I don't know why this post sat in Drafts for almost two years, but here it is.
March 8, 2021: Today is one year to the day that I started isolating. When I first heard about the strange new illness that appeared in China, I knew it was going to be big. Big and awful. I ignored the advice to prepare "as if for a snowstorm," and I stocked up--not with two weeks worth of food, but vastly more than that. "I may have bought too much," I said to my son. He said, "Don't worry, you'll use it up."
Well, that sure hasn't happened yet. The pandemic has brought out my inner hoarder. Instead of emptying a big plastic bin one food item at a time, I've replaced each item as I used it. You might say I was trained well; I was the daughter of parents who lived through the Depression and kept a kitchen cabinet full of canned goods that they rotated, and I was the wife of a man who was a "prepper" before his time. I think I still have decades-outdated tubs of nitrogen-packed emergency foods in the basement.
I also have:
Other than occasional visits from members of my son's family, I'm the only one who's been in my house for the past year. When you combine this with my long history of random housekeeping and essential focus on activities that brought me pleasure during isolation, you have the perfect storm of clutter.
I know women who let their hair grow over this past year and look fine, but I know I look like a witch with long grey hair, so I've been cutting it myself. I cut it often, mostly in a never-ending (and futile) attempt to improve the previous haircut. All these trims, and I still have no idea what the back looks like. But it isn't just my hairstyle that's changed. It's a lot greyer--that's okay, my bangs and side hair in the front is silvery, which is nice--and a lot straighter. I used to need a curling iron to straighten out the corkscrew curls of my bangs, but now I need a curling iron to create a soft bend in them.
This is a face that rarely looks in the mirror. This is a face devoid of makeup. It's a face that doesn't smile as often as it used to, is somewhat greyish in color, and has sets of wrinkles that didn't exist a year ago. It is hoped the summer sun and the eventual opportunity to actually see people will improve this face.
Pandemic wardrobe isn't as bad as it sounds. I discovered the comfort and fun of jeggings and fleece leggings, and treated myself to a bunch of brand-new turtlenecks when Boscov's and Macy's had pre-Christmas sales. Topped with the Eddie Bauer fleece pullovers my daughter Suzanne bought me many years ago (Eddie Bauers last forever) or the grey Cabela's hoodie from Salvation Army last year that I'm equally attached to, my around-the-house look is a look I actually like. Best of all, it keeps me warm. When the season changes I will miss these winter clothes as they cover a multitude of sins.
I've never been a woman obsessed with handbags, but I do change them with the seasons. Not this year.
Yes, I bought all those things that everyone else bought--not because I wanted to follow the crowd, but because, like I said, I've been well trained. So my pantry shelves contain lentils in red, brown, and grey, as well as dried cranberry beans, garbanzo beans, lima beans, cannellini beans; kidney beans, black beans, and pinto beans. Also cans of beans. Jasmine rice. White rice. Brown rice. Brown jasmine rice. Basmati rice. Brown basmati rice. Pretty, multi-color rice blends. Chia seeds. Sesame seeds. Peanut butter. Tahini. Four or five kinds of oils. Five kinds of nuts. The pantry has a reassuring look to it.
Like so many others, I took up a new hobby this year. I had photography and rug hooking, but the same old photo ops didn't inspire me, and I felt I needed to learn something new. Plus I thought it was time I stopped feeling guilty about the stack of books on watercolor painting I read years ago and never actually did anything with. So I decided to take lessons, but I wanted lessons that were a) not live, so I could participate whenever I felt like it, and b) cheap. Domestika, a company out of Spain, fulfilled both requirements. From their zillion (200+) online courses I chose one on watercolor techniques. The course was given in Spanish, and the generic translation so confusing that I often watched the video at least twice--once to read the instructions, and a second time to make sense of the instructions by watching to see what the instructor did. But the translations created some hilarity, too, always appreciated during isolation. The course cost less then $10! I enjoyed it so much that I ordered another on portraits . . . and another on painting birds. I haven't started those yet.
My first pandemic project was my most successful so far. I cleared out the stuffed (and piled high) alcove at the top of the stairs that had been neglected for years, and created an "art spot" for myself. I started with my old sewing workstation and added a rug, new lamp, a cool extension cord with USB ports, a little new electric heater--and lots of art supplies. I've always loved buying art supplies. I'm also somewhat fond of buying sewing supplies, which served me well when (like so many other people) I started making pandemic face masks.
I've always been fairly frugal and grateful for it--especially at this point in my life. Since I've been living alone I take advantage of pre-holiday sales to buy myself a Christmas present (don't feel bad for me--it is not the only one I get!), but tend not to indulge myself very often otherwise. But in my isolation it didn't take me long to realize we all needed pandemic treats. So I bought myself a new smart TV (50" isn't all that large by today's standards, but it was huge to me) and a Netflix subscription.
I still drive my 1992 Chevy Caprice in the warm months and my 2011 Subaru Outback in winter. Neither vehicle has gotten much exercise this past year. I haven't visited anyone, and most of my shopping is done online. For groceries, I order online from Walmart and pick them up curbside in Honesdale. Last year was when I'd planned to a) sell the Caprice (sad, but it was time) and b) trade in the Outback--probably for a newer one. But the pandemic cancelled those plans. Over the course of the year two things happened: car prices rose, and dealers' inventories of good used vehicles dried up. They disappeared! It was pretty amazing. Occasionally I'd check out the websites of Subaru dealers in the area, and the sections on Certified Pre-Owned vehicles were empty. So I don't know when I'll be making a change.
Pandemic Mental Health
It didn't take me long to realize that all the articles I've read over the years about the importance of social contact for the elderly were spot on. I may not think of myself as elderly, but I'll turn 78 next month. Even before we ever heard of Covid, I was thinking I really needed to find myself some new friends. Even one or two. Most of my friends have either died or moved away. For years I've joked that my entire social life takes place in December when I go to Beverly's Solstice party and Kathy's Christmas party. It's only a slight exaggeration. My only consistent social gathering was the Thursday afternoon Scrabble games at the library, which I'd been participating in for several years. Of course, they stopped when the pandemic started.
Most days I speak with no one. At some point I started Zoom meetings with two friends every Tuesday evening, but that's it. It's not enough. Facebook has become my community, my social outlet. I'm beyond grateful for it, but of course it's not enough either. I realized how much I missed laughter one day when I started laughing at a funny Facebook post, and didn't stop. We sometimes say, "I was hysterical" when describing something hilariously funny, but that time I really was hysterical. It's not healthy.
But then again, neither is Covid-19.