Audrey Hinchcliffe | COVID-19: Home alone – action plan for aloneness
“Tan a yuh yaad,” shelter-in-place, lock down, quarantine, or isolation. Call it by any name, it means that someone is going to be home alone. Whether self-imposed or by edict, the feeling is the same. Alone and lonely are first cousins. To be alone means having no one else present while on the other hand, lonely means one has no friends or company. This situation in which individuals find themselves brings on feelings of sadness, fear and anxiety, hopelessness, and even despair. These feelings existed long before the coronavirus but are only now being heightened. “One can be alone and enjoy every minute of it, but when loneliness creeps in, if one lets it, the prolonged lack of human contact (social) can lead to prolonged and devastating psychological problems. Confinement in any form, or by any cause, must be put in context, analysed, and understood as the basis for determining the diagnosis and approaches for remediation. This I leave to the professionals.
As usual I am speaking from experience and observation from among some of my peers (ages 65 years and over) and reference to the film Home Alone. When eight-year-old Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) was inadvertently left behind when his family went away on a vacation, he had to be creative to repel burglars when they attempted to break into a home they believed was unoccupied. Here, I am likening the coronavirus to those burglars, except that the virus is unseen and does not draw attention to itself. It simply hitches a ride on a human via any careless means we afford it via MEN (mouth, eyes, nose). So home alone is among the impositions to contain spread of the infection among the stated vulnerable age group. While Kevin had to devise contraptions and devised ingenious ways to weaponise them, for the coronavirus, simple weapons are mask, soap and water or sanitiser, and distancing. This is the easy part. But what of unleashing our creativity, and better still, if you can avail yourself of psychological support.
But how about unleashing our creativity while home alone? Of course, this will depend on the state of our health and mental capacity to think and act and personal circumstances in urban or rural living – and where there are deficits, seek help. All my life I have been dubbed a bookworm and professional student. I am an example of a student of lifelong learning long before the terminology was formalised in the education system. My home and office library tell the tale of a voracious reader (of any topic). I do not discriminate.
I am sure I am not alone with resources at hand, but I also can relate to those with resource deficiencies, but there are remedies for those, too – don’t be too proud to ask or beg and grovel if you must. Check out what support is available from state agencies, civil society, religious bodies, families, international agencies. Take time to write down and sort through all possibilities, then share your thoughts, and seek support for which action may produce the best outcome. The coronavirus is bad ass, but like the robbers, Kevin, a mere kid, took care of himself while home alone, so let’s benefit from his ingenuity.
MAKE A PLAN
First, make a plan. Regardless of the circumstances, don’t be a do do bird (dumb and stupid, which contributed to their own extinction) with no flight or fight instincts. Start with a daily plan – from waking up, getting through the day, to retiring at night. There are seven days in the week, 24 hours in the day, so space activities, leave time for rest, exercise, and to meditate. Update your contacts, starting with family. Know who you can call, when, and for what purpose. We have a tendency to wait for calls. In turn, we must plan to call, but not annoyingly so. The human voice lifts the spirit, especially talk of the good old times. It means that you have been there, done that, and have no need to want to do it again. You will come to realise how fulfilled your life really is. Time to savour it.
Home alone allows us quiet time to think and reminisce about things you wanted to do but were precluded from doing either by raising a family, or by work – career building. For example, you wanted to be a writer (like me) either as a hobby or a life’s goal. The age of technology may have overtaken your pen and paper. Do not be intimidated by your techy millennials or young grandchildren. Reverse the role, and let them become your tutor even from a distance. Gadgets place them right in your home. Social connection is still possible to mitigate aloneness.
Home Alone spurred me to complete a book that was in the works for a long time, of course, with support. COVID-19 affords us the opportunity to dissect its causes and inputs, write about them, and share with various platforms. Such is my case with unsolicited articles submitted and published periodically. This is my contribution to public education.
So, you can’t sleep at nights. Perhaps this is time for deep thought on positive aspects of your home-alone life. Unless you are troubled by health issues, or issues of any other hue, make your awakeness productive and creative. You will find that you eventually drift off into sweet sleep.
Nourishment is key, so plan your meals – from shopping to cooking and baking, making beverages, and how you will consume them. This may prompt you to write that cookbook you have long wanted to produce as “tek han mek fashion” can be rewarding. You can share with someone less fortunate; you can experiment with the taste buds of family, friends and co-workers. I have mastered this and have people begging for more. You may even start a business with your speciality fares. Avoiding eating too much as it is easy to put the pounds on and hard to get them off. Whether it is gardening or landscaping, the yard planter boxes or pots beckon. Time to test that thumb – you may just find it is green after all. It is very uplifting to watch things grow - plants, flowers, vegetables, or fruits. Start with simple things. Help is at hand so long as you can google. During the time you are allowed to leave home to acquire necessities, a visit to a nursery will give you a new perspective. There is something to be said about uplifting the spirit when you walk through a field of green. An aisle will suffice. Ask for help to make choices. Start simple. Go for reduced-price items if available. You may be able to nurse and revive a dying plant into a beautiful specimen. Some may die, but you may have enjoyed spending time playing in the dirt. Reading material on gardening and landscaping is usually available at the nursery.
Drawing and painting can be satisfying. Wake up the artist in you! It does not have to be done with expensive paints and brushes. Artists are known to have become famous for their pen or pencil sketches. You can, too. Gifts and postcards are a good start then graduate to wall hangings. Playing with clay may be more difficult, but give it a try. Stretch your imagination! You may just surprise yourself.
De-clutter may be a bad word. it is for me. I look at drawers, closets and shelves and instantly feel overwhelmed. But it can be done. However, it is not my things, too mundane, I have to be creating something – kitchen or garden are my thing. If de-clutter is for you, go for it. I have been brainwashed from a young age that “reading maketh the man,” and woman too as it is my hobby. My favourite places have always been libraries, music festivals and museums, and remain to this day. COVID-19 may preclude physical presence so explore online events.
Home alone free from work and family responsibilities, but unable to travel, take me back to those good old days. I invite you to reflect on the days of your youth and recreate in your minds the things you loved to do. If you loved reading, ask someone to assist you with acquiring reading materials – books and magazines. If you are drawn to online, kindle, or any other forms, go for it. I remain old fashioned - I love paper so give me books and magazines. Go for what suits your fancy.
Sewing, embroidery, crotchet, knitting affords choices for creativity when home alone. Sewing notions are easily available to aid work - with your fabric - buttons, elastic, zippers, tools, threads, needles, pins, markers, lace, tapes, ribbons, sequins etc. Whether you will alter an existing garment or attempt to make a new one, experiment at will. I have always heard that “anything spwile (spoil) is style.”
Volunteerism is still possible when you are home alone. Advisory service or consultancy is still possible. If not online, safe drop off and pick up of items is possible. The currency of your useful (life) utility must not be suppressed.
HEALTH, REST AND RECREATION
You may feel empowered to act to the point of neglecting time for rest and recreation. These must form part of your home alone action plan. As much as possible, aim to get into a daily rhythm. Diet, exercise, productive activities, rest, recreation and social interaction. Temper your zeal with discretion when it comes to food intake and watching television. As I mentioned before, watch calorie intake, particularly if exercise is not your passion. Plan your TV watching whether for news or fun time. To become a “couch potato” is unhelpful and can trigger health issues. Further, one may be tempted into experimenting with advice on cures and treatment for issues already being treated by a health professional e.g. for the coronavirus and energy boosters. Stick to the advice of your personal health provider.
Living with the coronavirus is “The Now Normal.” The future is unpredictable. The state of home alone is not new particularly for senior citizens and empty nesters. The coronavirus has only heightened the reality.