Wash, rinse, repeat. Retirement + COVID = boring.

by Kathy Larson

Yes, this is another one of those laments about how COVID 19 has affected life. My life.

I woke up this morning and the first thought to pop in my head was: wash, rinse, repeat. I knew I was thinking about the day ahead. And it wasn’t going to be about doing laundry.

I retired a couple of years ago and so far I’ve enjoyed not having to live according to a work schedule. I got through the honeymoon phase all right — sleeping in, staying up late, reading books ALL day, then moved into the ‘it’s 5 o’clock somewhere’ phase with total enthusiasm and now I’m in the ‘so, what will I do today?’ phase.

Let me tell you, this phase has its challenges — and they’ve only been exacerbated by COVID.

Having all the time you want to do all the things you want is, in theory, a wonderful thing. Ah, to write, to take photos, to paint the house, to renovate the kitchen, to spend time with family, to travel, to have lunch with friends, to take all those lessons in all those interests that you’ve put on the shelf for all those years. . . The list is endless.

And, before COVID hit I was accomplishing some of that. But. . .

. . . it became apparent rather early on that just because I had all the time in the world and no schedule to adhere to, didn’t mean that others didn’t. Or, that those friends of mine who were also retired didn’t also have their own free-time plans that simply did not mesh with mine. It was all very disconcerting and more than just a little inconvenient.

Retirement, it turns out is a solitary journey.

There is no lunch room, or coffee breaks where you get to sit and gossip or talk about last night’s episode of The Amazing Race. There is no stopping off for a drink with friends after a trying day, or holiday parties to plan for. It takes a little while to get over that and to discover that you can find ways to fill those voids. And, that they are equally as enjoyable. But. . .

Enter COVID 19 and being confined to home.

Visits with family and friends screeched to a halt, holidays got cancelled, celebrations got shelved, renovations got delayed and classes got suspended. Indefinitely. Anything I wanted to do I had to do on my own. If I didn’t know how to do it I had to teach myself, or learn from YouTube videos.

Being self-sufficient, independent and reasonably able to follow instructions I’ve made out okay. But, it’s boring. With a capital B.

In the past 8 months I’ve learned a bunch of new stuff. Like how to take an online class using Zoom,. I’ve taught myself to knit (slippers are my current obsession). I’ve become more proficient with both my SLR and phone cameras and better at editing photos. I’ve experimented with numerous recipes and learned how to bake a beautiful bagel. I’ve started painting with watercolours — an online course sparked the interest and a few video lessons with my talented sister-in-law later I’ve discovered I even have a bit of a talent.

So, imagine being bored when you’ve got all that going on. Absurd. A year ago it would be.

When I got out of bed this morning it wasn’t with a sense of enthusiasm for taking on any of the many projects I’ve got on the go, it was with a sense of weariness and boredom. Sadly, this house, my home, the place I most like to be has become too familiar. Because I can’t leave it.

I can’t, on a whim, pop out the door and drop in on a friend for coffee. Whenever I do leave — usually to get groceries or the mail — I have to ensure that I have a mask in my purse, in my pocket and in the car, along with a good supply of hand sanitizer. I can’t sign up for classes at the local pool, I can’t attend the monthly book club held at our local library, I can’t go grab my grandkids and take them for lunch just because I feel like it.

Visits with my grandkids have to planned weeks in advance, and are subject to being cancelled on a moments notice. I can join online fitness classes, book clubs, painting lessons, cooking lessons, knitting lessons and have virtual visits with my mother and siblings. I’ve done all of that, and I’m tired of having to do it that way.

I’m whining and I know it. But I don’t care. When every day is a carbon copy of the previous one it’s hard to look with enthusiasm at your options and be inspired.

Today I’m going to make cinnamon buns, zucchini muffins, and English muffin bread. Then I’m going to go for a walk in the cold sunshine. Then I’m going to practice painting trees. Then I’m going to finish that pair of slippers. . .

Waiting for the Morning Address

by Kathy Larson

March 25, 2020

Here I sit on this gorgeous early Spring morning. It’s going to warm up to one or two degrees (C) today and I am looking forward to getting out for a nice long walk in the fresh air later this afternoon. It’s about the only thing I have to look forward to these days in the midst of social distancing because of COVID 19.

While I wait for that bright spot in my day I am also waiting for our Prime Minister to make his daily address. I am not a huge fan of JT, but I do admire that he has taken to speaking to the country on a daily basis. He is doing a good job of leading us through this unprecedented time — unlike the bozo south of the border.

Mr. Trudeau has provided an anchor of calm and reason — though sometimes he comes off sounding a little too much like an annoyed and angry parent admonishing his children — “If I have to tell you one more time to stay home. . .!” But then again, if people were acting more like responsible adults and less like willful children, he wouldn’t have to take that surly tone.

Compare that to the message Donald Trump is delivering. He sounds petulant, he spreads false information, he encourages flouting the best medical advice given by his own professionals, and now, not even two weeks into this pandemic hitting America’s shores, he is telling people that “America will be open for business sooner rather than later.” Along with that irresponsible message he has also included another, far more dire and potentially dangerous: He has publicly stated that Americans are going to start committing suicide by the thousands if businesses don’t reopen.

The power of suggestion, Mr. Trump.

What kind of a leader says such a thing? Especially when people are at their most vulnerable. Like a vast majority of the thinking world I am baffled that this cretin has a faithful following. That there are those who think he is doing a good job, that he is actually ‘making America great again’. Nothing could be further from the truth. He is making America a laughingstock and a pariah on the world stage.

Mr. Trudeau, in contrast, offers informed, practical and constructive information and support to the people he leads. Daily, he puts himself out there to provide a picture of steadfast and confident leadership. He talks about helping people through this crisis, about supporting businesses and municipalities, about getting supplies and support to front line workers and to making sure that people don’t fall through the cracks and wind up in situations where the idea of suicide may seem like the only possible solution.

Mr. Trudeau is not the political leader I had hoped for when I voted in the last election, but I am grateful that he is there each morning at 9:15. His calm and poise helps give me a sense of hope and makes this difficult period of social distancing a little easier to bear. He makes me proud to be Canadian, and so, so grateful that I live in the greatest country in the world.

Home-bound

by Kathy Larson

March 19, 2020

So, we’ve been social-distancing and semi-self-isolating for four days now. Honestly, it hasn’t been that much of a change in normal for me. I stay in most days, happy to read or crochet or dabble at writing. I get the housework and laundry done, listen to music, do a crossword puzzle, maybe go for a walk if it’s not too cold. The aquafit classes I attended were my biggest social outings, but that was only two or three times a week. Walking/jogging on the indoor track at Mac Island, though done in the company of others, was also, mostly solitary. With my headphones on I cruised around the oval for 45 minutes then took myself down to Second Cup for a honey tea latte, half-sweet. Please and thank you.

I don’t care to shop — never have. Going to movies is fun, but costly, so we don’t do a lot of that. Eating in restaurants tends to be disappointing, so don’t miss that, and we’re past the age where going out to the bar or a nightclub is even a consideration. Once in a blue moon we’d go to the casino and lose a hundred dollars, but, again, not something we do on a regular basis.

Sadly, neither of us volunteers anymore, so we have nothing to miss on that score. I keep saying I’m going to find something to volunteer for, but haven’t yet, and now, with COVID-19 in our lives most opportunities have disappeared.

It’s funny, when our son was young and I worked full-time and had a busier social life I volunteered a lot. Both my husband and I did. We were always engaged in some community group or other and it never seemed like we were overwhelmed. Now when I think of the time I’d have to commit to something I find all kinds of excuses and reasons why I’d rather not. Maybe that’s just age. I don’t know. I do know when this is over that I’m going to have to change my thinking.

I tried the online grocery order thing. From Superstore. Because of the current state of things I got less than half of what I had ordered. No toilet paper, no chicken, and most shocking — no chocolate bar! Oh, and the bag of avocados was rotten. The process was pretty easy, actually, and I’d definitely try it again. Say, perhaps, when we’re getting back from a holiday. Some day. In the future. When the coronavirus is no more.

After picking up my half-order of groceries from SS I drove over to Save-On to see if they had what I wanted. They did, though it was considerably more costly than SS. We are now well stocked with toilet paper, chicken and giant bottles for water — just in case.

Save-On had some lovely ahi tuna steaks in their meat section so that’s what we had for supper last night. Maple-mustard glazed tuna steaks (get the recipe here: https://cooktoria.com/ahi-tuna-steak/) with sweet potato oven fries and a fresh salad. Yum.

Being sequestered at home at first seemed like A BIG DEAL. For us, really, it’s not. We watch a couple of shows in the evening, play a couple of card games, then head upstairs to bed around 10:30. Nothing different from our normal routine. Other than the ever-present reality that we can’t go anywhere simply because we want to.

I can see isolation being tougher on families with small children, those with medical problems, those with addiction problems, those with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues. My heart goes out to them, but that is all. This virus makes it virtually impossible to do anything other than sympathize.

It’s hard to think of anything positive during this global crisis, but if there is anything good at all to be gleaned from it, it is this: Maybe, with all this time for reflection and self-reflection, there will be a returning to the meaning and importance of family and community. By being forced together maybe people will discover, or, re-discover, the simple joy of time well spent in one another’s company. That’s not going to happen for everyone — that would be fantasy — but if it happens at all it is something definitely worth celebrating.