The indirect fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic hit me in a very peculiar way this week. I went to Sherway Gardens in Toronto to pick up some winter socks and slippers and decided to grab a bite of lunch in the second-floor food court. Many of the tables and chairs have been removed so it’s easy to physically distance. As I sat there enjoying my prepacked container of sushi a strange sensation came over me. Looking around at all the masked shoppers while I sat alone at my little table, I was suddenly overcome with an overwhelming feeling of “I just want to go home”. I actually felt a bit homesick. And, not wanting to enjoy the splendours of a mall is quite out of character for me.
Now that we’re into our seventh month of isolation and lockdown we’ve had plenty of time to get accustomed to not socializing, enjoying inordinate amounts of “me” time, and generally living isolated lives. We’ve had no dinner parties. We’ve only eaten out twice since March and both times it was in the outdoor tent at a restaurant near our home. Our social bubble consists of about six or eight people with whom we have infrequent outdoor get-togethers and we keep grocery and shopping expeditions to an absolute minimum. The result of all this restriction has made me very comfortable being alone, working on my blog, reading, editing my upcoming book, emailing friends and doing little chores around the house.
While I’ve not gone full-blown agoraphobic yet, I’ve definitely developed a preference for being at home. I’m enjoying not being accountable for my time and I’ve built a nice little nest in my back-yard with my LaZgirl in the shade of the gazebo. In fact, I’m terrified to think of how I’m going to cope with not being to sit outside all afternoon reading my books when the temperature drops. In years past, I have been known to bundle up in all my winter gear and sit on my front porch in the sun reading a book in February just to catch a few of those valuable rays of Vitamin D. Maybe I should reconsider storing our patio furniture and leave a couple of chairs available for soaking up some ice-cold sunshine in January.
More than three and a half million Canadians head south each winter to soak up the delicious warm sunshine that is absent during our northern winters. It’s said that going to Florida or Arizona in the winter extends life by ten years and I’m inclined to believe it’s true. Down south, snowbirds bike; we play pickleball; we walk; we golf, play tennis and generally have a full social life outdoors that is not available here because of the weather. Skiing is beyond the financial and practical reach of most retired boomers, who are also afraid of breaking bones, not to mention bank accounts. If the city and its inhabitants are conscientious about keeping roads and sidewalks clear of snow, we can still get our daily walk in. But our dogs are going to have to be outfitted this year in coats and boots too. Ice and salt are not friendly to canine feet and digestive systems.
The outdoor dining experiences we’ve been able to enjoy in limited numbers this summer will be curtailed unless mammoth propane heaters and tents are installed to keep us from turning into popsicles. We’re going to have to figure out something or we’ll all go bonkers. We need sunshine. We need socializing; We need fresh air. I’ve purchased a warm winter parka, my first in about fifteen years, so I’m somewhat prepared for the cold. The challenge is going to be coming up with an activity that is more appealing than sitting in front of the fireplace reading a good book, by myself, waiting for spring.
Not being able to get fresh air and sunshine during Canadian winters makes me crazy, not to mention depressed, seriously depressed. We once had to move out of a condo because it had no balcony, and safety bylaws dictated we could only open the little sliding windows a mere four inches. I couldn’t breathe. Not being able to step outside for a breath of fresh air made me claustrophobic. The prospect of being stuck inside for months awaiting a vaccine fills me with dread.
My brief experience with homesickness while sitting at the mall was troubling. Was the experience an anomaly or a genuine cause for concern? Life is not meant to be lived without social interaction with other people and I’m worried that it’s affecting our behaviours in negative ways that might become permanent. No hugs. No getting together with friends for a big barbecue in July. No leisurely browsing goodies at the mall. No joining friends for lunch in restaurants. I’m afraid it’s all making me antisocial and that’s not a positive way to live our daily lives. I am seriously concerned about being house-bound and I was wondering if you have made plans for how you’re going to cope. Winter walks in the snow? Six months of Netflix? It’s going to be a long winter.