By Ted Schwartz, CFP®
Well, I am now about two months into a very different part of my life. Perhaps like you, my life now consists of an occasional trip to the grocery store, a daily walk for exercise, a rare trip for takeout food and some Zoom and WebEx meetings with others as my social life. As I have the good fortune to share this time with my wife and life mate Terry, I don’t really know exactly how I would respond if I were truly alone at this time. I read Solitary by Albert Woodfox for my book club in recent weeks. It is about his decades in solitary confinement at Angola prison. I certainly did not finish the book with a conviction that I could cope with that level of change to my lifestyle. But the changes of the past two months do give me a chance to reflect and learn as we all live in a new reality.
After 72 years as a confirmed non-germaphobe, I now happily live with masks, gloves, disinfectants, “outdoor clothes” and the like. I don’t really see these new life choices disappearing before we have a vaccine at some point in the future. Will these new learned practices change then? I really do not have a clue at this time. So, the first thing I have learned about myself is…that I am far more flexible than “old people” are generally reputed to be. My life now is bizarrely different than it was a few months ago (as are yours I assume), but I don’t feel that I am under a great deal of pressure by not being able to live in the manner to which I had become so accustomed. So, I see that as an unexpected positive as I look at these months. This old dog can still learn a few new tricks!
I would count myself as an introvert and that would tend to make this whole experience a bit easier to handle versus an extrovert. My days include reading, some streamed shows on the tube, learning Spanish on Duolingo, etc. That all sounds like a day in the wheelhouse of an introvert. However, I am coming to some realizations about myself that things are not quite that simple.
Along with being an introvert, I would identify myself as a “city mouse”. I have come to realize how profound these underpinnings are and how much I miss some of my urban existence. Life indoors is quiet and involves zero outside persons and interactions most of the time. What I have come to understand is that “city life” is something that I truly miss and that I am not currently willing to participate in either.
What I am learning is that human interactions are more than the sum of the parts. A group of people is essentially a separate living organism, not just the addition of the individual people who are in the group. At the simplest level, I miss just a handshake or a hug when I encounter friends. That moment transcends just being two individuals touching each other and is an experience which is incredibly rich in meaning. I do not see handshakes or hugs with people outside my household being part of my life in coming months and…. I will continue to miss it. Seeing your friends on Zoom is a welcome event now, but…it lacks the richness of a real live meeting with friends. Zoom covers two senses, hearing and seeing, but I really need all my senses to have a full experience in life.
The far end of the group experience for me is one of my true loves, a college basketball game in Madison Square Garden. I will definitely not take the risk of being at such a game this fall. But I have been thinking about what makes that experience so rich. Watching a game on TV is fun and exciting. However, when you are at a game at Madison Square Garden (or many other venues) there is something visceral and alive beyond the individual people at the game. The excitement in the arena reverberates in your body. The players and all the other fans all feel and are part of this “creature”. The game truly takes on a life of its own. This powerful and exciting time is a great analogy for the excitement and vitality of a city.
So, I hope this fall we have basketball games in empty arenas to watch on television. I will enjoy them. It will be far short of watching a game played in a full arena. That would still be far short of watching a game in that arena. That is truly a special experience.
While my personal hygiene has been unquestionable (hand washing, sanitizing, showering, changing from outdoor clothes, etc.), I need to up my game as to general grooming. Sweatpants and once in a while shaving are about as fancy as I get these days. I think I should either up my dress a bit or…maybe decide that this is the real me and I have no need for button down shirts and nice trousers.
I also am experiencing how time expands to fill the bubble. I seem to be “busy” most of the time, even though I am clearly accomplishing a bit less these days than normal. I do not seem to have time when I am bored and think about what to do next.
Speaking of which, it is almost time for my afternoon tea so…I better sign off. Hope you are all well and are also learning a bit each day as we move forward.