This has been an exceptionally difficult year for millions of individuals, families, and communities. And yet, even in the midst of unexpected hardship and loss, the resiliency of the human spirit continues to shine all around us. To find out how people are managing, we asked half a dozen men and women ranging in age from 58 to 90 to tell us how they’re living a sparked life. We hope you find their stories as inspiring as we do!
Writing, walking and audiobooks
Maryanne (age 76), a published children’s book author, was working as a children’s librarian when the pandemic hit. She lost her job but not her mojo. “I really miss the kids, but now that I have more time and mental space, I’ve been writing more,” she said. “I’ve also joined another children’s book authors group—people I met through one of the many writing conferences I’ve attended on Zoom.” In addition to spending time on her writing, Maryanne started walking every morning, often while listening to an audiobook she’s downloaded from the library. “My daily walks really help keep my spirits up,” she said.
Cheryl (age 58) has worked as a housekeeper for many years, cleaning homes and apartments across the Twin Cities five days a week. At the beginning of the pandemic, when her business slowed down, she worried about the loss of income. “But it was actually a blessing in disguise,” she said. “Before COVID, I just was too exhausted on the weekend to have any energy left for my grandkids.” Although busier now, Cheryl is grateful to work less and have more time and energy to devote to her grandchildren. She’s even had time to take her 89-year-old friend for picnics in the park.
Secret happy hours
Philomena (age 90) lives in a senior community that shut down all group activities, such as communal dining and transportation services, in March. “I’m really lucky to have my own car, so my life hasn’t changed nearly as much as it has for others,” she said. “I buy my own groceries and I’ve even started looking up recipes on my phone to get ideas for what to cook—like eggs with soy sauce!” Another spark in Philomena’s life? “Every afternoon, a group of us gets together secretly for ‘happy hour’—we sit apart and drink wine together!”
Susan (age 72) is the primary caregiver for four disabled family members who live in the same assisted living facility. “For the past ten years, I’ve spent every day bringing them groceries, cleaning their apartments, doing their laundry, and taking them to medical appointments,” she said. That changed overnight when the facility went into lockdown mode. “Within one month, my colitis completely healed,” she said. “The pandemic taught me to set boundaries, like only delivering groceries once a week, instead of jumping up every time a family member wanted me to bring them a bag of potato chips, which has really lowered my stress.” It’s also given Susan time to work on crafts projects, read books, send cards, and make calls to people who are isolated, and volunteer to help get out the vote. “I’m going to have even more free time after the election,” she said.
Pursuing a new career
Laurel (age 61) had been working as a professional actor and theater instructor when the theaters shut down in March. Suddenly all her performing and teaching jobs were canceled. “As tough as it was, the pandemic forced me to slow down and think about how I wanted to spend the next 10–15 years.” With her unemployment benefits and a small amount of savings, she decided to pursue a degree in chemical dependency counseling, the only career she’s as passionate about as acting. Added bonus: “I love being back in school!” she added.
Clyde (age 65) has worked from home for most of his career, but his wife always went into the office. “We’d really only see each other in the evening and some on weekends, but often she’d spend Saturdays taking care of her mom,” he said. Since March, his wife has been working from home. “I love it!” he said. “Now we eat lunch and dinner together, take a walk or a bike ride (pre-snow) in the afternoon, and still have time for Netflix in the evening.” Moving his in-person meetings to Zoom has also helped, he said. “I have literally zero travel time, so I can get more work done during the day and save money on gas.”
Work that sparks joy
As for me, I was laid off in early April as a result of the pandemic. With this unexpected expanse of time, I was able do some pro bono work for a non-profit and take a memoir-writing class on Zoom—something I’d thought about for years but never actually did anything about. And then, in June, I began working for a company whose mission, vision, and culture I love and respect. That company is Lifesprk!
What have we learned so far this year? Yes, this has been an exceptionally difficult year. But our spark, our perspective, our resilience, and our ability to live a purposeful life is still within each of us. That’s an ageless opportunity. It’s how Lifesprk sees aging – despite the chronic illness, challenges, aches and pains, and the – fill in your blank – we find ways to get up and rediscover who we want to be and live. When we do that, we find there is so much joy left for the taking – so go ahead and grab hold of it. Safely of course and wear your mask! We encourage you to find the positives in what’s left of one of the most challenging years.
We want to hear from you! Share with us your pandemic positives. If you need help finding your spark or ways to keep it thriving – reach out to our team. To learn more about Lifesprk’s services and how you can live a sparked life—even in the middle of a pandemic—schedule a free consultation today!