Quarantine gave us all time to think

Story & photo by Liz Marchi

We are so fortunate in Montana to have been among the least-impacted states by the COVID-19 pandemic, in terms of per-capita cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Although we have one of the older populations, we are more fit than most states, and our public leaders did a good job of keeping us informed and safe. Many places in the country and world have experienced far worse. Suffering and fear have permeated every aspect of life.

Montanans are familiar with the healing calm and joy that comes from living close to nature. We’re also accustomed to toughing out long winters and gray days — interruptions from deep snow, bitter cold, power outages and forest fires are a part of life. Many of us have been telecommuting for years. I moved here 20 years ago to see if it was possible to “make a living and make a life in Montana.” The answer is yes. The coronavirus crisis has renewed and deepened my sense of gratitude for Montana and our way of life.

The pandemic reset the tempo for many of us. I took the opportunity to take several online courses, participated in a number of webinars and read more books. We were at the ranch, where it’s normal to be isolated. I quit watching the national news. I read, a lot, about science, life, health and age, and I enjoyed it. I usually consume information as habit as opposed to actually enjoying the absorption of new knowledge. This time of isolation reinforced the joy and wonder of living in the moment, in gratitude. We have so much to be thankful for in Montana.

Quarantine gave us all time to think. The number of deaths in nursing homes and senior-care facilities is shocking. The pandemic changed our plans about selling our ranch. We have decided that, as long as we can, we want to keep some space. We are leasing our land for farming. I love seeing the activity on our land. The winter was so quiet without our cow herd.  I don’t have the energy to commute to my Whitefish office after being a Montana road warrior for years, so I have a small place in Whitefish. When I get overwhelmed at the ranch, I leave. It always energizes me to see my team at work.

I was doing research for this piece and looked up the suicide rates during the public-health crisis. There were hundreds of predictions about how and why suicide would skyrocket. But so far the numbers, blessedly, haven’t come to fruition. I’m tired of listening to pundits predicting. The truth is, a prediction is very difficult. Many smart people have told me the biggest predictor of life success is attitude. Sheltering time helped me make a significant attitude shift. While age may diminish some capabilities, it enhances others. Perhaps the greatest gift to myself during this time of isolation was the acceptance that I am enough: Being the senior member of an intergenerational team is special and I have renewed confidence in my abilities. 

My hope is that you also have experienced a reset in your life that has enhanced your gratitude and courage to face whatever tomorrow brings while enjoying this day, this summer and this amazing place we call home, Montana. 

Liz is fascinated by the various approaches to aging — from denial, to plastic surgery, to running marathons, to depression. Given our current demographics, Liz thinks there is a lot to explore, celebrate and learn from those living and aging in the Flathead Valley. Contact her at liz@lizmarchi.com