Since March 13, my husband and I have experienced what some call ‘slow living’.
Thanks to Public Health Canada’s advice to stay at home to avoid the threat of contracting the COVID-19 virus, our retirement schedules are clear of activities and obligations. There’s a blank calendar.
Everything is cancelled or closed. My gym and pool are closed. Meetups that I attend, bridge games, book clubs, knitting groups, and my investment club are cancelled. There is no need to hurry to meet a deadline or to get somewhere ‘on time’.
Weekly after-school ‘dates’ with my granddaughter can’t happen because of social distancing. It’s the same for family dinners which are becoming a distant memory. Our son and daughter-in-law are adamant that my husband and I don’t leave the house except for outdoor walks. They bring baskets of groceries and leave these on the front steps while we visit at a distance. We’ve learned about virtual hugs.
A Blank Calendar is ‘Novel’
Just as this virus is labelled novel COVID-19, a blank schedule is novel to me. I’m learning about the joy of slow living.
A new routine forms the pattern of each day. The pace is slow. A leisurely breakfast, a peek at the daily televised message from the Prime Minister of Canada, some form of exercise (yoga, walking, hand weights, recumbent bike). Then it’s time for projects and hobbies — or goofing off — until happy hour and dinner.
COVID-19 has given me time to de-clutter my brain of obligations. All I track is an occasional zoom call.
I think back to the pre-COVID isolation days when life felt chaotic with too many scheduled activities on the calendar. On some days my life felt as frantic as when I had a busy career. I was time-stressed and out of balance. “Too much to do and too little time” was a phrase that regularly appeared in my daily journal.
I struggled with constant feelings of time scarcity. I was too busy. But, was I busy with things important to me?
Time for Reflection
I am using this time of staying home to reflect on how I want the next phase of retirement to unfold. A blank calendar provides a unique opportunity to decide what is really necessary for happiness and fulfillment. I’ve been thinking about how I spent my time in the pre-COVID days.
How important are some of the activities that filled my days?
Did various club memberships bring pleasure or other rewards?
What events did I attend from a sense of obligation?
Which invitations had I accepted because an admired friend issued the invite?
Which cancellations brought a sense of relief and not regret?
De-cluttering the Calendar
Just as physical de-cluttering creates a sense of relief and makes space in our homes, de-cluttering the calendar has created mental space. The blank spaces in my calendar bring a certain lightness. Perhaps Marie Kondo would label this as ‘sparking joy’.
I’m not of the belief that everything in life should ‘spark joy’. Getting to the gym for a workout often falls into that category. However, some recurring activities need further examination before I fall back into a routine of attending because of a long-ago moral commitment or a sense of duty.
De-cluttering the calendar has given time to re-charge and to wait for what will come next.
Intentional Choices For Slow Living
If there is a benefit from the forced isolation due to COVID-19, it’s the joy of slow living.
I’ve come to appreciate the precious days of my life by attending to things that matter to me. Instead of rushing to the next event in my schedule, I proceed through each day at a leisurely pace. Sometimes that means doing nothing than can be considered ‘purposeful’.
After ‘stay at home’ restrictions are lifted, I will make intentional choices of how I spend my time and with whom I spend my time.
One of my book club friends noted that each time she says ‘yes’ to an activity or event, she is also choosing to say ‘no’ to other all the things she might do with that time. She uses this technique to make choices about how she spends her time.
Taking things slowly and saying ‘no’ may mean missing out on some experiences. On the other hand, it will create space for what really matters. Without the anxiety of rushing from one thing to another, I’ll have more time to notice and appreciate what is happening around me. And I’ll continue to savour the joy of slow living.