The COVID-19 pandemic carried sickness and hardship to the world on an unprecedented scale, and our way of life has come to a halt. We hope the mortality estimates are exaggerated, but frankly, we just don't know. We do know the best minds in the world are working hard to find treatment options, vaccines, and methodologies to stop this pandemic in its tracks. Some countries, such as New Zealand, seem to be doing just that.

Medical research is moving quickly, and the numbers are encouraging if not yet within our control. But there is now a glimmer of hope that this will come to an end before it is our end.

For the first time ever, we are collectively on hold, stuck in whatever circumstance when the world hit the Pause button, and life as we knew stopped.

World governments, health organizations, and global corporations are talking about getting the world back to normal as quickly as possible. Returning to the all-consuming world of just a month ago. But let’s stop for a moment and ponder a question.

Is this really the direction we want to go?

Looking beyond the fear of the unknown, the lockdowns, and significant hardships, there is something else happening, and I’m beginning to see the Big Pause as a gift. It is incredible.

We’ve long been conditioned to rely on electronic products, Waze, Google Maps, and all sorts of services that magically manage our lives. Could we still use road maps and paper charts, if we even still had them, and find our way without electronic assistance? Because when these things go down or are taken away, they leave us lost, scared, and confused, much like the early days of this self-isolation. Toilet paper and hand sanitizers disappeared instantly, hoarding food and essential goods became an obsession, and stores ran out of everything we needed. So, we bought everything else.

We were told to hunker down, stay out of sight, and keep our distance. The media overload was mind-numbing, so many of us turned it off. The social media comedy coming from this quarantine continues to be clever and amusing, poking fun at people lounging around their homes in pajamas and sweats, glasses of wine in hand. Binge watching Netflix, inventing imaginative games to engage the kids, generally keeping away from the world save for the occasional curbside delivery or pickup of pizza, wings, and more wine.

They tell us to sit on the couch, watch movies, eat whatever we have, but don’t go out. Become a couch potato, it doesn’t matter. We’ll let you know when it is time to go back outside.

Well, I say that is crap.

I suggest that rather than assume a fetal position on the couch, it would be a whole lot better to have a more productive mindset.

Instead of sheltering in place, hunkered down in the Cold War-era bomb shelter interpretation we’ve created in our living rooms, why not use the Big Pause to thrive, expand, and challenge? Take a high-level view of a previous busy life and see if it still works. This is a great chance to reinvent oneself, restart responsibility, and make conscious decisions about what we want and what is important.

It is an opportunity to see the world without the illusion of commitment and routine. And speaking of clarity, the smog and air pollution are all but gone over most cities and industrial centers, as cars and planes are no longer bumper to bumper on interstates and runways. The air quality is as clean as anyone can remember. From Nairobi one can see Mount Kenya, and no one can believe it.

The Big Pause gives me lots of opportunity to look at my own situation. I reviewed some of the subscribed services we are currently enrolled in. Some of them are no longer relevant and I plan to cancel them. My life was different six years ago when we bought our big car for long road trips. So, I no longer need to continue monthly payments for Onstar emergency services.

How much money do we spend to stay fit at the gym, yet pay other people to do physical projects around the house? If we no longer get joy and satisfaction from doing these projects ourselves, are we in the wrong house?

One revelation has been my general sense of heightened awareness. I have never considered myself to be wasteful, far from it. But since I do the cooking in our house, now with this isolation, I am much more conscious of what I cook and how much. I don’t put as much honey in a cup of tea, nor do I make meals with leftovers. I use only what we will eat for that meal and freeze or store the rest. I’ve noticed our garbage has been reduced by half, the same with recycling.

When I take a shower, I consciously don’t push the shampoo dispenser down as far, so I use less shampoo. I am surprised how naturally this awareness has come, mindfully conserving our food and consumables because less is often enough, and it reduces my need to go shopping for items that may no longer be available. It is a new attitude, for sure, the obvious benefits of using less, wasting less. I have no doubt this awareness will linger long after the pandemic is over.

There are many ways to benefit from the Big Pause. Instead of watching hours of British mysteries or log cabin living, why not enroll in a course to improve navigation skills, or electrical repair, learn Spanish, Italian cooking, or even welding. Use the Big Pause to learn something you never had time for. I can’t believe how much education and training is out there, an amazingly rich resource for anyone wanting to expand their skillset and learn. All you need to explore the world is an Internet connection.

Since you are on the Seattle Yachts website, it is safe to say that cruising may be just what you need when this ordeal is over, quality time with family and friends aboard a well-found cruising boat, sail or power. You can watch a glacier calve, or take in a tropical sunset, from the decks of either.

If you are still stuck, unable to buy that Unobtanium 64 that you’ve convinced yourself you must have, how about a reassessment with simpler needs? Be honest with your broker and look at solutions that not only meet your requirements, but also can happen sooner rather than later.

Spend the time researching the latest cruising boats, as you develop your wish list for a new boat. I might even offer a checklist to help you. (Read: The Wish List)

Look into new technology that you may be unfamiliar with, such as efficient induction cooktops in the galley. Or learn about hydraulic systems, how they work, and remove the mystery of their power. Educate yourself about the essential components of a solar array system on a boat. The technology gets better each year, especially with lithium batteries.

Assuming you have access to your boat, why not work on a detailed owner’s manual, even though it probably came with one. I bet it is outdated as equipment was installed, removed, or changed. Trust me, the finished manual is less important that the process of developing it, unless you plan to sell the boat. Documenting where all the plumbing goes, or developing a current ship’s wiring diagram, will have you climbing all over your boat, and you will become way more familiar with all the systems. You might even come up with a few boat projects. And that is a good thing.

If you have an older boat, find out what the maintenance interval is for your boat’s windlass. Maybe it’s time to send it in for reconditioning. How about your winches or upgrades to the air conditioning and refrigeration systems?

None of this is about spending money, but rather expanding your skills and experience while you have time for it.

I came across this quote (credited to a merchant marine captain) and it struck me as the perfect state of mind of where I’d like to be when this pandemic is over:

A superior seaman uses his superior judgement to keep out of situations requiring his superior skills.

Maybe when the Big Pause is over, and the world beckons you to get back to normal, you won’t be around. You won’t even notice, because your new normal has you in a different place. And you won’t look back, as that’s not the direction you’re going.

It shouldn’t take a pandemic to see life on simpler terms.

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