COVID-19 came as a shock. My first inkling that something drastic was occurring was a phone call from my physician son in New York urging me not to let anyone into my condo or have guests over for cocktails, as I often do. I asked why. He answered, “They’ll breathe on you.”
The isolation of leaving home less frequently, walking down deserted streets during the statewide lockdown and being unable to meet with friends or family face to face was a shock to my highly extroverted system initially. During other challenging times, writing books helped me get through the trauma. This time I have not been motivated in that direction. But on a mid-March morning in 2020, I participated in a professionally run Zoom support meeting sponsored by the Saint Paul Jewish Community Center. Participants were women of a certain age nationwide. The topic was gaining resilience through the pandemic.
I told the group my first two acts were getting a bird feeder and setting up weekly Zoom meetings with my personal trainer. Every morning I had my coffee with the birds on my deck, and went forth to navigate these challenging times. Last Christmas a friend gave me a heart-shaped block of bird seed. The birds now happily sit on the block to eat the seeds. This has attracted more birds to my deck, and it is comical to watch them sit on the block and merrily eat the seeds.
Christmas was definitely challenging, with friends and family living far from Minnesota. I decided that it was definitely the time to decorate our building for the holidays. With the help of my neighbors, we decorated the building especially gaily, which proved uplifting to us all. And my children came through big-time with phone calls, gifts, flowers and creative Zoom calls. Christmas Day was beautiful with trees and streets covered with fresh snow. I took my two cockapoos on a snowy walk to a nearby park.
When the parks near my Summit Hill home were attracting too many people for my social-distancing comfort, I sought other open spaces for outings with my cockapoos. In the Twin Cities we are fortunate to have many lovely dog parks that are heavily wooded. A favorite of mine is Arkwright Dog Park on Saint Paul’s East Side. While the dogs run gleefully free, their owners enjoy the natural setting and a bit of socializing.
The Japanese advocate forest bathing, a practice loosely defined as restful rejuvenation by spending time in nature. My outings at nearby parks and other open spaces are my form of forest bathing.
COVID-19 requires all of us to wash our hands more frequently. For Christmas 2019 I received a gift of gloriously scented hand soap and have been using that to wash my hands multiple times per day. The hand soap fills the air with an uplifting aroma. When I thanked the sender for how much her gift added to my day during this trying time, she said, “it’s all about finding little pockets of joy.”
Working with my personal fitness trainer by Zoom, I found that the pandemic has required a special adherence to challenges. Together we are developing an approach to exercise for this era.
There is a famous book and movie, Playing for Time, the story of Fania Fenelon, a French Resistance fighter imprisoned in Auschwitz who survived by participating in the concentration camp orchestra. It would be disrespectful, to say the least, to compare the disruptions faced by a Summit Hill senior during COVID-19 with the life-and-death hardships of internment during World War II. However, writing has been a lifeline for me in trying times. Writing has helped me through many tough patches.
So rather than playing for time, I am writing for time and seeking out little pockets of joy.
—Marilyn L. Bach
Marilyn L. Bach, Ph.D., is a retired member of the University of Minnesota Medical School faculty. She lives in Summit Hill with her cockapoos, Sparkle and JoJo.
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