As we each shelter alone in our homes, socially distant from each other, we can think more about our coronavirus time capsules and pause. We have extra time on our hands when not working, cooking--everything from banana and zucchini breads to crinkly chocolate cookies, spaghetti and meatballs and chicken piccata, Zoom schmoozing, taking walks and finishing crossword and jigsaw puzzles.
We’ve spent some of that time listening and questioning ourselves—and others—about where we are now in our lives to answer some Proustian-like questions, which we also shared with family, friends and you, our readers. It’s tough at times to laugh, love, take risks and appreciate what’s right under our noses, since some of the answers may be a bit too close at times for comfort. We believe there will be a world some time down the road when COVID-19 is contained, and one where we hopefully will be better prepared for another pandemic. Here are the musings from a few we posed the questions to; share with us your thoughts if you would.
Q: What do you miss most during self-isolation? Name up to three things or people, if you’d like.
Rena Abrams, St. Louis. What I miss most (aside from out-of-town children and family) during self-isolation is socialization! From planning and scheduling a date to making a reservation, (when was the last time you did that?), going to lunch or dinner with girlfriends or couples. Catching up with mundane information, “So, what’s new?” “Did you hear" this or that…"What are we going to do about this weather?"
I miss the hum of a busy, friendly, upbeat restaurant, bustling with people and the murmur of conversation, the aroma of food prep in the kitchen, choosing what “I'll have” on the menu, choosing from a wine list, looking around for a familiar face to smile at or wave to. Eating something I didn’t cook...
Hunting and Gathering. Being in and out of retail stores, from Saks Fifth Avenue to T. J. Maxx, I miss the power of shopping, looking at fashion, the selection, the sale rack and actually buying! Doing errands was such a chore, but at least that gave us a “to do list” (get a haircut). I have finally realized that I am happiest when I am spending money. Like the Greeks in ancient Greece, I love being in the agora.
My fun, part-time job at a cooking school is also a part of my day that I miss. Having a destination during my day. The routine of preparing or cooking ingredients for recipes a class will enjoy, getting ready to welcome guests to the class, (pleasing people), and the work with the other kitchen assistants like me, feeling like a part of a group with similar interests! It’s like having a party that doesn’t cost you anything!
I look forward to my new old normal.
Q: What is something you started doing when socially isolated that you had never done before?
Liza Bertelson Street, St. Louis. Maybe I’m projecting, but I know my five preteen and teenaged granddaughters well enough to believe that recently I’ve heard stress in their voices. It reminds me so vividly of the way I felt as a child when I was kept home from school with a cold or simply on days when there was nobody to play with, nothing to do. Due to boredom and loneliness, I’d feel a tightness in my throat and a heaviness in my chest. That’s how I imagine my girls feeling, and I can’t help attributing it to the confinement they’re suffering during the COVID-19 pandemic, the tedium taking its toll.
My father was a voracious reader and wanted me to be one, too. As a child I loved it when he read to me, and now I appreciate his teaching me that reading is a thrilling way to learn about other worlds, imagine new places and people, and have new adventures. With that in mind I decided to read to my five on FaceTime every evening so they too might become readers, but also so they could experience new things or “go” somewhere, even while in lockdown. I hoped it would be good for all of us, that hearing a different voice would help them de-stress after another monotonous day, that I’d grow even closer to them and that their parents could get a little break.
I didn’t know if my reading plan would work. I pictured some eye rolling, along with a “we have to humor Granny” attitude. But after the first couple of nights, I didn’t have to call them, they called me! So gratifying. The first book I read to them was Tuck Everlasting, and now we’re into A Wrinkle in Time, both classics with elements of magic. We’re all enjoying these interludes! I really hope they remember this when they’re grown and I’m not here, so that they’ll continue the tradition with their own families.
Q: What is one thing that you’ve done during the pandemic that you’ve never done before? Will you continue to do it once social isolation and distancing ends?
Fran Kaufman, New York City. I’m thinking about home cooking more than ever now because I’m spending so much time at home and can’t eat in restaurants. This helps satisfy my need for variety. I hope when and if this isolation ever ends, I’ll have the patience to continue. I am following Elizabeth Minchilli (who has a blog Eating My Way Through Italy https://www.elizabethminchilli.com/) and Mark Bittman (a former New York Times food columnist who now has a newsletter, https://www.markbittman.com/) and other Times and Washington Post food columnists. I’ve made a lot of soups, stews, lots of veggies and pasta. Examples are Bittman’s farro soup and Minchilli’s pasta and zucchini and red lentil cacciatore.
Q: What will you change about your life once the all-clear sign is given? Again, you can name up to three things.
Gina Walker Fox, Hudson River Valley, N.Y. One definite change will be a morning meditation. I started 40 Days with Firefly Yoga. Every morning at 7 a.m. and for just 20 minutes I meditate. It was free and thought I would give it a shot. I have found it invaluable and gives me a fresh, grounded, peaceful start to every morning. It’s been invaluable to me. Second, I’ve grown to like the more thoughtful shopping I am doing. I’m not just running out to the store every other day or so. I look through my freezer and pantry. I plan meals and recipes much more thoughtfully. Third, I like the checking in on those most vulnerable that I’m doing, whether it’s due to age or health issues. It’s good for them, good for me and good for society.
Q. How my goals will change after the coronavirus passes.
Xenia Urban, Brooklyn, N.Y. This is what I will tell myself:
- Don't let the barrage of needless media and consumerism distract you and cause angst.
- Focus on things that really matter the most: family, friends and health.
- Think of what you're grateful for before going to bed and when waking up. It just takes a minute but makes such a difference.
- Meditate, even if only for 5 minutes.
- Avoid violent movies (surprisingly difficult).
- Focus on women artists, musicians including composers, and writers, to make up for all the decades of not giving them their due. This will take more research than it would for male writers, artists and musicians. That does not mean they're less talented by any means. It means they did not have the support of good publicity or media exposure. As a college student majoring in Fine Arts, I saw almost no work by women artists. In 2019, when a friend connected me to getting posts of work by women artists throughout history, I was floored and thought, "Yes, we belong." As for women composers, think of Mozart's sister, Felix Mendelssohn's sister Fanny, Clara Schumann who not only composed but took care of Robert Schumann and their children. Felix Mendelssohn thought his sister was a more talented composer than he was, as did other people, including the Queen of England. The only reason why we hear her music is because Felix was able to get it published by using F Mendelssohn. No publishers would have published her music.
Things I most want to do after the cornoarvirus passes:
Visit with my family and friends.
Q: When it’s safe to travel again, what one, two or three places are at the top of your list and why.
Lauren Topel, Chicago. Back to London and Florida to visit our grown kids who live there.... unless they come to Chicago first to visit us. Then to reschedule a trip to Morocco that was cancelled this spring due to the pandemic. We also plan to reschedule a cancelled summer trip to go to Alaska (with our kids) to accomplish our goal of traveling to all 50 states. We already had been to the other 49. Probably, the earliest we would think of a cruise to Alaska would be 2022. We possibly would think of a rail trip instead.
Q: What are you most grateful for right now and why?
Carol Lundgren, Naples, FL. I admit it, I feel safer at home in warm, sunny Naples, Fla., which is not as life-altering as self-isolation in COVID-19 ravaged hot spots. Who am I to complain when we live in a warm, palm tree-lined gated community with no known cases? Yet, as I watched the pickleball nets come down, the gym locked, my aerobics classes canceled and the beaches closed, I felt bereft.
However, after the early panic, I have learned that good can actually rise out of this pandemic. Much to my own amazement, my lifelong Type A personality is now at least an A-. I learned that I could slow down! It wasn’t long before I realized that I didn’t need a full calendar to have a full life. Sure, I miss pickleball, exercise classes and shelling on the beach, but days can be filled with reading on the lanai, working jigsaw puzzles, taking leisurely walks, having long talks with friends, even floating on a raft. I have cleaned and purged without rushing, instead of giving a quick dust between activities. And who needs a restaurant when a relaxing, socially distant driveway happy hour with neighbors can be a great way to pass a few hours.
In addition, I have learned to have a “glass at least three-quarter-full” attitude. I can choose to let thoughts of disinfectant wipes, masks and paper-good shortages get me down, or I can focus on appreciating the positives in my life. Instead of fretting about the pandemic, I’ve opted to make my early morning walks a time for taking in the amazing vegetation and stopping to photograph everything from alligators lazing in the sun to graceful sea birds and soaring eagles. When the news starts to depress us, we turn off the TV, and instead head out to watch one of Naples’ spectacular sunsets. More than ever, I appreciate that our son and daughter-in-law live nearby, and have kept us sane and supplied with food. And of course, I am grateful that we have our good health. Although some days I get in a bit of a funk, the pandemic has made me slow down enough to realize that our glass is still almost full indeed.
Q: What is your current state of mind as you live through this pandemic?
Lynn Harris, St. Louis. I am grappling with both gratitude and loss. I am grateful that I’m a healthy 66-year-old woman, working from my comfortable and peaceful home, busy as ever. My family and “friend family” have been unscathed during this pandemic. My gym is an adequate space off my kitchen, and my Jewish Community Center instructors are available on Zoom or Facebook Live. I see my friends on Zoom, go on a walk and most recently one-on-one in a parking lot with a mask, sitting six feet apart and talking. Next week I will travel by car for the first time in four months to see my almost 5-month-old grandson. I started reading stories on FaceTime with my older grandchildren to enhance our connection. I can afford Instacart to shop and deliver my groceries and avail myself of Walgreen’s drive-thru for medicines and other sundries. Walking in my neighborhood fills me with joy and hope. I am privileged.
There is also the multitude of losses and deep concerns that I am not really dealing with, as it overwhelms me to think about… When will this pandemic end? What will our post COVID-19 world look like until there is a vaccine available to everyone? I live in a city where I have no family. I love people, so working from home is challenging, as I miss my colleague and clients. Zoom and Facebook Live don’t replicate the sense of community I feel at my gym. I miss my girlfriends’ time. My partner and I ended a promising seven-month relationship last week. Theatre, my great escape has evaporated. My beloved art museum is closed indefinitely. I miss the face-to-face visits with my adult children and grandchildren that have been the staple of my life the past nine years. Yes, I am privileged… I am resilient… I will get through this, there is no other choice.
For more ideas about how to live in the time of the coronavirus, check out Susan Honey Good's survival guide blog at https://www.honeygood.com/the-coronavirus-virus-my-personal-survival-guide/. Good is a writer and owner of HoneyGood.com, a site for stylish women who are age 50 plus.