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Finding enjoyment during this time of staying home

Everyone I know has felt the impact of non-essential business closures, stay-at-home edicts, and social distancing guidelines.

For some, these rules have presented challenges, and for others, true hardships. I find myself among the fortunate few who have experienced only minor inconveniences and the emotional tangles of deferred plans. I am blessed to share a comfortable home with a husband who is a wonderful companion. I have a natural inclination to quiet and solitude. And, because I have spent the majority of my employed years working from a home office, I am experienced at coping with isolation.

Nevertheless, the current situation is unusual. I’ve made changes to my routine and experimented with innovative ways to remain active. I’ve even stumbled upon some unexpected pleasures. I’d like to share a few with you.

First, avoiding the tyranny of time. I haven’t set an alarm clock since March. I wake up when sunshine taps on my shoulder. I eat when I’m hungry. I go to bed when I’m tired. Meetings, classes and appointments have all been canceled, so I don’t really care what time it is. I don’t have to leave something half done because someone is waiting for me. The only time-critical event that still sets me running is when the oven dings to let me know my cookies are done. Eventually, all the commitments associated with everyday life will start vying again for slots on my calendar. When they do, I hope I have the courage to say no more often and adopt an unhurried lifestyle as my new standard.

I’ve also been embracing fashion foibles. Sometime during adolescence, I missed the teenage preening rituals that serve as a precursor for developing a sense of style. I was probably up a tree, literally, or out on the water. As a result, I’ve spent most of my adult life somewhat self-conscious about my inability to distinguish between fashionable and frumpy. Once, while I was wearing a stadium coat to stay warm during an outdoor activity in winter (it seemed a practical choice to me), someone told me I looked like a “bag lady.” I was embarrassed.

During my weeks at home, I’ve been able to relax without a care in well-worn, comfortable clothes. My wardrobe includes elastic-waist jeans that pull up high enough to cover what I think ought to be covered, baggy t-shirts and tennis shoes. I don’t wear makeup or decorate my nails. When the stay-at-home era ends and I’m inclined to give more thought to what the fashion police might say, I hope I’m brave enough to disregard them.

And, I’ve discovered the pleasure of sorting old pictures. I don’t know how photographs accumulate in other families, but my husband and I have boxes upon boxes. Some are snapshots we took, and others represent collections we acquired after our parents passed away. One stay-at-home evening, we decided to begin organizing them. We’re still on our initial sort, separating pictures into broad categories by generation. Neither of our families excelled in labeling. There are random babies we can’t identify, but there are also familiar faces. There are pictures of our grandparents and parents when they were young. We found a black and white photo of my husband at 2 years old riding a rocking horse and one of me at about the same age playing in a sandbox. We uncovered our wedding album, and spent an evening reminiscing. And, then there were pictures of our children. Birthday parties, vacations, pets, sports teams, dance recitals, graduations, and a host of other milestones. More boxes still wait inspection. The stay-at-home regulations will likely expire long before we finish organizing our pictures, but I’m hopeful that the habit of spending time with them will become part of our regular routine. Strolling through the memories has been a pleasure. And if we ever do finish the task, we have hundreds of unlabeled digital pictures also in need of attention.

Someday, perhaps sooner or perhaps later, our community will move past the current crisis. Adjusted daily activities will blend with old habits and innovative changes. I hope your new normal includes moments that bring you joy.

KAREN BELLENIR has been writing for The Farmville Herald since 2009. Her book, Happy to Be Here: A Transplant Takes Root in Farmville, Virginia features a compilation of her columns. It is available from PierPress.com. You can contact Karen at kbellenir@PierPress.com.