This past weekend felt as though we had been given the green light to move forward with our lives. For the first time in a long while, I saw people out with friends enjoying themselves and spending money where they could.
I’m even pivoting…
This will be the last of the Lockdown Diaries. Come June (next week!), I’m turning my attention to post-lockdown with a little Hindsight 2020 thrown in for good measure.
Until then, Scroll down for this week’s Top 10 highlights.
I had my first taste of normalcy this week. It was fleeting but it felt great! Hints of a post-pandemic life are in the air.
A slow RETURN TO NORMALCY
Glorious weather and my renewed Citibike membership kicked off a great weekend zipping around town. And I loved seeing restaurants opening and serving slews of happy diners – al fresco style out on the street, of course. It felt good to be around people. And while many of the protocols we now live with feel alien, it’s the spirit of the people that exudes the normalcy.
My horoscope even signaled un-pause was in my future
Scroll down for the week’s top 10 highlights and recommendations
I’ve learned a lot about myself over the last few months. I’m very adaptable and I can find a silver lining in just about anything. I also learned it takes only a few little tweaks to my daily routine to make life way more fun, interesting, and meaningful.
Three things I will definitely keep doing post-lockdown:
Video chats with friends all over the country. How I’ve not done this before is baffling.
Cooking and eating at home. Dinner parties will definitely be front and center going forward.
Virtual workouts. Over the last two months, I have gotten fitter, stronger, and healthier – all due to the trainers and exercise routines I found online.
scroll down for 10 of this week’s top discoveries, recommendations (and irritations)
Welcome to what has now turned into the Lockdown Diaries! One blog post each Friday, filled with a week’s worth of observations, discoveries and challenges.
I am trying to make this long-drawn-out transition from PAUSE to REOPEN somewhat fun and exciting. It’s not easy but here goes.
10 Highlights Of The Week. Enjoy!
1. Construction is back? An important first step.
On Monday, May 4th, I walked through the Lower East Side to my “medical pedicure” (more on that below). I was amazed to see construction sites that had been dormant for the last six weeks buzzing with activity.
My street (see above) was filled with trucks and construction workers. It was a joy to behold.
I also noticed the plant and nursery market, across the street from me, doing brisk commercial business (no walk-in retail). Delivery trucks on hand every day, picking up large plant orders for some obviously essential “stay-in-place” balconies, patios, and backyard gardens.
While construction is getting an early start on re-opening, offices are not expected to open in NYC until September. Google and Facebook, meanwhile, just told their employees they’ll be working from home through the end of the year. Restaurants and international travel are not expected to be fully operational until 2021.
The #100DayReset is my new passion project. The goal is to make the next 100 days count fully even though I am basically holed up in my apartment. But if this is what it takes to make the lockdown exciting, I’m all in.
It means that I’m now in the “Acceptance” phase of the lockdown.
According to Monash University Psychiatrist Professor Jayashri Kulkarni, I’ve entered the 5th phase of self-isolation which is acceptance. That’s when we start to accept our “new” world and find it easier to manage our fluctuating emotions. It also means that we’re starting to live in the “now” and finding new ways to navigate the experience.
I definitely now fully accept that I will not be traveling for months (or even years!), I will not be checking out any new restaurants and I will not be having a birthday party or a holiday party this year.
But, most importantly, I’ve come to terms with the fact that NY and California and many other states, are going to “stay the course” until we have zero COVID deaths. In other words, until there is an approved vaccine. (Anything short of that would signal that the current strategy to save lives but put 30 million people out of work was not the ideal tactic.)
Bill Gates just wrote in his latest GatesNotes that a vaccine could potentially be available within 9 months. But it would be a miracle! Much more likely scenario: 2-4 years. Per Gates, the fastest time a vaccine has ever been developed is five years.
But I refuse to let that fact defeat my spirit
With the #100DayReset I’m challenging myself to make daily discoveries.
Some will come from trekking around, exploring my neighborhood (discovering what’s surreptitiously open is exciting for me).
Others will come from my customized Google news feed (what would we ever do without the internet?)
Some will come from my friends and neighbors and our daily FaceTime videocalls.
What kind of discoveries?
I’m seeking out things that spark my curiosity. For example:
New behaviors, e.g., putting together lists of people you want in your Top 10 Isolation Circle
COVID trends from around the world, e.g., how the Brits are planning to keep over-50’s in lockdown for months with hefty police fines if they catch you sneaking out of the house
New retail/marketing trends, e.g., face mask vending machines
New forms of entertainment, e.g., SNL Home Edition
So strange to realize how small my world has gotten during this lockdown and yet my appetite for discovery is still so massive.
Scroll down to catch up on this week’s 7 discoveries.
It happened this past Wednesday, April 22nd to be precise. A gorgeous Spring day, I went out to do a couple of errands and by the time I got home, the energy had shifted and I was in a completely new and more positive state of mind.
I had an epiphany based on research I’ve been doing!
A few weeks ago when I was feeling particularly despondent, I started a little passion project researching how people who have been forced to live in extreme isolation managed to survive, e.g., people who have been kidnapped, those immunocompromised who have to stay cooped up in their homes, death row inmates in solitary confinement, the Hikikomori (Japanese social recluses). I also came across Viktor Frankl’s inspiring book, Man’s Search for Meaning, which he wrote after he survived the Holocaust. His book has been listed as “one of the ten most influential books in the U.S.” by the Library of Congress and is recommended as one of Amazon’s Top 100 Books to Read In a Lifetime.
Why Bother, You Say?
Because everyone I’ve spoken to over the last few weeks is struggling with these feelings. Most of us are being whiplashed by our emotions. We feel sad, we feel scared, we feel angry. And all in a span of an hour on any single day.
And it’s highly likely that some form of lockdown will be with us for at least a year.
So no matter how we dice and slice it, even with states and countries working on re-opening, it will be sporadic and there will be lots of setbacks as second and third waves of the virus hit.
My intention in doing this research was to learn – and be inspired – by how extreme isolationists have coped with endless fear, loneliness, and boredom while in some form of confinement.
That said, and while we’re clearly not out of the woods yet, something definitely shifted for me last week. I’ve had an attitude adjustment and am feeling much more in control, less anxious, more positive!
Scroll down for what I’ve learned as well as an update on how it’s going in Sweden (and in NY).
Now that it’s finally clear that we will be in this sucky situation for minimally 12 months, I’m trying to come up with a new life plan. Ideally, a passion project that provides meaning and excitement for the next 18 months.
It has to be something I cannot wait to get out of bed for every morning BUT at the same, it has to be something that can be done while living as a recluse, Garbo-style.
that’s why Sweden’s been on my mind
As I’m sure most of you are aware, Sweden has decided to go with a very liberal lockdown policy which has raised a lot of eyebrows around the world. However, I must add that after speaking with my friends in Stockholm, it is a bit of a myth that no social distancing is going on.
What is true is that Sweden is at the forefront of the social distancing movement, e.g., more than half of households are single-person and more people work from home than anywhere else in Europe.
What has been controversial is that the death toll in Sweden is higher than in neighboring Denmark and Norway, but significantly lower than in Italy, Spain, and the UK, per Bloomberg News.
The Swedish government did offer a handful of recommendations including suggestions to stop nonessential travel, to work from home, to keep a distance from others in public, and for regular handwashing. Additionally, the government banned gatherings of over 50 people and enacted a moratorium on visiting places like nursing homes. They’ve also added obesity and being over-70 to their list of high-risk factors.
That said, if the Swedish way holds and the country opens up to foreign visitors later this year (including for my over-70 cohort) while America stays locked down, I am seriously thinking of transplanting myself to my favorite hotel in Stockholm and weathering the pandemic there for however long it takes until America re-opens. Wintering in Sweden will definitely be a different experience but one I believe I would find pretty fascinating. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, scroll down for more on Sweden’s approach as well as 10 other intriguing discoveries on how we’re handling the pandemic.
I felt “seen” as my friend, Neely Tamminga, would say. After I read it, on Easter Sunday, I suddenly found I had my mojo back! I was so inspired, I went for a stroll around the ‘hood, took a few photos of some new street art, and altogether, felt like a rejuvenated me.
Ann asks Which new habits will you keep post Covid-19?
She lists 14 habits that many of us claim we will maintain once this is over (full list included here).
Three are especially relevant to me:
Choose news inputs carefully: Bad news in the morning, good news before bed. And I will add, do not take anything at face value, no matter the source. Everyone has an agenda these days whether it’s the NY Times or CNN or the BBC or the NY Post. Sad that it’s come to this but it’s true. You have to take it all with a grain of salt and do your own research.
Stop being vague. Instead of saying “We should get together sometime” make it “Can you do lunch on this specific day?”
Appreciate the people doing the “essential” jobs. I have always had an affinity for people in service positions whether it’s waiters or cashiers or janitors but I am doubly appreciative now.
What I especially love about issue TA#58 of Ann’s newsletter
Like many of us, Ann is pining for her old life while at the same time seeing an opportunity to recalibrate how she lives and what she values. But she is not advocating throwing out the baby with the bathwater as many others are doing.
Ann Handley’s take on the return to normalcy, resonated with me because it is such a striking counterpoint to the many recent articles like this that celebrate the shutdown of business as we know it. Supposedly we’re all meant to just chill out and enjoy the clean air and car-free highways. Basically, we’re being told, be grateful for the destruction of capitalism since only then will we be liberated to lead mindful lives, free of those pesky, evil jobs.
As someone (me!) who grew up dirt poor (migrant farm laborer poor), it fills me with dread to know 17 million people have just lost their jobs. I’m fairly certain people who are unable to put food on the table are not thrilled that companies have gone belly up (whether it’s an airline, a retailer or a local bodega).
One final point about Ann Handley. She got on my radar when dozens of people on Twitter were raving about a speech she was giving. I checked her out and immediately subscribed to her newsletter. It comes out fortnightly and based on this recent issue, I highly recommend it. Solid.
Scroll down for more highlights from this week in self-isolation.