Technology keeps us working and in touch with one another professionally; I’ve never participated in so many Zoom and Google Hangouts meetings in such a short time.
Still, perhaps never before has it been so important to take advantage of online resources to creatively deal with our isolation.
Here are some of the ways I’ve been spending my time; I relish this period as a kind of breather from the brisk pace of my formerly ‘normal’ life.
1. There’s no time like today to reach out to old friends, visit shut-in neighbors, call colleagues, and become a better listener. I’ve made it a point to contact a friend each day just to check in, and to call my mother every night. In some ways, I’m closer to others than ever emotionally even though I can’t physically hug or kiss them.
2. We also have the opportunity to work on ourselves. Journaling, meditation and mindfulness, prayer and contemplation can soothe and nurture us. Although the churches are closed, I’ve been using this time to read spiritual books, attend livestreaming Mass, and journaling every afternoon in my online diary. It’s funny how a crisis brings us to God.
3. Mastering new skills offers us a sense of accomplishment and produces something positive. I’m taking a video course in calligraphy, I’ve learned how to make cooking extracts from scratch, I baked my first loaves of bread, and made my first-ever cheesecake.
4. Getting outside in the sunshine and fresh air benefits our bodies, minds, and spirits. Enjoying a simple walk through the neighborhood is good for the soul. Every afternoon I fix my husband and I a cup of half-caffeinated espresso and we sit on our shady patio playing with the dog. I treasure those moments of rest and togetherness, as well as the beauty of spring all around us.
5. Exercising indoors and outdoors strengthens our bodies and relieves our minds of anxiety. If I didn’t have my hourlong walk every afternoon I think by now the novel coronavirus sheltering-in-place would have driven me crazy.
6. Sleeping as well and as much as possible provides a much-needed break from our worries and gives our bodies the rest and recovery they need. If you’re like me, sleep is difficult and shorter because of anxiety. In my case, a temporary sleeping aid helps, as does yoga and slow stretching before bed.
7. Minimalism and downsizing may be buzzwords, but they have an important place in orderly homes. Using this time to reorganize our pantries, cull through the clothing in our closets that no longer fits and throwing out extraneous clutter can free our sightlines and make our homes more restful. I’ve found that reorganizing my pantry and kitchen cabinets has given me a fresh new perspective on life.
8. Spring cleaning is a chance to be grateful for our homes and our possessions, and to make every room sparkling and inviting. I don’t know when my home has been cleaner. Probably not since we moved into our house 24 years ago!
9. Harnessing technology to maintain family ties is vital to togetherness and an antidote for isolation. We are doing a Google Hangout Cocktail Hour with family members every Sunday evening. My mother, who lives in a retirement community that’s locked down, eats her dinner as my two sons – one married and living locally, the other single and living in the Bay Area – and our daughter, who is studying at UC Davis but temporarily home with us, join my husband and I in updating each other as we sip our beverage of choice.
10. AARP warns seniors like me to keep challenging ourselves intellectually. I take this to heart and try to read or watch something that challenges me to think more deeply about a complex issue. Sometimes that means just reading the daily newspaper or watching a YouTube video.
I’ve in some ways enjoyed this period of aloneness. I have been reading more good books and have discovered a few podcasts on subjects I enjoy, and I’ve curtailed all the busywork that cluttered my days. I run fewer errands and spend more time, obviously, at home.
Every night after dinner my daughter and I settle in for an episode of “The Great British Baking Show,” which we find entertains and relaxes us. These new habits, many of them enjoyable and positive, are sustaining me in what I like to call my Period of Captivity. I hope this time has been productive and positive for you in many of the same ways.