I am a person who thrives on routines. Alas, my routine has been thrown off balance because of the restrictions that have been put on our lives in response to the COVID019 outbreak. As a country, we all need to pull together in a united effort to defeat the spread of the virus.
I see that many people are referring to life in the COVID-19 era as the new normal. Why am I saying temporary normal rather than the new normal? Well, because the restrictions are evolving as I type this post and some areas with a higher rate of positive COVID-19 tests have stricter restrictions than the rest of the United States. I am not ruling out the possibility that even more restrictions will be imposed on the area where I live. This hopefully explains why I am calling this the temporary normal because we may have to apply even more flexibility and alter our lives again. But hopefully the temporary normal will not become the new normal for the rest of time.
While I am not thrilled that life has changed so quickly, I am starting to get myself into a routine. I am also starting to think of how to adapt should more restrictions be required. Having a routine does wonders for me because (1) I am disciplined and (2) it gives me some measure of comfort that I still have control over at least some portions of my life. It may be false comfort when you are dealing with a rampant virus, but I figure whatever gets me through the day, maintains my sanity, and keeps me focused on positive endeavors must be a good thing.
How has life changed? Well the first thing I used to do when I got up was to take my medications, grab a bottle of water, and then go down to the fitness center to do about an hour of exercise. It is a small fitness center, and the staff and the users are diligent about wiping down the equipment. But alas, the advice I received (and agreed with) from one of my heart doctors was to stay out of the fitness center.
Instead I have been getting up early and doing a routine filled with resistance exercises until it starts to get light outside. Then I got outside and try to walk through a neighborhood that is just beginning to wake up. I basically have the sidewalks to myself, with maybe a dog walker or another early morning jogger. It is very easy to keep six feet from anyone who I see. To get as much benefit from the walk as possible, I look for inclines that I can walk up to see how far I can get before I start to experience shortness of breath. There is a really steep incline that used to leave me breathless at the top. But now can I get to the top and am not winded. Yay!
Normally I would go out for a few more walks throughout the day. But because I am in the high-risk category, I just have found some cardio exercises I can do throughout the day in my condo unit. I have found these to be challenging exercises and feel like I am getting a lot of benefit from incorporating them into my routine. At some point, I probably need to apologize to whoever lives in the unit below me. I suspect that there is some noise generated by my exuberant cardio routine, although I try to stay on the areas with rugs as much as possible to muffle the sound. I like these new exercises because I think they are helping me build energy and muscle.
I have been able to run into the drug store and grocery store early when there are fewer shoppers. It is a little more challenging to keep 6 feet from other people, but I try to pass by people quickly. Alas, there are still many empty gaps in the shelves. Paper products of any kind are still very scarce. I also looked for Vitamin D. The bottles of this product were dwindling and I could not find the dosage I take. I just took a bottle with a smaller dose and will double up on it. Even that product was almost gone from the shelves. I think it might be because I saw a news clip that a former CDC official had opined that taking Vitamin D would help you fight the corona virus.
The grocery store across the street has reserved the first hour of business in the morning so seniors could shop (seniors defined as over the age of 60). This means I can stop in after I am finishing my walk, get in and out when there are fewer people. There were a few hiccups the first week. On day 1, I went to the main entrance and the two other entrances and there was no one to let you into the store. But I knew it was open because I could see seniors in there shopping.
I looked online for the store number. When an employee answered, I asked if the store was open for seniors and he said yes. I told him that I was outside and there was no one to let people in. He said to go to the main entrance and I confirmed that was where I was standing. Happily, at that point an employee appeared to let a shopper out of the store. I showed him my ID and got in.
A few mornings later, a number of people were in the entry way even though I could again see people in the store stopping. There was a woman my age who said that she was told you had to be over the age of 65 and the others confirmed that was what they had been told. Because I only live a few minutes away, I left because even though the age limit was 60, the admitting employee obviously was not budging. But one of the women waiting had a cane. I figured it wasn’t easy for her to wait (or for that matter to even walk to the store).
Once again, I called the store and confirmed the age limit was over 60. I advised that the employee letting people in thought it was over 65. The employee I talked to said he would straighten this out. When I got back to the store 5 minutes later the crowd was gone, and everyone was happily shopping six feet away from each other if possible. Each time I am in a store I thank the employees for being there - and especially if they have special hours to help senior citizens shop.
Getting out into the fresh air and staying socially distant has done wonders in keeping me sane throughout this long week. Muting or turning off the tv and being very selective in the media coverage I read or watch has also kept me from descending into panic. But being in touch with people online or by phone, and learning about their lives is a key to remaining upbeat.
For example, one thing that is helping me keep the anxiety reined in are church activities. The minister and others have hosted events on-line since we cannot be in the sanctuary with each other. The platform that the church is using is called Zoom – I bet you have seen that a number of organizations have turned to Zoom to keep their groups in touch with each other even if they cannot physically touch, or even be in the same space.
Since we shut down the church a few weeks ago, I have been to a prayer meeting, two worship services and two bible studies. Additionally, the minster has provided me with instructions on how to host our chronic illness support group meeting on Saturday, March 28 at 10:00 a.m. Before we leave each virtual church gathering, we have a time for prayer concerns. I think this is important for a number of reasons: It helps us to focus on other problems besides our own, or maybe even learn that someone has a joy to share. It helps us to realize that we are not standing alone, but are united as a community and will get through this together as a community. Definitely the most important is that it encourages us to seek the help and guidance of God to get through this challenging time. Because as I have said before, we will get through this and hopefully be stronger physically and spiritually because we bonded together.
I am an elder of my church this year. The minister asked the elders to reach out to members just to check in during this very uncertain time. Each of the elders was assigned a group, and the order of preference in contacting them was phone call, e-mail and then snail mail as a last resort. I am more of an e-mail or text person myself, but I can see the need in troubled times of hearing a real human voice. To be uplifting, people need to hear human emotion – the compassion and optimism and bright cheery tone in a voice. Half of my group I was able to reach by phone. The other half I e-mailed and asked them to let me know if they had prayer concerns or if there were other ways the church could be of help to them. I also made the offer to chat if they would just let me know a convenient time.
I received a number of prayer concerns, and I have included them in my prayers each night and also raised them during our worship service on Sunday. I also received some joys that were going on in the lives of our church. It was nice to hear the voices of people I hadn’t seen for a while, and to converse in cyberspace with others. I believe that the intent of the minister was to check in and perhaps lift up those who might need a sympathetic ear. But somehow, I felt very uplifted as well which makes sense to me. Sometimes the best way to derail your own anxiety is to forget about your own issues and see what is going on with others, and most important see where you can provide help.
In addition to the uplifting communications with my congregation, I have had some great ongoing e-mail chats with people in my building. Because we are social distancing, it’s not like we can stop at the mail box and catch up with each other. But we’ve sent each other funny pictures and stories. There is one person in particular who I have a running e-mail chat with. He is just a little bit older than me but far wiser. He has endured some major health and life challenges but remains very upbeat. He has an outrageous and zany sense of humor – just my type of person. He also has an abiding faith, plus an interest in the beliefs of other people throughout this earth.
I have learned a lot from this man and from others I have e-mailed in just the last 10 days. I believe that when we finally can meet and chat by the mailbox or in the sanctuary, our relationships will be even richer than when we last parted. It’s like everything else – after a really powerful, even sometimes violent storm, abundant crops and beautiful flowers can grow. We all will endure this temporary normal of COVID-19 and be even stronger, more resourceful and empathetic because of it.
Melanie discovered that she had heart failure in 2013. She spent the next 7 years learning how to live with the condition, and how to achieve balance and personal growth. Then in October 2020, she received a heart transplant. This blog is about her journey of the heart.