Restrictions, curfews, and isolation are fast becoming a normal part of life since the COVID-19 outbreak took root here in the U.S. A little over one week has passed since social-distancing was introduced and several public gathering venues closed. Even for those of us who don’t mind a little down-time being a homebody, the lack of choice can be a cause for anxiety.
I had a few moments of “Oh shit. We’ll be stuck at home FOREVER!!” this past weekend. Deep breathes help. Knowing that everyone else in the neighborhood faced the same restrictions was comforting. Sure, we’d miss the option to check out a matinee movie or enjoy a date night at a new local hot spot.
But if all we had to do was stay home to avoid overwhelming our already overburdened healthcare system, we’d make it work. Honestly, sheltering-in-place is a first-world sacrifice most of us are well-equipped to handle. The following are coping strategies our family has employed to keep our wits about us…
Finding Time to Read
Ahh, finally. That big stack of unread books will get some much-needed attention. Now, being a homebody means I can pick up my 700+ page brick of a book, Alexander Hamilton (by Ron Chernow, the inspiration for the Broadway smash) and contemplate finishing it before the Rapture.
Just this past Saturday I came upon the chapter dealing with the Yellow Fever outbreak of 1795. Thank goodness we live in modern times. Back in the day, doctors would use a combination of bad and worse treatments for this plague, including bleeding, enemas, and induced vomiting to name a few. All the things you’d do to a patient to weaken them as they fight a nasty virus.
This episode of our history wasn’t unlike our current situation. At the height of the outbreak, Philadelphians avoided handshakes and used social distancing measures, similar to our 6 feet of personal distance in public. The death toll was incredibly high and children were not spared. Ultimately though, the nation emerged from this outbreak and resumed its commercial stampede.
See, reading can give us hope! Mrs. Cubert had the foresight to visit the local library at the start of all this and packed two reusable grocery bags with kids’ books for our little ones. Whew. Now that we’re suddenly home-schooling, we needed all the novel distractions we could muster. No distraction better than BOOKS.
I’ve come across articles about the “Greats” who used times of plagues and pestilence to conjure some of their best work: Isaac Newton escaped from the city only to forge his theory of gravity, no less. Shakespeare’s retreat led to “King Lear” being penned. Not bad. So far I just have this little post in WordPress to offer, but at least I’m inspired!
Going for Walks
Less time commuting means more time for walks. This part of social distancing I LOVE. I do not miss driving at all. The new routine is a 2-mile walk before lunch and a 2-mile walk after work. So far in Minnesota, we haven’t been restricted from leaving our homes for simple errands and essential jobs. My FitBit is grateful…
Now it seems there’s a renaissance of neighborhood walking taking root. It’s like Central Park along our Creekside paths. Everyone is being mindful to give space in passing. I have yet to come across anyone with a cough or sneeze, so it’d appear my neighbors are being mindful of THAT – thankfully.
One thing I started to notice towards the end of “week 1” is how clean the air has become. Not only that, it’s QUIET. Flights were once constant over our hoods. Not anymore. Couple that with the significantly reduced auto traffic and all of a sudden it feels like pedestrians finally won the war. Again, we need to look for silver linings.
Speaking of silver linings, I’ve noticed it’s been easier to get a good night’s sleep. At least, after the initial few nights of anxiety faded, it got easier. Daily walks, reading, avoiding traffic, and reduced work stress all add up to better sleep. It almost makes me wonder if Early Retirement could be a beneficial thing?
Learning How to Cook
Fortunately for our family, Mrs. Cubert is an amazing cook. Because she’s the strict vegetarian and most health-conscious member of the household, she’s taken on the brunt of kitchen operations. Lucky for us! New recipes have been a hit and I don’t miss the occasional meat like I thought I would.
We aren’t relying on pantry goods too much either. A good portion of meals still feature fresh produce and we even have fruit lying around. Okay, okay, I’ll admit we did purchase one 25 pound bag of rice from Costco, just in case…
It’s only a matter of time before the weather warms up enough to enjoy firing up the grill, which will further expand our at-home dining options. I don’t know about you, fellow-northerners, but I can’t wait to open up our second dining room out on the deck.
If you’re looking for a simple recipe to make the best out of rice and beans? Saute some garbanzo beans with onion and kale, throw in some smoked paprika, top it on a bed of jasmine rice, and voila! For extra credit, whip up a Thai peanut sauce to make it amaze-balls. That’s the gist of the recipe, but you can find so many ideas for basic staples on the web you’ll never get bored.
Earlier this week I took a walk to the local booze shop to restock the bourbon supply. This is also a good time to hone your mixology skills and host a virtual happy hour with friends. Cheers!
The Pitfalls of Being a Homebody
There’s always a downside to this business, right? If you sit home all day, you’re bound to start thinking up a list of improvements and upgrades. You know, stuff and things you don’t NEED? Online shopping is a blessing during these troubled times, but it can also become an unwelcome distraction.
My thoughts lately have drifted to a new iPhone, an espresso maker, and another stack of books I won’t get to finish until 2035. I don’t need any of that stuff, but I tell you what when your neighborhood Starbucks shuts down, you start to crave a real-deal Americano.
But I know that as soon as I buy that fancy $700 machine, by the time it arrives and the novelty has worn off, Starbucks just might reopen. See, that’s $700 I could invest in VTI! 🙂
Aside from online shopping, I’m getting distracted by too many streaming services on TV. We’ve added free trials of Apple+ and HBO Now to our roster, which already includes Disney+, Netflix, and PRIME. Jesus. You’d think we just sit around and watch TV all day, right? We’ll truthfully, we’ve stuck to our routine of 1 to 1.5 hours each evening.
The problem is we’re too picky, too selective with the shows we like (and agree on), so yeah, if it takes a free trial of HBO Now to watch Silicon Valley, I’ll do it, dammit!
Personal hygiene takes a hit too. I got called out yesterday for needing a shower. Being a homebody doesn’t entitle you to be a slob, amiright?? Still not shaving though… Can’t make me do it.
About That Early Retirement Thing?
This is not how I’d imagined giving early retirement a “test run”. I’m home every day. I’m sleeping in until (gasp) 6 or 6:30 many days. The neighborhood walks and home cooking are helping me slow down and rein in some stress. It’s all good – for the most part. Throw in the freedom to visit a coffee shop and punch-out posts from different venues and I’d be a happier clam.
I miss seeing my work comrades and experience the just-right level of tension that comes with a corporate job. Although lately, the tension has been much higher than I can stomach. The good news? I’ve been spending the last five and a half years “packing my parachute”. I’m about $40K short of hitting my gap-money stash target, and VTI is taking a pounding in the market these days.
Having a family home all the time is a good thing, and the bonding is wonderful. In a normal circumstance, the kiddos would be at school and Mrs. Cubert would be working more. But you need a little balance. I imagine by the end of week two we’ll wind up in a family cage-match with some time outs, solo walks, and well-timed naps to better accommodate one another.
Regardless, it beats being alone. I’ve been there, done that: having spent two months solo during a summer at college. And that had a lasting effect on me. Turns out I like people after all. Maybe we can all agree that that’s the best outcome of this dreaded pandemic: We learn to appreciate one another, despite different beliefs, backgrounds, and traditions.
Far from being time to close ourselves in – after this passes, we should all work to better understand and explore our complex planet even more. Xenophobia gets us nowhere as a society. After some travel free from viruses and an improved mindset, you can go back to being a homebody again.