Back ‘Before Cornonavirus’ aka BC, I stood in rooms filled with people and listened to music. I sat in auditoriums and absorbed messages from authors. I sat elbow to elbow with friends, colleagues and strangers. I whooped and yelled at volleyball games. I danced and celebrated at weddings. I squished myself on airplanes and never thought twice about it. I wandered aimlessly at libraries. That was all so ‘yesterday.’
In my dream last night, I was in a room bursting with people and my neighbor (from 1973) walked across the room to greet me. His arms went up to hug me and I stopped him in shock, admonishing him about our social distance rules and regulations. I looked around the full room and realized it was too late now, the way everyone was all tight together like salmon wiggling and giggling upstream.
I took a step back from him and remembered I was dreaming and I could do anything I wanted. I rewound the dream and this time when I spotted him in the dream, I let him hug me and I held him and just breathed him in. And I hugged him back. This childhood friend of mine just gave me the first hug I’ve had in a very long time and I just breathed it all in.
I didn’t realize this post would be about loneliness but that’s what’s coming to the surface as I write. Even with all the gratitude I feel for my life, the enforced separation due to the coronavirus means there’s no hugs. No physical connection. No massages. No touch. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until he reached out from 1973 to me in 2020. It was like a scene from Quantum Leap.
I’m not complaining. I have a house, I have food, I have a yard, I have space. I know of so many others living on top of each other, with no outlet when tempers flare. I know the family courts are dealing with custody issues, restraints, domestic violence and I take a deep breath in and exhale gratitude.
I know how lucky I am and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but boy oh boy I sure miss those sweet things I took for granted, don’t you?
Now, all I ever want to do is to connect. I make calls. I send cards. I use the internet to Face Time, Zoom, Skye and FB video chat. And with all that connection, the physical touch is still so elusive…
How about you? Are you in contact with those long lost friends and relatives?
Nature is taking a break while humans are running for cover.
In the west, over the past three decades the pine trees have been devoured by pine beetles. The forest is filled with dead trees that change the color of the canvas from deep green to dead maroon. A lightning strike, a tossed cigarette, a careless spark will set millions of acres ablaze. Our forests have been dying.
Twenty miles down the highway from me the county imposed a plant quarantine to contain the ash borer beetle. Now, six years later, the quarantine of transporting wood (think about the times we’ve loaded firewood from our backyard to our mountain camping spot…) has been lifted as the beetle has spread to other counties. Authorities knew from past experience that it could not be stopped, only contained. Sort of like the coronavirus.
For the time being, we’ve turned our attention away from nature and are staying inside, keeping our distance from man and beast. Well, maybe not from beasts but certainly from others.
While we (humans) are taking a break from all things social (work, school, entertainment, restaurants, fitness centers, travel, shopping, concerts, theaters, sports and gatherings of any kind) – nature is blossoming.
The air is cleaner, waterways are clearer, fish are multiplying, highways are empty, smokestacks don’t smoke, fewer planes are flying so less sound from the sky, cruise ships are not sailing so less pollution in the oceans, oil rigs have stopped fracking, and so much more.
Musicians are making more music.
Writers are writing.
Cooks are creating.
Weavers are weaving.
Bloggers are blogging.
Dog walkers have been replaced by dog owners.
Babysitters, nannies, and preschools have been replaced by mom and dad.
Yards are tended to by homeowners instead of lawn companies.
Even in the mist of this disruption, there is some good. In fact, there is much good.
There are fewer car accidents.
We are practicing better hygiene.
Family meals are a ‘thing’ again.
Conversations are real.
Because of the Covid-19 outbreak, humans are taking a pause right now. We have the time now to decide who we are, who we want to be and what difference we want to make in the world.
Mary Oliver said it best when she wrote, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Look around you. There’s so much opportunity to do good. And unfortunately, there’s way too much opportunity to be bad. And for some of the richest people in the world –there’s the opportunity to do nothing.
In my Rotary Club, we follow guiding principles called the Four-Way Test.
The Four-Way Test:
Of the things we think, do or say:
1 – Is it the truth? 2 – Is it fair to all concerned? 3 – Will it build goodwill and better friendships? 4 – Is it beneficial to all concerned?
Bill Gates (March 9, 2020)
The Gates Foundation and Wellcome are each contributing up to $50 million, and the Mastercard Impact Fund has committed up to $25 million to catalyze the initial work of the accelerator. The Gates Foundation’s funding is part of its up to $100 million commitment to the COVID-19 response announced last month.
Jeff Bezos, the richest person in the world with an income of over $112 billion continues to hoard his wealth at a time when workers need paid health care more than ever.
Instead of Whole Food employees getting paid time off (PTO) to quarantine themselves, they are asked (in an email) to consider donating their own PTO to employees who are sick and need additional time off. I am pretty certain this request is not fair to all concerned, nor will it build goodwill and better friendships.
Might the unspoken expectation be that once they use up all their PTO and their coworkers PTO that they should go in while sick?
Oh, wait a second. I was wrong. Whole Foods also said that it will offer unlimited, unpaid time off during the month of March and 2 weeks of paid time off (PTO) for workers who test positive for Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. I’m not really feeling the love, are you?
So, Whole Food workers will get 2 weeks of PTO if they test positive for the virus and maybe a bit more if they have generous coworkers with available PTO to donate. What if someone in their house has the virus and they need to self-quarantine?
Ok, to be fair, Amazon stocks are only selling at $1,689.15 right now. Jeff Bezos maybe fretful during this crisis but he can put his fears aside (unlike his Whole Foods employees) because Amazon “is opening 100,000 new full and part-time positions across the U.S. in their fulfillment centers and delivery network to meet the surge in demand from people relying on Amazon’s service.”
Of the things we think, do or say:
1 – Is it the truth? 2 – Is it fair to all concerned? 3 – Will it build goodwill and better friendships? 4 – Is it beneficial to all concerned?
I am pretty certain that Jeffery would not pass the Four-Way Test.
The way the world is spinning now it’s easy for people to do good. And be bad. Or be ugly. There is so much happening in our world these days that I just want them to choose GOOD.
This video was posted on Instagram by Sara Byrne. (Sabyrne5)
Byrne’s grandmother has seven sons, 22 grandchildren and 29 great-grandchildren. Most of them live in the Syracuse area, so they went to sing Happy Birthday for her. “We love her so much and are so thankful for her!” said Byrne.
And a Brooklyn cellist plays Happy Birthday from afar…
January 2020 was full of hope, dreams, and longing with a new year on the horizon. Plans to travel, connect, learn and re-energize made the top ten list. And then something else happened instead. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) entered our lives. It sort of creeped in really slowly. And although it existed, it was mostly ignored.
When I first heard about this virus in early January 2020, I thought ‘These viruses happen to other people who live far, far away in places like China.’ Ebola, HIV, Dengue, SARS, MERS, Swine flu, Zika and so many other deadly health threats were distant to me – or so my small mind thought at the time.
I realized that as the COVID-19 virus spreads, our lives become smaller. Travel is halted. The border between Canada and the US has closed. ‘Shelter-in- place‘ has been issued in San Francisco. Gathering with others has been discouraged and ‘social distancing’ has been encouraged in ways there were unimaginable at the start of March.
All sports events at all levels have been cancelled. Broadway plays, theaters, universities, schools, libraries, ski resorts, meetings, churches, fitness centers, bars, breweries, and casinos have been mandated to close. Colorado has pretty much shut down the state. Drug stores, grocery stores, liquor stores and department stores are still running and are looking to hire workers to help keep the shelves stocked.
Social Disruption initiated
Universities announced they will teach classes online so students are not allowed back on campus for the present time. Businesses want their workers to stay home and work remotely. People are home. They are not driving their cars, using gas, entertaining or socializing. They are hunkering down BECAUSE there is nothing to do.
And that is the goal. Nothing to do will keep people home. Nothing to do will help decrease the spread of the virus. Nothing to do forces us to stay inside and away from others. If there is no one around, there is no one who can give me the virus. And there is no one I can give it to if I have it.
Now we are told it is not about IF it happens but WHEN the virus will happen.
Everything I’ve just written is fact. And most everything has occurred in the past 2 weeks for US citizens.
So what now?
Stay healthy. Here’s my list of things I am planning to do.
Taking Control of My World
1st of all – I refuse to spend my day watching the news. The TV news will destroy my soul and take me down to a very sad place. I watch Norah O’Donnell on the CBS evening news then turn it off. I also go to youtube.com/news and choose something from that list if I want additional coverage.
2nd – I have a whole list of youtube.com music that I can click on and listen to uninterrupted for 3+ hours. That music helps ground me. Want to breathe in Mozart? How about relaxing Zen music? Good morning music?
3rd – I plan to make regular phone calls to my family and friends. This is the perfect time not only because they are home with more time on their hands as am I but also because if not now – when?
4th – Since all the fitness centers are closed, I’ll push myself out the door to walk. It’s good for my head, heart, soul and body. And I am practicing ‘social distancing’ in a healthy manner.
5th – I am downloading books from my library using Hoopla and Libby and Overdrive. Also, through my library, I can download videos and movies through Kanopy. I can read magazines using Flipster, learn a language using Odilo or visit a music library.
6th – And most important for my psyche is I plan to incorporate color into my life. Now is not the time for black or white. I am thinking all the colors of the rainbow! Color is such a great mental stimulation for me.
Next year at this time when I read this blog post, I want to close my eyes and remember how well we all got through it. How we pulled together as friends and created togetherness where before there were only strangers. How we reached out and offered help, comfort and compassion when others were struggling.
In the meantime, I will be writing it all down as a way to help me remember it, make sense of it and learn from it.
This is the time when I start looking around to see who is ready, willing and able to join me. Sometimes I can’t find anyone and it makes me sad. I wonder sometimes whether I have too much times on my hands, and I wonder how to find friends to do crazy adventures with me.
Take a train across Canada? Sign me up.
Jump out of a plane. No thanks.
Kayak in the San Juan Islands? I’m packed and ready to go.
Soak in a hot springs? Oh yes!
Snowmobiling? No thanks – it’s a bit too loud for me.
Hike a new trail? Yes please.
Learn to play the guitar. Yes and move over.
Join a cooking class? Mmm, you bet!
Bungee jumping? I think I’ll pass on this one.
I know I can find some of my adventure mates on Meetup.com.
I am always on the lookout for new ideas, adventures and ways to meet people. Are they looking for me too?
So, what adventures do you want to cross off your list?
Ok, so you crossed off the days on the calendar, had the party, celebrated and NOW you are retired. Its time to sleep in and enjoy checking items off your bucket list.
You’ve cleaned closets, garages and drawers.
You’ve packed your bags and sailed the seas, visited beaches and climbed mountains.
You’ve weeded and planted, hoed and harvested.
You’ve sliced, hooked and sandbagged.
You’ve visited family, reconnected with friends and made new acquaintances.
You’ve casted, caught and released.
You’ve cruised, snoozed and boozed.
Now you’ve got 25+ years to go!
Having a strategy on how to spend your next 25 years is pretty important and often overlooked. Yes, you love to golf but to do so everyday for the rest of your life? Perhaps? Or maybe not too realistic.
Doing the same thing day after day, not only becomes more like a job (with no pay or benefits) but it’s like taking every vacation back to visit the folks in Syracuse. Year after year. A thousand places to visit and year after year … back home to Syracuse. It will get old really fast.
But, as a newly retired person you have a blank slate. Unless you start to add things to your canvas, others will do it for you. Look around right now and figure out who you want to spend your time with, what organizations you want to get involved with and investigate places where you want to visit.
As you create this list, as you research your topics, as you reach out and learn more – explain to others what you are doing and why. This is your first step in making new friends. The information you are seeking already exists … you just need to ask the question.
Creating your very own ‘Fun Stuff’ list will benefit you even on down days (yes, sorry to say, you will have down days) and keep you active, interesting and engaging. Finding the things that make you feel grounded will vary from person to person but they are the essence of our being. I know I’m sounding overly dramatic but just take a minute and think about it.
ACTION ITEM: Make a list of the things that make you smile. The list below is unique to me. What will be on your list? (My list spell out RETIRE!)
Read Exercise Travel Invest in yourself! Routine Education
Of course I’d list this one first – it’s my GO-TO hobby. I love visiting book stores, libraries, attending speaker series, and author presentations. I get a new look at the world through books. I have my own set of favorite authors and whether I read a book, listen on a cd or download to my smart phone, the act of ingesting someone’s words is a true gift.
One huge aspect of reading for me is visiting libraries. Libraries are unique and have their own personality. Some libraries are nondescript, bland, boring and easily forgotten. Other libraries are landmark buildings with glass ceilings and stand tall and proud. I just read one great blog post from The Library Lady Travels about a series of churches in Canada that were converted into libraries as a way to save the historical building and house books. I really want to visit those buildings! For all the libraries in between, they have their own sweet character that usually invites me to return.
Without exercise and a healthy body there really is no happy retirement, right? Without exercise there will be no walking, hiking, tennis, or golfing. A regular exercise routine is something to be scheduled and on the calendar. This routine can offer so much besides a happy body.
Reports and studies show that walking is the perfect exercise. I love walking but not running. I stopped running the day I realized I could walk faster than my ‘run.’ The secret to an exercise routine is that you do it, love it and embrace it. I was never going to embrace running but walking … oh yeah!
What is it that you love to do? When you are creating your list, remember to factor in strength training. As we age, our muscles lose mass. In other words, they are slowly dying. They need to be challenged, engaged and tested. Strength training is not specific to a gym either. You can get stronger without lifting weights.
It might take you a whole 5 minutes searching to find youtube.com videos of strength training without equipment routines. Once you find a few, bookmark them and try them all. Lunges, squats, push-ups, planks and resistance bands will cause you to sweat, stretch beyond your limits and be open for new opportunities. Pick bits and pieces from routines and create your own plan. Once you figure out what exercise you love, put it on your calendar!
Do not believe the studies that tell you “Only 20 minutes of walking a day is needed.” Phooey. Move it or lose it is my motto!
I believe that travel is a huge factor in my retirement happiness. The freedom to make plans that are months away or spur-of-the-moment make a big difference in my mental well-being. Before, I used to dream about building up vacation days so I could get out of town. I had to pass on those dream flights that popped at Wednesday at 2 am and would promise to whisk you to an amazing destination if you were packed and ready to board within 24 hours. Those flights are what blockbuster movies are all about.
So, here I am with time and a vehicle and all it will take is for me to schedule something on my calendar as a way to make it happen. Take a trip to Sedona on Tuesday. OK. Visit hot springs next month. Take a Napa Valley Wine Tour in September? Booked and on the calendar.
Invest in yourself!
This tip relates back to all the things you said you wanted to do. Learn to dance, play guitar, weave, sing, golf, cook, or whatever you promised you would do when you retire. Perhaps you are wanting to write a book, start a podcast, climb a mountain, learn a language or build a house. Investing in yourself includes giving away your time too. Finding a cause that resonates with your core values will be the way to start. Want to work with children, build houses, visit the sick, distribute food, hoe gardens, collect trash? There are organizations waiting for you to call. Most often, in order to invest in yourself it takes a bit of planning.
ACTION ITEM: Take a look at your bucket list and circle three things that you have to work hard to achieve. Want to learn to speak Spanish? Check out local community colleges or recreation centers for classes. Or go online and search for “free language app” or perhaps visit your local library.
What are those things that you dreamed about prior to retirement? Pick the top three and create a list of the steps you need to take to achieve them.
Then take one step.
Then tomorrow take another. Simple, easy and most important, you’ve put your dreams in motion. Congratulations!
OK, readers, this one is HUGE! I know, I know. For the past 30 years you have been on a schedule and now it’s time to go rogue. Or, maybe not.
Having a routine is powerful in so many ways. A set wake-up time or a scheduled daily exercise program is needed to keep moving forward. Without some sort of routine, days slip by and you’ll often ask yourself “what day is it?” At first it’s funny, then it is just frustrating. Those mindless days turn into years then into decades. Own your life again. Start now.
A routine holds you accountable to yourself. Knowing you are expected to be at the gym at 7 am gets you up and out the door. Perhaps 7am is your journaling time? Then put something on the calendar and stick with it. Not only will you find other like- minded individuals who show up when you do, you might find out you have lots in common.
Once you figure out what it is you want to learn, get online and find out more. Want to spend time learning college level material? Go to iTunes University. You will be amazed what is offered. Or go to your internet browser and search for Open Educational Resources (OER). These are free and open sources materials with a focus on getting college level material into the hands of students without the high price tag. Another place to continue online learning is via Youtube University, Coursera and TED talks, Tedx and TEDEd
Some communities offer classes through Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes. This foundation supports a national lifelong learning network for seasoned adults and operates on 124 campuses across the nation.
Download a podcast app and listen to almost any topic that interests you. (Go back to your bucket list for inspiration.) Find the search icon and type in your subject. You will be amazed at the variety and selection of speakers you can subscribe and listen to on a regular basis.
This is the time in your life to really stretch your imagination and do something amazing. Want to learn astronomy? Astrology? Astrophysics? Then check online courses, podcasts, books, community colleges, local universities and start asking HOW to make it happen. Just remember to get it on your calendar.
And, just for the record – I want you to kick back and be lazy. I think you earned it and nobody should take that away from you. Let the sun shine on your face, smell the flowers, breathe in the fresh air and enjoy that ice cold beverage. And then … make a plan. (smile)