Last Tuesday morning I ventured out of the house to take advantage of the "senior shopping hours" from 7 to 8 at Publix. Our need was far from dire, but I had accumulated a fairly long list of items I'd like to have. Shopping these days is a matter of guessing risks. With our COVID-19 incidence still very low here, and with talk about loosening restrictions, I decided the risk had nowhere to go but up for a while.
This was my first time in the store since all the new policies were put in place, and it only took me half the trip to realize that the aisles are now one-way. That's annoying—I'm the kind of person who will go down an aisle, then decide I want something I'd just passed, and backtrack to pick it up. Now I have to go "around the block." But it does help shoppers keep their distance.
If you include the time from walking out the door to finally having everything put away, it was a three-hour expedition. At least half of it was the cleaning ritual at home. Everything that has an inner package gets its external packaging removed; items with packaging that can be washed get washed or disinfected. That's the easy part. Produce is a little harder, but still a piece of cake compared to what my father's sister had to do to her produce when she and her family lived in Ethiopia. I think of Aunt Mary Jane a lot these days.
Milk is no longer rationed at Publix, and even though eggs are (I bought one dozen but could have had two), there were plenty available. A few items were still missing: my favorite hamburger and hot dog buns, and a particular kind of ice cream that I needed for Porter's birthday cake. Fortunately, bread works fine for buns, and there was an acceptable substitute for the ice cream.
You'd think with doing less shopping I'd be spending less money, but it's just the opposite. I'm a pretty careful shopper and pay a lot of attention to sales. (That's why we're okay on toilet paper—I'd bought two good-sized packages on sale shortly before the shortage began.) Now if I see something we might need, I buy it, both because I want to shop less frequently and because it might not be available next time. I don't even do my usual checking of expiration dates, prices, and ingredients, because I don't want to touch a package and return it to the shelves. So I grab and go. That's one part of the new normal I'd love to see go away.
Being at home is still great, however. I miss church and choir dreadfully, but there are good things to come out of even that, such as our daily online noontime services that I know I wouldn't attend if I had to drive to them. But staying home itself? There is so much to do, so many projects crying for attention, so many books to read, so many ideas for writing, that I could stay on lockdown for 100 years and not run out of things to do. I know people who are being driven crazy by being home, but for me that is unfathomable.
I'm not immune to the mental stress induced by the sudden changes, however. For a while I was all at sixes and sevens and couldn't focus on anything, not even my favorite pet projects. I'm doing better, though. An important breakthrough came when I allowed myself to take on some new projects despite other ones being more pressing. It turns out that physical work with clear endings and notable milestones along the way—such as a major overhaul of our bedroom closet, a massive cleanup and reorganization of my sewing area, which has been a disaster for decades, getting to the bottom of the mending pile, crafting a birthday present for Porter, significant work on our guest room (which had become a catch-all, a very large junk drawer), and even cooking/baking have been much more therapeutic than projects that keep me tied to the computer. Even more so than writing, which is my usual go-to therapy-and-comfort-food. Perhaps because so many things are now being done online, my mind and body are rebelling and require something more tangible.
I can't keep this up—the rest of the work must not be neglected for too long—and will eventually have places to go and people to see. But for now, I'm quite enjoying the solitude.
And every once in a while I peek in our closet and breathe a happy sigh.