that you are going to die. I find it remarkably reassuring to remember another thing that connects us all: our mortality. We are all here for a limited time. Why squander it with worry and anxiety about something we have no control over? So thank you, Pandemic, for showing me how precious every day is and how much I need the little interactions.

My story recommendation:

So Many Fairies: “Luck of the Maple Candy”



Jessica
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As someone who is naturally extroverted, I have spent more alone time during the past year than any other time in my life. At first, this was challenging because I have a tendency to process, and sometimes even cope or soothe, through connection. “Connection” in the past usually involved close proximity to others. During the pandemic, my concept of connection had to shift and expand. That expansion had to include not only ways to virtually (and resourcefully!) connect with others, but also ways to connect with my inner self.

The truth is that before the pandemic, I usually avoided being alone. I was a bit afraid of it. Then, suddenly it was no longer a choice. I had to learn to spend time alone — lots of it. What started out feeling like torture ended up to be a pivotal moment in my “growing up” (even though I’m 36 years old). Exploring all of those unnoticed corners and shadowy pockets during this past year was definitely uncomfortable sometimes. It also really helped me to grow and learn!

Cultivating a relationship with different parts of myself — the creative, the healer, the child — has been an unexpectedly exciting and rewarding journey.

My story recommendation:

How to Be Super Book Three: The Bridge Between "Part 5: We are Here"



Ann
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After weeks of watching the news and anticipating the approaching pandemic, our family of four declared March 14, 2020 as the first day of our self-quarantine. Beginning on that date, I began a daily journal of my reflections on Instagram where I’ve chronicled our family routines, concerns, and questions. We take a family selfie every day — miraculously tolerated by our 12- and 14-year-old daughters. I make notes about what we ate for dinner and any interesting (or, more often, ordinary) events of the day. It’s been a worthwhile daily discipline.

The publication date of this article will mark Day 361 for us — just a few days short of a full year. A lot has happened in these days. We’ve gone from homeschooling our girls to “sending” them to (virtual) public school where we live in Chicago — and they have thrived. I’ve become more politically active than ever before, participating in a voter registration drive and expanding the scope of my reading. We’ve even re-arranged our house to make space for each of us to work and learn from home — changing the dining room into a makeshift library as we anticipated a distinct lack of dinner parties.

But most importantly, I’ve grown to appreciate the power of daily rhythms and connections. As many of my typical stress-relieving activities became unavailable, I’ve had to develop new ones (hello, afternoon walks!) and soak up the ordinary blessings of family, home, and cats. I’ve had to find ways to connect with friends across distances and cultivate my own quiet space in our 1200 square foot bungalow. My husband and I have worked hard to master the art of “date night in” as a way to nurture our own relationship. This pandemic year has brought so much loss and grief to the whole world, but I’m grateful for the small gifts many of us have been able to find along the way — and for the ways we’ve been able to support one another from afar.

My story recommendation:

At Home with Martin & Sylvia: “The Laundry” — a classic tale of finding magic in the everyday.



“The Magic of the First Snow” from The Castlechanter Audio Advent Calendar is another beautiful example of enjoying the present moment.



Mark
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I have four kids, ages 13, 11, 5, and 3. In April, I will have been married for 25 years to a wonderful woman I met when I was 19. I am blessed that during this unprecedented time, quarantine and social distancing were somewhat different for me. I was not alone. I have many friends and colleagues that journeyed through their emotions in 2020 on their own, but my experience was quite the opposite. It was loud, playful, imaginative, and fun. For this, I am tremendously appreciative, grateful, and humbled. It's the love that I give and receive from close family that balances and energizes me. 2020 made me acutely aware of this, and I immersed myself in it.

I tend to travel a lot for work, so removing that practice from my life has been a major shift for me. The lack of travel slowed down time and gave me a different perspective. I have a more defined goal of closeness to family in my ongoing goals and professional planning.

A rule of turning off news and social media in the evenings has been a blessing. I also meditate routinely to balance my thoughts, emotions, and concerns. I focus on items I can control in my life and place my thoughts and actions towards those. I do not worry about items outside of my control. Nothing good comes from worrying. I made goals that could be completed in 2020 during quarantine. Some are items I had wanted to complete for quite some time. I practiced staying positive and always moving towards those goals. As a result, when I reflect on 2020, it was filled with achievements that made 2020 a good year for me.

More than what I learned, I was reminded that time goes by quickly, that time with loved ones is deeply precious and as important as any professional or personal improvement goals.

My story recommendation:

Tougher for me… There are still over a 1000 stories we have yet to listen to! :)

The Willowbee Tree: "Dreams and Fancy"



Marjorie
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These past many years, I've been very focused on being present — catching myself when I get caught up in worry over the past or future, using what techniques I have to bring myself back into the present moment. Somewhere along this journey I decided to put lots of energy into not missing people or places. I decided that missing was antithetical to presence – and so missing meant I was being bad at being present.

Needless to say, this year has been an excellent teacher. Despite all the phone and video calls and care packages and long emails and even a few handwritten letters, this year has challenged me to stay present – all the while missing people and places.

My downstairs neighbors have access to the lovely garden behind my apartment building. In addition to the squirrels and birds that stay in the area (no matter the season), my neighbors house a few other animals out there: a dog, a bunny, and two turtles. I hadn’t seen the turtles in a long while. I assumed my neighbors had taken the turtles inside for the winter (with the dog and bunny) and they had been eating endives in a tank these last few months. But just a day or two ago, I saw the turtles come out of their little house at the back of the yard. I was overjoyed to see them again. It was like seeing old friends I hadn’t seen in a while. Friends I had spent time thinking about, wondering what they were up to, wondering when I might see them again. Missing them, I guess. This year has been full of ups and downs. Confinement, lockdown, curfew. I am out in the world. I retreat. I am with people. I am alone. I am hibernating. I am staying safe. I am anxious. I am grateful. I am missing people and places. I am present.

I am doing okay. I sure do hope you are too.

My story recommendation:

Martin & Sylvia's Knitting From the Beginning



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