Coronavirus fatigue; can we have a different plot?

It’s been 8 days since my last workplace commute, 8 days of the three of us together alone all the time.  I haven’t been sleeping well; every time I awake, whether it’s morning or the middle of the night, I have that feeling of something looming, and I remember that life is completely different now, with more changes to come at an unknown time.  It’s not a dream – we really are all living the plot of a dystopian novel.

There have been positives. I’ve been taking long, unrushed walks with our dog.  Mari, Thom, and I have played some games that were gathering dust.  I accomplished some yard work and housework, both of which are more attractive than finishing the income taxes or painting the kitchen ceiling.  I am spending less time than literally ever before on errands and commuting; the latter has given me about 6 hours per week. A tank of gas is going to last a long time; we won’t need new tires anytime soon, and the 15-year old car will keep going longer.

My work-from-home situation is temporary, and returning comes with another set of anxieties.  Mari will be spending her 17th birthday with her parents, without her friends, and she’s bummed about that.  I’d had many ideas for activities that we could do to celebrate her birthday, but now I need to brainstorm again.  I am concerned about my parents, who live 2000 miles away, with few friends or contacts in a small town.  Should they become ill, it will be difficult for me to assist them.  I worry about the virus finding its way through our door, or those of my friends and colleagues.  I worry about the effect this will have on the businesses that have made Minnesota’s economy so resilient in the past.  I worry about the workers who will become ill and possibly infect their families.  I worry that this virus might orphan some children.  I worry about everyone losing their savings.

There are more worries, but I know everyone else has them too.

To think, last year we were all complaining about the brutal winter we had weathered!

Here’s what I am going to do to try to counteract the worries: my daily commute time will become meditation and journaling time.

What are you doing to stay balanced?

 

 

 

 

Self-Isolation Projects

IMG_2301Recently, a friend was bored while recovering from surgery and asked me for ideas of what she could do. I am revisiting this list now to have ideas for our household in the coming weeks, when we will be limiting activities outside the house.

Go outside. Sunshine and exercise maintain body and soul.  Watch sunrises and sunsets, look at the constellations, observe wildlife, identify birds, notice when the first flowers and insects of the season appear, have a family campfire.  Walk, hike, bike, skate.

Do something with your hands and let your thoughts run. You’ll probably come up with lots of things you’d like to do with available time. (Make bread or a finely chopped salad. Knit or crochet. Bead. Whittle. Etc.)

Make lists – things to do with family or for yourself; places you want to go, whether near or far; tasks to do inside and outside the home; ideas for meals; books to read…

Look at family photos together.

Learn a new skill or hobby – or resume one that has fallen by the wayside. If trying something new, just get supplies for one project.

Refresh a skill that has long gone unused, such as the calculus learned in college. Or expand on a skill, such as learning a new programming or world language.

Play an instrument, or start learning a new one.

Journal. Write letters to friends. Write letters to family. Email is fine – but try communicating in complete sentences outside of texting!

Plan a vacation for the future – just plan, no commitments here. Plan where and what you’ll do and where you’ll stay.  Half the fun is in the planning and looking ahead. (Mari had to do this two years ago for an economics class and still talks about it!)

Think about life goals, what you want to accomplish, how to prioritize. Choose one goal and really plan it (look up SMART goals).

Write elected officials in the state or federal legislature about topics that are important to you.

Organize closets and drawers, garage, basement, etc. Declutter: if there’s something in the house that doesn’t get used during a time like this, it may never get used.

Find some new music that you enjoy.  Listen to it while doing chores.

Seed the vegetable garden as soon as the ground thaws – brassicas, lettuce, and spinach don’t mind the cold soil.

Write the story of your childhood for your kids. They might not appreciate it now, but they will love it when they are older.  Collect stories from the other adults in your family, too.

Make photo books for yourself, or for your kids or friends.

If you make gifts for your loved ones, get a jump start on upcoming gifting events.

Clean and sharpen garden tools. For that matter, sharpen the kitchen knives, too.

Read a book. Read poetry.  Read.

Complete the online Census form.

Learn to do something on the computer that’s generally useful, such as image or video editing.

Play a game, maybe one of those board games that never comes off the shelf because it takes too long.

Finish the taxes.

Get from the library some kids’ nonfiction books on topics that interest you – they are quick reads and you can learn a lot.  Get a big stack of books, in general.

Walk, and walk some more.  Walk meditatively at whatever pace you like.  Notice all that you sense: sounds, smells, sights.  Enjoy the birds – they are miraculous, truly.

Your turn!  What are some of the things that you never have time for?

Vacation

I have a goal for the next few days, and that is to achieve a mental state of being miles from anywhere. It would probably be impossible for me to do that at home. We’re at our friends’ cabin, a few hours from the Cities and nearly deserted in winter, which is therefore my favorite time to visit. This morning’s treats have been waking after an unusually undisturbed sleep, watching the sun rise over the frozen, snow-covered lake, walking the dog and hearing a bird that I couldn’t identify, and now smelling bread baking… and I’ve only been up for an hour. Since I’m the only morning person here, I have at least a couple more hours of silence to enjoy.

I unplugged the wifi last night at our family’s designated screen-off time and will leave us disconnected until someone complains (at which time this will be posted). Cell phone service is spotty here, a situation which Mari might feel is disastrous but which I would welcome even under normal circumstances, and which is particularly refreshing after a week of being on edge, waiting for announcements from every entity and agency and trying to strategize for the truly unpredictable future.

I scheduled these few vacation days quite some time ago, thinking that this would be a calm time at work, but now would like to be there for the planning that is taking place. It will be ok. At work and at home, everyone will have to use their best talents in these coming months, more so than usual. This is an interesting time for Mari to be experiencing as a teen; it may shape her future, her career choice, and even her everyday reality for the next year.

For today, I have freshly baked bread, the moving shadows of pine trees on snow, a softly snoring dog at my feet, cozy pajamas and no need to change, a stack of books, and a notebook for thoughts. Today is vacation.

Simple Choices This Week

Somehow turning the decade to 2020 gives me the feeling that a lot of time has passed… suddenly.  Everything feels like a long time ago.  This is compounded by the fact that I recently turned 50.  As someone who tends to be very commonsense and logical, and who also spends a lot of time doing math, I don’t have any particular feelings about the number 50, but it has made me think more deeply about many things, including years past and years remaining.

While my family followed what was to teenager me an excruciatingly simple lifestyle, it wasn’t until I was out of university and on my own for a few years, working in a very fast-paced industry, that I began to explore simplicity on my own.  I’ve honed various aspects of frugality and simplicity for the past 25 years or so.

In every simple living community or book I’ve observed or read, I’ve seen discussions of “how is simple living different from frugality” or “how is simple living different from minimalism?”  The conversation always meanders through various ideas and opinions before someone reminds everyone that simple living is about choices – making choices to have choices.

This week, some of the choices I’ve made to make life simpler are

  • I’ve been more deliberate about practicing the 1980s style of smartphone use proposed by Cal Newport in Digital Minimalism, which is to turn on the ringer and leave it near the front door.   That is to say, I’m treating it as a phone instead of an appendage.
  • I dug in and began the unpleasant pre-work that I’ve been avoiding for months for our 2019 taxes.  It took about 3 hours and now I don’t have to dread it anymore.  “Just begin” nearly always gets me through things like that.
  • I cooked ahead last weekend for scheduled long work days.  It made those evenings much more relaxed.
  • I skipped Mari’s band concert after a long day at work.  It was the first performance I’ve missed in 8 years of band and orchestra.  This particular concert is held annually in the high school gym, which has dreadful acoustics, and parents sit on the (extremely uncomfortable) bleachers.  The ratio of time that Mari played to time I would have spent to be there was about 1:8.
  • I contemplated making a baby blanket for an acquaintance’s baby shower, and then bought some favorite board books to share instead.  The yarn or fabric would have cost the same as the books, and not everyone values handmade items.  I’ve made many crocheted baby blankets and patchwork baby quilts over the years, and generally enjoy turning out a pretty present, but this month I decided that I had other time priorities.

What made your life simpler this week?