The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a devastating loss of lives and livelihoods worldwide, but in talking with medical doctors, mental health professionals, fitness experts and everyday people, we discovered that for some, 2020—dumpster fire that it was—also brought silver linings. Some were life-changing, others delivered clarity, peace of mind and new feelings of worth. A resetting of goals and priorities is the biggest positive to come out of COVID-19, according to licensed psychotherapist Lisa K. Marranzino. The author of Happiness on the Blue Dot (2019) has been in private practice for two decades and brings firsthand knowledge of the virus to the table: Following a trip to Moab in the summer of 2020, Marranzino, her husband and two of their three adult children were diagnosed with it. Each has recovered.
“I don’t want to minimize the problems and suffering COVID has brought, but in broad terms, COVID has forced (the collective) us into making changes that needed to be made. COVID has made us reexamine everything; it has made us look at our lives in fresh new ways, and get better at the work-life balance. It has also brought out a lot of creativity,” Marranzino says.
“It does people good to break out of their routines and to enjoy the simple pleasures again,” the therapist says, citing clients who have taken up or resumed hobbies like knitting, painting and playing guitar. A female client came to every appointment with her hair dyed a different color. Another couple is enjoying rides on their new bicycle built for two.
Several of those being treated for depression and anxiety are telling her they’re doing OK with the safer-at-home protocols because they’re used to being alone or feeling isolated. They’re finding purpose by teaching their families how to cope. “I’m seeing some very creative ways that we’re giving ourselves a boost,” she adds.
On the bright side
Cathie Beck, author of Cheap Cabernet: A Friendship, used her pandemic-related downtime to “lose 20 pounds, get further along in the second book that I am writing, and make improvements in my house. I also enriched my relationship with my boyfriend and helped my grandson get back in school.”
“For me,” writes Kim Sporrer, executive director of the Colorado Women’s Bar Association, the year 2020 brought “great clarity and the ability to focus on what’s most important to me and my life, to the people around me and to my work.” Sporrer’s statement in Vicky Collins’ hyperlocal journalism site, Bucket List Community Café Northside Denver, also noted: “In some ways, it is a gift. I’ve seen some wonderful acts of kindness, courage and humanity, of people lifting others when the going gets tough. I’ve learned new skills, partially out of necessity but also out of curiosity and desire to grow and thrive in these weird times.”
Laughter and jigsaw puzzles
“2020 will go down as the most humorless year I’ve ever known,” laments Barbara Holland of Denver. “Thankfully I have a particular friend who I laugh uproariously with when we talk on the phone. Afterward, I feel refreshed and energized.”
Andy Levy, managing director/development for City Year Denver, and his sister, retired teacher Renee Levy, relaxed—and were challenged by—assembling Liberty brand jigsaw puzzles. Dick and Marla Gentry, the former owners of Wesco Fabrics, filled their days by finding new hiking trails and shopping at farmers' markets. Susie McMahon, an elite travel concierge, planner and guide with Luxe Lowcountry Travel, established a virtual book club. Alaina Green, associate director of marketing and communications for Jewish Family Service of Colorado, and her husband, Bill, re-landscaped their yard and granted their daughters’ longstanding wish of installing a trampoline. “They are loving it,” Alaina reports.
When the pandemic brought his globetrotting to a screeching halt, Carlos Martinez, president and chief executive officer of the Latino Community Foundation of Colorado, compensated by hosting monthly “evenings of adventure,” with COVID-19 safety protocols in place, for his family bubble.
He and husband Phillip Danielson would select a country, or a time in history, and then watch documentaries to absorb its history, customs and food. Then they’d decorate their dining room, assemble or create traditional clothing to
wear and cook relevant meals. These “visits” to India, Argentina, China and the 1960s, Martinez says, allowed him to “continue my love for learning about different cultures, excite my palate through new flavors, and be inspired to continue my journey of being a global citizen.”
Now, with vaccines starting to roll out, it’s looking like hope is on the horizon. Still, as Rose Community Foundation president/CEO Lindy Eichenbaum Lent pointed out in a talk delivered at the National Philanthropy Day’s 2020 virtual awards luncheon, “We know that it’s not about getting back to normal, because the old normal was not working for everyone. We know it’s about seizing this moment to build a new normal of equity, inclusion, opportunity and abundance.”
Joanne Davidson was inspired to write this story after eavesdropping on a conversation where a woman in her senior years was excitedly describing how her daughter had talked her into trying mountain climbing during the pandemic. The woman had summited her first fourteener and was saying that the rush she felt upon reaching the top was “intoxicating.” Joanne figured there must be others who, like this woman, have found peace, fulfillment and joy by engaging in activities they might never have tried otherwise.
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