As the novel coronavirus spreads at an increasingly rapid pace, the states are requiring mandatory lockdown. Especially for the elderly, it is highly recommended that they stay at home and isolate themselves from everyone. No contact with neighbors and grandchildren. No getting together with friends, no visits to the movie theaters or restaurants. What does one do for the entire day if this is turning out to be an affair to last several weeks?
Numerous articles are appearing in magazines and newspapers with suggestions of activities one can get involved in. Watch a very long movie that you have been putting off for a long time, one article says, log on to Duo Lingo and learn a new language another one says and go for long walks and so on. This is all true, but a day has twenty-four hours counting the hours you sleep. You need to be occupied for at least sixteen hours a day and over several weeks. That is a challenge.
I am lucky that I have been retired for a few years and don’t have the problem of showing up for work or work from home. I am free to do whatever I want, whenever I want during the day. Sounds easy, but it really is not.
Over my retirement years, I have discovered that it is better to have a structure to my day. When I was working, it was easy. I used to get up at five-thirty in the morning. Show up for work at around seven. Return home about four-thirty then visit the gym for an hour. The evenings were spent watching TV or reading a book. In the early days of my retirement, I kept getting up as I used to when I was working. Then my wife kept saying, “You are retired. Why do you need to get up early? Relax.”
It was hard to adjust to a new life. But, slowly, I started to adapt. I took longer to read the morning paper. I started going to the gym in the morning. Since my wife worked, I made my own lunch. After a shower, I powered up my laptop to answer emails and work on my writing project.
Nowadays, I have adopted a fixed routine for a day. I do almost the same thing every day, five days a week.
I get up later than I used to. I fix a simple breakfast for both of us (my wife is now retired but she is not a morning person), take my own time to scan the Washington Post starting with the sports section, then the metro section, then the style and the main section in that order. By 10:30 am, when both of us have finished breakfast, we leave for the gym. I take the yoga class every Monday and the strength training class two times a week. I do something else for the rest of the days. The coronavirus has forced the gym to be closed. So, I use the recumbent bicycle in my basement. By the time I finish that it is almost lunchtime. I catch up on reading the op-ed pages and other articles I had picked up in the morning to read later.
I do not know why, but as soon as I finish the after-lunch tea, my eyes literally start feeling heavy. “My body is telling me to go rest. Maybe the aging effect.” I tell myself. I take a nap, not on a sofa, but on the bed with the cover over me.
The planned half an hour nap ends up being an hour or more. “But hey! Who’s keeping track? You are retired.”
Refreshed with the nap, and after a hot shower, I am ready to work on my writing chore. I sit at my breakfast table in the kitchen with my laptop, facing the French door, which presents a beautiful vista of our garden, and the small pond in our backyard. I try to write something for at least an hour or two.
We never watch TV during the daytime, except when exercising. TV watching starts with the evening news. After dinner, I read a book. The current one I am reading is so predictable I could guess, on the second page, what will happen in the end. I read it anyway to learn what not to do when I write. I wonder how it could be on the New York Times bestseller list.
With the current spate of “breaking news,” every day, we have gotten into the habit of staying up a bit later than we used to during our working life.
So, it goes. I do almost the same thing day after day unless I have an appointment. During the lockdown, I am advised to cancel all nonessential appointments. Which is fine with me. I can continue with my routine.
Because of my structure for every day, well for five days a week, at least, I do not feel the effect of the lockdown. I realize everyone has a different lifestyle and interests, and some may have children to manage. What suits me may not suit others. The point I want to make is that if we establish and adhere to a fixed routine, it becomes easier to cope with the lockdown without significant heartburn.
What do you all think?