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A renewed feeling of gratitude

The pandemic made me appreciate the present.

Shailaz Dhalla

As a lawyer in private practice, I learned early on that day-to-day life with two little kids would be a tempestuous and emotional ride. When I was working in the office every day, I missed my son and daughter to the point where I’d look at pictures and watch videos regularly while munching on my lunch—does anyone else do this? During particularly busy stretches, it was not uncommon for me to miss bedtimes and even weekend family events, all the while replaying my daughter’s repetitive refrain in my head where she urged me to volunteer at her school every week.

Then the pandemic hit.

As for many, it was a whirlwind in the beginning. I truly didn’t know how to work at home. It felt like everyone else around me was easing into a home office and learning the ins and outs of Zoom and WebEx. Still, my single-screen laptop combined with my husband’s endless (loud) conference calls and the kids’ constant need for stimulation made it a discouraging experience.

The first couple of weeks were very challenging.

I set up a workstation in my bedroom to stay as far away from any interruptions as possible. I still remember one day when I heard a knock on my door. My son asked: “mama, is it lunchtime yet?” I looked at my watch and it was 3 pm! Had I seriously forgotten to feed my kids lunch?!

I did not expect what would happen next. Before long, our family of four was falling into a work-and-school-from-home rhythm. I took my kids outside almost every day, sneaking in cuddles between meetings and playing tennis again with my husband. Commuting time was non-existent and I had started making home-cooked meals more regularly.

The kids eventually went back to school, which forced us to adapt again, but it was much smoother this time. It was like the pandemic required me to hit the pause button on life’s fast-paced mechanical lifestyle; it forced me to re-evaluate, reset, and forge ahead, somewhat renewed. What was most remarkable was that my outlook had shifted dramatically. I was actively appreciating the present and feeling more gratitude than ever before.

Of course, we’re all still navigating through this life-altering pandemic. And it’s not over. Families, friends and neighbours are still battling on the front lines with our heartfelt appreciation. Many have faced significant hardships, including the loss of loved ones, which will never be forgotten.

As we adjust to our new normal, I hope to hold on tightly to this renewed feeling of gratitude. I look forward to reconnecting in-person with my colleagues and clients, and feel even better equipped to take in and actively embrace the things that matter most in life. If that’s not a silver lining, I don’t know what is.