How odd to have no place to go, be it far away or close to home.
When the first round of travel restrictions between the U.S. and Europe were announced this month, I should have been boarding a flight to Amsterdam, en route to Morocco.
My guy and I had decided one week earlier to postpone the trip, losing $600 in airline change fees but gaining peace of mind during this turbulent time in history.
Three days after that would-be trip began, I got a note from a colleague whose daughter works for the U.S. State Department:
“In case you didn’t hear, Morocco cut off flights to/from Europe. Schools closed and lots of events canceled. You made the right decision.”
A late April business conference – on a cruise ship from San Diego to Vancouver – was called off after a majority of registrants canceled. I am left with an airplane ticket that can’t be changed online because it was booked through a ticket discounter, and I will procrastinate a while longer before trying to resolve the situation by phone with the airlines.
I expect nothing short of a long wait to connect.
These are, as we say, “First World problems.” Nothing here changes my life forever or deprives me of the basics – food, water, shelter – that we each need to survive on this planet.
We remain lucky in so many ways.
Back in spring 2003, it was severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) that was unsettling because of my first trip to Japan. Americans unfortunately tend to lump all of Asia into one basket, and that certainly was the case back then for our little Wisconsin delegation of women on a goodwill trip to our sister state of Chiba.
It didn’t matter that Japan had only two suspected cases of SARS, and never a confirmed case, compared to 5,000-plus cases in China (and 27 for the United States before the virus was contained by July).
In December 2019, I saw Japan for a second time and with traveling companions noticed an inconspicuous little sign that announced our body temperature was being taken. It wasn’t an inconvenience, didn’t slow up our walk toward customs, and we didn’t see anybody yanked out of the crowd.
Although the U.S. has begun using temperature checks in 11 airports, it reportedly is not effective in detecting the coronavirus because many people who are carriers do not have a high fever.
That brings me to the Serenity Prayer. A plaque with the prayer’s words has hung in my bathroom for decades. It is a reminder of the smart, necessary challenge to identify what is and isn’t in our control in life.
Especially now, as much of what we take for granted seems to be in an upheaval.
As of today, what I have is extra time on my hands. Not a bad thing, even with the evaporation of March Madness, unless I am hellbent on seeing the world differently.
Our usual social and entertainment outlets are pretty much at a standstill at home, so here is what’s on my to-do list.
Declutter. In a perfect world, that means tackling one folder, drawer, closet and room at a time.
Cook. The repetitive motion of ingredient chopping feels therapeutic, a stress buster. Maybe your outlet is knitting, dancing, jogging, folding laundry or kneading bread dough.
Bake. Everything in moderation, including immoderation, IMHO. Maintain a healthy diet but let sweets creep in too. If the bounty gets excessive, freeze or share it.
Write. It’s a rare treat for me to get a handwritten note from somebody who cared enough to take the time. Will try to reciprocate and surprise others with a snail mail letter.
Call. As a much younger woman, I’d think nothing of spending an hour of talk time with a close friend. Email and Facebook changed that. But now we have less of a need to rush or abbreviate our connections.
Read. That refers to hardcovers that I don’t pack while traveling, to lessen bulk and weight. I also will subscribe to one or two new publications online, to support the work of even-handed journalism during this critical time.
Contribute. Check on somebody who lives alone, is coping with illness or worries about the well-being of a loved one who is not within reach.
Exercise. Whether that involves five-pound weights and online video indoors, walks around the neighborhood or a drive to hiking trails in parks is to be determined.
Netflix. We dropped a conventional cable TV provider and invested in a Roku stick for our Smart TV a couple of years ago. YouTube TV has since provided all we need, at substantial savings. We recently added a one-month free trial of Netflix for the fun of it and gained new-to-us programming.
Income taxes. Gone are good reasons to delay the inevitable hair pulling and sorting of receipts.
Limit news time. Staying informed is practical and prudent. Obsessing over the headlines and letting news time take over life is not.
Practice gratitude. I remain thankful for many things in this life and will make a list as a reminder if life changes feel overwhelming.