March 11th marked the day in Hoboken when our lives began to change due to covid19. Life just hasn’t been the same since. For some, the change has been devastating, others are finding ways to cope but it’s not easy. Social distancing, financial hardship, and health concerns have all impacted our community and nation in various ways.
How have people been dealing with everything? How are they managing their spiritual, physical, and emotional health? What is life like right now and how will things be when they begin to shift back to normalcy? We recently interviewed some members of our Hoboken Grace family to check-in with them and see how their daily lives have changed, how they’re coping, and how they are finding ways to connect in this unprecedented time.
Alex and Lauren- Late 20’s, Hoboken, NJ
Alex and Lauren are married, Hoboken residents. Alex works in business development for a chemical company and Lauren works as brand manager for a food company. When things began to look dire and a shut-down eminent, Alex and Lauren knew that quarantining in their small Hoboken apartment with limited space and no outdoor access was untenable. Having the green-light to work from home, they decided to leave Hoboken early in the crisis and on the weekend of March 14th, they headed south for Lauren’s family cabin near Lake Hartwell in Georgia. This bucolic escape would provide them with the necessary isolation as well as a healthy injection of nature and space to quarantine as peacefully as possible. It would also however go on for longer than they originally anticipated and make them feel an unexpected longing for their Hoboken community and desire to have been potentially useful in the on-the-ground efforts the community was engaging in.
Do you guys regret your decision to leave town and did you anticipate that it would be for as long as it has been?
Lauren: I’m very happy with our decision to leave Hoboken, especially with seeing how crazy everything has gotten and all the stay-at-home orders and extreme measures being taken. We only thought we’d be gone a couple weeks and didn’t pack enough clothes to stay for this long but we’re managing.
Alex: I’m mostly happy with the decision. I love the extra space and being in nature and getting to see Lauren’s parents who come up on the weekends and I’m very happy with the amount we get to exercise. But I do miss out on the service activities that we could be doing for the community and the ways I’ve seen some of our dinner group members volunteering and serving.
Lauren: Yeah and the nightly clapping and cheering for the first responders everyone is doing in Hoboken is really cool and the community feel, we miss being part of that.
Luckily for Alex and Lauren they have been able to continue to work from home and have suffered no pay loss or financial hardship yet. They have however suffered some loss of continuity in work methods and changes to their tasks. Alex, whose job involves a lot of traveling to visit clients, now involves virtually contacting those clients. Lauren has lost a valuable collaboration aspect of her job by not being able to interact with her co-workers in-person on projects in the same manner.
Alex: Chemical companies have been hit hard by the virus but luckily my company is a European company and they are committed to trying to keep everyone employed. We weren’t really set-up for a work-from-home model so they’ve had to adapt and change things as we go to make it work.
Story Team: How are you managing your routine and transition, balancing your work time with your non-working time?Alex: We have set up a place in the house where we each do work and when I want to take a break from work, I leave that spot.
Lauren: We also try to stick to the same schedule and work for the same hours.
Alex: I have enjoyed that all the time I used to spend commuting I now use for exercise or outdoors time.
Story Team: How are you balancing your spiritual routine? Are you taking time for God and your spiritual health? Have there been any changes to your time with God during this?
Lauren: Before I used to use my commute for time with God. I would listen to worship music or talk with God. I’ve obviously lost that time but I feel like the time we get to spend in nature has been helpful. I like to get outside and connect with God through the beauty we get to see every day. I take that time outdoors to reflect and pray and listen. Sometimes they’re micro-moments of appreciating His gift of nature and beauty and other times it’s a longer conversation with God.
Alex: I started doing the daily Bible reading plan that Hoboken Grace does about a year ago. I used to do it during breakfast at home so I continue to do it during breakfast here. I also enjoy the routine of still doing dinner group every Monday night. I’m also finding God in the micro-moments in nature.
Lauren: As a couple we also watch the services every week, pray together everyday and work on dinner group studies throughout the week. Sometimes it’s hard because our time isn’t as structured but we try to keep up our spiritual rhythms as much as possible.
Story Team: What has it been like having the connection to dinner group virtually? For you Alex, you actually travel a lot normally and have to miss dinner group, but now you get to be part of it still even through you’re away. Has that been better for you or are you both missing the face-to-face time?
Alex: Just like it is when I’m visiting a customer, face time is invaluable. So, I think making those personal connections is really hard to replace if you’re not standing right next to someone. I certainly appreciate the time we get to spend connecting on Zoom but I can’t wait to go back to the personal interactions. But this has also illustrated to me that in the future when I’m travelling again, I want to try to connect virtually and maybe dial-in to the dinner group because I realize it is really important.
Lauren: Like Alex said, you can’t really replace the in-person time but it has been really nice to attend with Alex. Where normally, when he would be travelling, it would be just me alone so getting to attend with him consistently has been great.
Story Team: If you guys didn’t have dinner group and that weekly connection during this time how do you think you’d be feeling? Is group a valuable outlet for you in this moment?
Lauren: Yeah, it’s been such a great outlet to be able to come together and share our unique experiences and laugh together and pray together with the group. We’re lucky to be in a really peaceful location so we’re maybe not as stressed as others but when you see all the stuff on the news about New York and New Jersey and how bad things are, it’s really reassuring to see that everyone in group seems to be doing well and is healthy and maintaining their faith in God.
Alex: All the things about group before Covid still hold, that dinner group is still community and without it, even virtually, I’d really be missing that connection to the community.
Story Team: You both serve on Grace Kids, what has it been like for you to lose that service or have it change during this time?
Alex: Our team is doing weekly check-in calls so they’re staying connected that way, but I have missed the ability to be able to serve my community. We can see each other virtually and connect but we’re not serving and that is hard.
Lauren: I know they’re doing virtual Grace Kids right now but I haven’t been able to participate in that. So, losing the chance to serve has been hard because that’s one of the callings God gave us that we’ve been missing right now.
Story Team: What has been the biggest takeaway from all this? Is there anything you will continue going forward that you’ve benefited from in this time?
Alex: I’ve really appreciated all the quality time I’ve gotten to spend with Lauren. With my job and all the travel I normally do, I don’t get to spend this much time with her so we will try to do as much as we can together still when it is all over. Lauren: Yeah, we will be cherishing our time together more because Alex is on the road a lot so we will try to make the most the quality time afterwards. We also appreciate our health a lot more, this situation makes you value that.
Story Team: What has been your biggest struggle through all of this?
Alex: Trying to stay focused on the positive. In the beginning you couldn’t turn on the TV without hearing a negative story about the virus. It’s been important to get away from the TV and negative news. We’re trying to focus on the positive stories coming out of this, the volunteers, the people helping each other, etc. Those positive moments help get us through and take away the negative thoughts.
Lauren: The hardest part for me has been staying motivated at work, there’s a lot of negativity, my job has changed as it’s mostly emailing now and I don’t get to see my co-workers in-person. A lot of the fun aspects of my job have changed too, like going to trade shows and big projects now put on hold.
Story Team: What specific tools or methods are you trying to utilize to ease that suffering?
Alex: We definitely don’t watch as much TV and I don’t read news as regularly. It’s good to be informed but setting a limit so you don’t get overwhelmed. And whenever I’m talking to someone and they’re focused on the doom and gloom, I try to find ways to encourage them to see the positive. Encouraging others has helped me to stay positive myself.
Lauren: For me, I try to remind myself that I do have a job and to be grateful as that’s not the case for a lot of people. Also talking to family and friends and seeing that everyone is going through this and if they can get through it, I can get through it. Also praying and the Lost and Found series we’ve been walking through at church has really helped put things into perspective.
Story Team: What about connection to your family? Are you finding opportunities to connect with them?
Alex: Absolutely, we get to see Lauren’s family on the weekends when they come up and we FaceTime with my parents every week.
Lauren: I got to do a video call with my grandmother and my seven cousins which was great. We had never done that before and my grandma was so encouraged to see us all doing so well, she had been worried how we were all doing. I was surprised how easy it was to arrange the call with all of them and we haven’t all been together at once for years so it was really cool. It’s something we’ll likely continue even after all this. It’s crazy it took a pandemic to make it happen but it’s showed us the importance of it.
Alex: I think we’ve realized through this the importance of connecting and we will continue to make that a priority with our family when all this is over. I’m sure we’ll talk to Lauren’s parents and mine a lot more in the future.
Story Team: What is your benchmark for coming back to Hoboken and how do you think you’ll handle the getting back to life? Will you proceed with caution or just jump right back into normal life?
Alex: We plan to come back once our offices reopen and when my company allows me to travel again. If they make us wear masks in the office, I’ll probably stay home.
Lauren: My office is pretty conservative so they won’t let us come back unless it’s totally safe.
Alex: I don’t necessarily feel at risk if I get the virus as I don’t have any pre-existing conditions, but I would be worried about being contagious to others so I’ll go back to life but will still be cautious and take precautions to try to prevent infection.
Story Team: What’s the one thing you’re most looking forward to when life gets back to normal?
Alex: I’m looking forward to seeing people again and not being afraid of the virus, being able to have conversations again face to face and just connecting.
Alex and Lauren continue to quarantine in Georgia and plan to remain there for the foreseeable future but like the rest of us, they are anxious for life to regain some normalcy so they can return home soon.