Hey Elderly Aunt, what should I do with all this stay-at-home time?

Elderly Aunt — any tips on what to do with my time on my own now that everything seems to be shut down? I’m already tired of Netflix. Thanks!

Ah yes…home alone. Or perhaps even more challenging, home with other adults and/or children equally bamboozled by our brave new socially-distant world. We’re used to doing whatever it is that makes us feel like ourselves. And now—just like that—we can’t. Hugging people, going to the office or the gym, carpooling, recreational shopping, having friends to dinner—all are suddenly verboten. 

Indeed, it seems entirely possible to the Elderly Aunt that Joni Mitchell wrote her 1970 dystopian anthem, Big Yellow Taxi, while gazing into a crystal ball at the spring of 2020. Think about that refrain: Don’t it always seem to go that we don’t know what we’ve got ’till it’s gone.  Is that prescient or what?

So anyway, here we are. In this together, separately. Each of us struggling to find a new normal in social distancing. And since you asked for tips, dear reader, allow Elderly Aunt to lay a few bullet-pointed ones on you:

  • View this time as one massively inconvenient and unexpected opportunity for personal growth. Immediately stop all moaning about what you can’t do and concentrate on figuring out what you can do. 
  • Eat healthily and continue to maintain fairly regular hours. 
  • Get outside. If you have a yard, dig in it. If you don’t, just go out and wander around at a safe distance from other people. Turn off your phone. Turn on three of your five senses. Smell, hear, see the real world around you. It’s marvelously mind-calming. 
  • Figure out how to get regular exercise. If you don’t exercise regularly, start. If you lack personal discipline, fake it until exercising regularly becomes a part of your new normal. Don’t make excuses. Instead, as Nike puts it so succinctly, Just Do It!
  • Unless you were a complete hermit in your old normal life, make sure to have daily contact with people outside your home. By phone, by video link, by shouting across the back fence at your neighbor from a safe distance or through direct back-and-forth on social media (solo ranting does not count).  
  • Don’t get mad, get creative! Engage in activities that stimulate your mind and imagination instead of just passing the time. It seems to the Elderly Aunt that binge-watching Netflix essentially means you’ve effectively handed over a huge chunk of your life to a virus! Why not use your newly available free time to learn a language, do an on-line Shakespeare course, tackle crosswords, research a complicated subject you’ve always wanted to know more about, start a long-term writing project, or hone your biscuit baking skills*?”
  • As we obviously are struggling to maintain a bit of control over our own lives, do something small you cancontrol. Cleaning comes to mind. Also decluttering. 
  • Feed the birds. You don’t even need a filter. Put seed on your windowsills and soon they’ll be watching you watch them!
  • Take up whittling.

In closing, please allow the Elderly Aunt a random cultural observation from her elderly perspective. These days, it seems we Americans tend to equate being busy with living meaningful existences. To her, it seems that a lot of us compulsively pack our days with this and that as though feeling really, really busy is, in itself, our goal. Our rare un-busy minutes tend to give us the fritter-jitters, which is why we so often turn to our phones, our tablets, our computers or our TV screens to fill up any unoccupied moments.

To the Elderly Aunt, this suggests that we’ve become functionally addicted to feeling busy. Thus, it should hardly come as a surprise to any of us that such a sudden drastic slowing of our lives discombobulates us. The Elderly Aunt would go so far as to suggest that the fritter-jitters we’re all suddenly coping with are in reality a form of withdrawal.  

With this in mind, dear reader, the Elderly Aunt encourages you to give yourself plenty of time to adjust. Accept that its natural for you to feel massively weird for a while—despite following every single one of the Elderly Aunts suggestions. You are only human, after all. Even the wildest and free-est among us (including the Elderly Aunt!) find ourselves challenged to pull off the seismic adjustments necessary to control the spread of coronavirus. So please, be healthy! Be responsible! And please accept the Elderly Aunt’s most vigorous, socially distant hug!

*The Elderly Aunt is an expert at biscuit baking. Email her through the Citizen or message her through her Facebook page if you would like to know her secrets for perfect, puffy biscuits.

The Elderly Aunt offers her thoughtful responses to your questions about this wild ride we call life on every other Monday.  And as a general disclaimer—to quote the elves from The Lord of the Rings — “… advice is a dangerous gift, even given from the wise to the wise.”

Got a question for the Elderly Aunt? Ask her on Facebook or email your question to [email protected] with the subject line “Elderly Aunt question.” (Just please don’t ask detailed financial questions). 

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