Our New Opportunity

Posted on March 23, 2020

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We are in uncharted territory. I don’t need anyone else to remind me to wash my hands, but I would like help figuring out what my life looks like in the era of home isolation. The cross-outs on my calendar remind me of what I’m not doing, but the empty hours they represent? What happens to that time?

Shakespeare wrote King Lear while quarantined. Newton defined the theory of gravity and discovered calculus during the plague. Infected and isolated with her husband Tom Hanks in Australia, actress Rita Wilson and her Twitter followers created a “Quarantunes” Spotify playlist.

This all got me thinking about my choices. As I’ve done at other crossroads in my life, I contemplated how I will feel when I look back on this period of time. Will I mourn the hours I wasted scanning social media or feel good about something I accomplished? I thought about the journal I started for my granddaughter when she was born 11 years ago. The one I wrote in avidly at first and then only intermittently. I was shocked to see that the last entry was nearly four years ago and made a commitment to fill the gap during this period of social distancing.

I also plan to spend sunny days in the garden, digging weeds and whacking back overgrown shrubs. There never seems to be enough hours to achieve the horticultural transformation of my dreams, but now there are. Similarly, I’m going to Marie Kondo my closet and eliminate everything that doesn’t spark joy. I’ve started this process on multiple occasions, and then had to stop because I had another commitment.

Of course, if you’re now doing your demanding job at home, you won’t have a ton of extra time, but you’ll still gain the hours you would have spent on community activities. One of my friends is knitting a sweater. Another is cleaning the garage. And one feels she finally has the space to tackle Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton. All that matters is that we do something that we’ll be proud of when we’re looking at COVID-19 in the rearview mirror.

Coping Suggestions

• Talk, text, and use WhatsApp, Skype, and FaceTime to keep in touch with friends and family.

• Need to have a meeting or collaborate on a project? Try Zoom, the video conferencing app.

• Amazon Fresh and Sprouts deliver groceries, as do Vons and others. Prefer to cook your own? Blue Apron provides recipes and ingredients. blueapron.com

• Rather than mindlessly flipping from one Netflix movie to another, pick a theme — maybe movies starring your favorite actor. (I’m choosing Tom Hanks given his coronavirus connection.) Or watch a series. This might be the only point in my life I’ll be able to watch every season of Doc Martin.

• Get off the couch. Check out yoga and Pilates apps that will help you recreate your studio experience.

• Boost your mood. Our own world-famous San Diego Zoo and Safari Park live-cams enable viewers to catch up with quirky penguins, adorable baby elephants, majestic giraffes, and much more when you log on live, or reminisce with the archive of panda cam footage. Helen Woodward Animal Center’s Humane Education department has also begun live-streaming adorable critters to warm the hearts of kids and adults alike. sandiegozoo.orgsdsafaripark.org, animalcenter.org

Keep Learning

• Many museums are sharing collections online. I’m partial to the history exhibits at the California Women’s Museum. womensmuseumca.org/digitial-exhibits

• Cooking at home gets a makeover with the help of Michelin-starred chef Massimo Bottura, who’s launched his own Instagram series, Kitchen Quarantine, on @massimobotturaBuon appetito!

• Freshen up your recipe repertoire with our collection of dishes created by R&C contributor Terryl Gavre, owner of Cafe 222 and co-owner of Bankers Hill Bar + Restaurant. ranchandcoast.com/recipes

• Homeschooling isn’t just for the kids. Fill your time with thousands of free online extension classes offered by some of the finest institutions in the world, including MIT, Harvard, UC Berkeley, and more on edX. You can sharpen your Shakespearean knowledge with the University of Adelaide’s “Shakespeare Matters” self-paced course. edx.org

• If the third season of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s brilliant Cosmos series on National Geographic Channel has sparked your interest in what is far beyond all that we’re experiencing on Earth right now, NASA has your back. The organization’s website offers opportunities to explore along with them through STEM activities, galleries, videos, and blogs for kids and adults. nasa.gov

• Read up. The San Diego County Library system uses a free digital borrowing app called Libby. If you hold a current library card, enter your card number and a PIN, and borrow away! The New York Public Library also offers public borrowing on their app, SimplyE, for an ever-expanding collection that currently includes more than 300,000 titles, even if you do not hold an affiliated library card. sdcl.orgnypl.org

Treat Your Travel Bug

• For up-to-the-minute travel news, I highly recommend John DiScala’s site JohnnyJet.com. His current advice on cancelling flights is to not contact the airlines by phone, but rather try cancelling online. American Airlines allows passengers to cancel online now and call any time before December 31, 2020 to rebook. aa.com

• You shouldn’t travel right now, but this is a good time to start planning the trips you’ll take when the world is well again. I’m a big fan of the Frommer’s website, which includes straightforward destination tips and access to their podcasts, slide shows, and livestreams that provide vicarious travel experiences. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve tuned in to the webcam on Sydney Harbour when I’ve needed a little visual incentive. frommers.com, webcamsydney.com

Help Others & Yourself

In times like these, it’s natural to feel unmoored. We live by our routines and our calendars. One of the best ways to subdue anxiety is to reach out and help someone else.

• Buy a gift certificate from your favorite local restaurant that can be used later.

• Keep in touch with people you know who live alone.

• Make a donation to the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund at the San Diego Foundation, which will “make emergency grants to nonprofit organizations that have deep roots and strong experience supporting impacted communities, particularly those that are disproportionately affected by this global pandemic and its economic consequences.” sdfoundation.org/covid19

And yes, and wash your hands.   Elizabeth Hansen

 

Photography by Jennifer Nelson