It occurs to me that in the distant and uptight past, communities would have women in their last trimester of pregnancy go into something called “retirement.” They were expected to stay home (out of the public eye) until they had their babies. There it is. That is why “retirement” and “quarantine” look so similar. The difference being that after retirement these days, it’s the pearly gates. After retirement in those days, it was a baby. After quarantine these days, it’s bad hair. Yet another reason to wax nostalgic in 2020.
I haven’t been retired for long (less than a year), and I’m pretty bad at it, but I think I might be able to give a little suggestion here or there that might be of use. I’ve noticed much of the COVID instructions on the TV are full of DON’T’s. Those of us who have studied theology realize that is not a particularly good way to get people to change their habits. Human beings like DO’s better. We like to activate. We like to be productive, sort of.
In that spirit of positivity, I’ve come up with a set of DO’s for retirement, and for quarantine (it turns out). Here we go:
- Get dressed. Every day, get dressed. I spent one day after retirement in my night clothes for the whole day. I did all sorts of stuff that day, but I never got dressed. I even walked 10,000 steps, but I did not get dressed. It was depressing. I always feel better if I’ve put on my clothes, even if I’m not expecting ANYONE to come by. If it helps, dress in something ridiculous or colorful or stretchy. Dress in something that feels good, but dress.
- Make a pattern for the week, so that the days still have a “feel.” When you have a job, Monday has a feel. At first you think that doesn’t matter, but it does. If your days have a feel, you don’t experience a diffuse anxiety about time passing. My method involves a pattern of chores (one per day) that fall on specific days. Monday is laundry. Tuesday used to be ceramics class but now it’s yard chores. Wednesday used to be JOY Writers, but now it’s designated reading. Thursday is do-for-others day. I do at least one favor for someone else (someone outside the house) every Thursday. Friday is shopping. Saturday is one special cleaning project (usually small) or making up an earlier chore I missed. Sunday is church and family dinner and sorting the laundry so I can do it Monday morning. I’m not wondering what day it is. I know what day it is. I have a chore.
- Start projects that interest you. Whether or not you finish is your call, but starting a project will be frustrating and fun. I have at least three projects going right now, and I’m working on at least two of them today. Jigsaw puzzles are good. Crafts are good. Cleaning a closet can be strangely life-affirming.
- Enjoy a few minutes at least every day in complete silence. You might pray. You might meditate. You might stare slack-jawed into the middle distance. Enjoy the quiet. Turn everything OFF. As fun as binge watching and video games are, they wear parts of a person thin. Give your whole self a break.
- Fix a special dish. Cooking and eating are among the rare pleasures many people have right now. It doesn’t have to be a cake. I like starting the grill and making smoked meats. Make something you’ve never made before. Make something you haven’t made in years. Make a mess. You’ll have plenty of time to clean up.
That will do. I could go on and on, but these are the ones in which I have the most confidence. I also want to encourage folks to keep a stiff upper lip. It’s easy to feel sad. I tend to feel sad, but I know it’s best for me not to wallow. When sadness or fear come along I look at them briefly and then I do something else. Sometimes I’m productive (like when I’m smoking meats). Sometimes I’m not productive (like when I’m playing solitaire). I just know that time is precious, even time that we spend at home, washing and re-washing out hands.