Reality Check

One of the most common conversations I’ve heard for months is that people can’t wait for 2020 to be over. The idea is that life will go back to normal once 2020 ends. Like all our problems will magically disappear with the turn of a calendar page.

Friends, that’s not how this is going to go. The pandemic will not know that it’s 2021 and that we’re mentally done with all this.

Instead, on January 1, 2021 we will be in the dead of winter and it will be too cold to dine outside. It will be dark early, making it hard for us 9 to 5’ers to get out for outdoor fun. It’s going to be hard for us to social distance in the yards of family and friends when it’s snowing.

My introverted personality makes it easier for me to be alone. My enjoyment of cold weather makes it easier for me to tolerate the cold and darkness. In fact, I like winter well enough I wrote last year about my coping mechanisms that I think might help others.

I understand that I’m lucky.

And yet, I’m still worried about how hard this winter might be given that spending time in stores and other public spaces that I typically frequent won’t be advisable or at the very least, I will want to limit my exposure.

I come from a long line of worriers but refuse to succumb to worry. Instead, I prefer to use logic to think things through, troubleshoot and plan. So I’m working now to plan and mentally prepare for what’s to come.

Here’s what I’m doing to take charge of my winter.

Gather supplies– Let us be clear – I am not a stockpiler but I do live in the country so it’s smart to always have extra supplies on hand. I also live on a hill that my car sometimes can’t climb when we’ve had a lot of freeze-thaw that makes it slick. There is nothing worse than packing groceries up a big hill!

Consequently, I always prioritize keeping plenty of supplies on hand so that I don’t have to shop when it’s nasty out. That means I’ve been gradually stocking up on non perishable and frozen foods, cat litter, cleaning supplies, toiletries, laundry detergent and even weird things like light bulbs. Think about the things that force you to make a special trip to the store and those are the things you need to focus on.

If you buy a few extra things each shopping trip, you don’t notice the extra cost. I will still need to pop into the store for fresh produce but can limit my time in the store by just my grabbing the short list of needs.

Make a list – I’ve started a list of things to do in my free time. Hikes and drives are . close to home ways that I can get outside. Hiking in the winter can be amazing if you know how to stay warm and on your feet but there are plenty of ways to stay busy and entertained at home as well. For me that means fun things like movie marathon days, experimenting in the kitchen, reading, playing the piano (I badly need to start doing this again before I forget how), genealogy research, photography and trip planning. There are also projects that I want to work on. One room in my house is sort of an ongoing monster project that I’m determined to civilize this winter.

Troubleshoot – I’ve been thinking about what I need to make my life at home happier. Honestly, my home is a pretty happy place but there are small ways to improve it. For example, I can’t sit on my couch and use something electronic that needs to be plugged in. If my laptop battery is dying, I have to move to the desk or chair or somewhere else to plug it in. Digging out an extension cord that I already own will fix this. Maybe you will better enjoy cooking if you have nicer pots and pans or terrific soup bowls. Make your home more cozy with a yummy smelling candle or put a bird feeder outside your favorite window. Maybe you need to do something more drastic like paint or replace your bedding with some warm flannel. I really want a cozy chair for bedroom reading but haven’t yet found what I want. It’s been sort of a Goldilocks situation where everything is to big, too small, too expensive or too poorly made.

Adjust your expectations – I have no interest in spending much time in public spaces but still want to support small businesses and get out of the house. For me that means being selective about where and how I spend my time.

I talked to a museum manager last week who said they have very few people visiting at this time. I would feel safe visiting her museum and maybe browsing an antique or book store. These are not the types of stores that pack people in. Rather than eat in a restaurant I’ll continue doing drive thru or curbside pick up.

These are trade offs I’m happy to make so I can go out and do fun, enriching things with my free time while still limiting my exposure (and those around me) to the virus.

If you are a social person, you might want to try Zoom parties or FaceTime with friends rather than hang out in person.

Embrace the here and now – this life is the only one you have. Instead of wishing it away waiting for the weekend, for a vacation or for the pandemic to end, it’s better to find ways to simply enjoy the life you have today.

Unless you have a chronic illness or are mourning a devastating loss of life this should be attainable at least at some level.

Life is what we make of it and focusing on the bad will make it worse. Appreciating what we have and looking for the good will automatically improve it tenfold.

Let’s do that, shall we?