Old Habits Die Hard

IMG_1546

Simon in the window enjoying fresh air.

In times of stress, it is common to fall back on our coping skills. Some coping skills are positive and some coping skills are negative. As we age, we gradually replace negative coping skills with positive coping skills. When you know better, you do better.

Some coping skills are not necessarily negative, but there comes a point when a particular coping skill is no longer needed because you have overcome the problem. Either the life situation has changed so that you do not have that problem anymore to require a coping skill, or you have adapted to the situation in such a way that it is no longer a crisis which prompts coping skills.

This coronavirus pandemic is unlike anything we have ever lived through before. It is prompting all types of coping skills in people, myself included. 

I keep trying to find something to equate to our current situation. After all, the beauty of coping skills is that if they work for one crisis, they will probably work for another.

I spoke earlier how the pandemic is worse than when I was in New York City on September 11. I stand by that statement. At least in 2001, one could leave the City and escape somewhere else where life was still relatively normal. In this pandemic, there is no escape. It is pervasive. It alters our daily routines, habits, and life. It even alters our homes, which is the place of sanctuary for many. Your home is like your lair where you can freely be yourself, and now your place of refuge is being invaded by “working from home.” 

In trying to somehow wrap my brain around this pandemic and what it is doing to life, the only situation with which I can equate the current situation is when I was homeless. Even that is not completely accurate. The only parallel between homelessness and the pandemic is the stress and the scarcity. Trying to figure out how to get food and basic supplies. Other than that, the comparison is an oversimplification. I have someplace safe to live with my family. The only challenge is how to get supplies safely.

Below I am going to outline three coping skills that have made a resurgence for me in the current crisis. I honestly never thought I would have use for these coping skills again. I thought I had finally gotten to a point in life where they are no longer needed. I thought wrong. 

Old Habit # 1 

Toilet paper. Oh, yes, you knew I was going there, didn’t you? Toilet paper is the story of my life. When I was growing up, I would have to make one roll of toilet paper last 4-6 weeks. Now, due to the coronavirus, I have decided I am going to do the same.

I am going to make a 12-pack of toilet paper last for an entire year. I am probably going to be doing this until I die. 

Buying one 12-pack of toilet paper each year saves money. By using less toilet paper, I can take the $5 or $10 I would have spent on toilet paper and use it instead to purchase food. Yes, our economy is that decimated. Food shortages are pervasive and real.

I am supplementing my one roll of toilet paper per month with cloth baby wipes. Some people may complain that this creates more laundry. They are small. I do not think it creates more laundry. Plus, now that I am wearing pajamas twice instead of once, there is “space” for the cloth baby wipes because I am going through less pajamas.

In fact, I am actually saving water by using cloth baby wipes for pee. I flush my toilet less. When I use paper toilet paper, I typically flush the toilet every 2-3 uses so that the toilet does not get clogged with the paper. Using cloth baby wipes, I only flush the toilet once or twice per day. There is no paper in it, unless there is # 2, which gets flushed immediately. 

Old habits die hard: I am only using one roll of toilet paper per month, similar to when I was growing up and would have to save the nickel change from food stamp purchases to be able to afford one roll.

Old Habit # 2

When I was in grad school, I would work Tuesdays through Saturdays instead of Monday through Friday like all of the other executives in my office. My grad classes were on Mondays, so this worked well for me. Weekends were Sundays and Mondays. I loved it. 

It was also nice having a weekday off, because if I need to schedule a doctor or some other appointment, I could do so without having to take off of work. The only challenge was that some places are not open on Mondays. For example, I remember I could never get my hair appointment on a Monday because the salon was closed on Mondays.

Trying to work from home during coronavirus has been a challenge due to little to no internet service. I type things into google docs so that I can copy and paste into an email when I do have internet service. I hope that I can get things in fast enough to be able to send the message before I lose service.

Also, being that I am in the high risk group, I am extremely apprehensive at returning to the office and being surrounded by my coworkers who have many many more exposures than me. I do not feel that is a safe situation. I can only control myself. I cannot control people around me.

I have asked to change my current work schedule from the Monday through Friday back to the Tuesday through Saturday format, and it is going great! I actually get decent internet service on Fridays and Saturdays so I am able to get more work done. This is in contrast to Mondays, where I spend all day waiting for one web page to load, and it may not even be the web page I need. 

Also, if I do have to go into the office, which I did this past weekend, I have the entire place to myself. I can get things done with minimal exposure. I have always worked well independently.

Tuesday – Saturday work reminds me of when I was in grad school. Summer 2015 was one of the best summers of my life, so there are good memories of this work schedule. I feel good.

Old Habit # 3

 Make do or go without. This was the mantra of the Great Depression and it is again the mantra of the Great Depression part 2. It was also what got me through the 4 months of hell when I found out my rent on my apartment doubled (with 2 weeks notice) and I was trying to buy the house.

I have spent so much money on trying to get food these past two months that I have completely blown my budget. It’s different when you have to have other people shop for you and then reimburse them. It’s also hard when you are trying to keep a week’s worth of extra food on hand in case people can’t get to you right away. I am dependent on when other people go to the store.

I do not want to ask people to go to the store for me because then they are putting themselves at risk for me. So I’ve been telling people to let me know when they are going to the store for themselves and I will just add to their list. 

Throw in multiple food allergies to that mix and the food shortages of food allergy specialty items … well, it’s been rough.

So my mantra is to make do or go without. I literally have no extra money to spend on anything. If you are expecting me to “stimulate” the economy, forget it. The only thing I am doing is paying my essential bills and food.

To this end, I have cut out all non-essentials. That includes hair cuts. Hair salons are still closed right now anyways, and even when they do reopen, I do not feel safe enough to go back. 

I am going to isolate and socially distance myself for a very long time until I am sure this is over. It could be years, and I am okay with that.

This means I will be cutting my own hair. 

Previously, “make do or go without” meant that I only had my hair cut twice a year. My hair was really long – down to my butt. What I learned was that only getting it cut twice a year saved me money but was horrible for my hair. My hair ended up so damaged that I ended up having to get it cut into a bob. 

Many people have said that I should grow out my pixie and that I can save money on haircuts by just letting it grow long again. The problem is, that is not healthy. Plus, long hair is a major pain. Now that I have had a pixie, I am not going back to long hair again.

I finally got a pair of clippers and buzzed it off. The clippers were $60. Since I usually pay $50 for a haircut, it will only take two hair cuts for the clippers to pay for themselves. If I do not go back to the salon and continue to do my hair myself, that is money saved I can use for food.

It is going to be a very long time, possibly even years before I will feel safe enough to go back to a salon, to be honest. Make do or go without. I am making do by cutting my own hair. I will go without the salon. 

Another way in which I am making do or going without is air conditioning. I still do not have enough money to get air conditioning for my house, even though it is medically necessary. Heat exacerbates my neuro symptoms. I have to go without, so I am making do.

We are supposed to get a heat wave later this week. I do not have money to buy any more black-out curtains for the windows, so I am going to go ghetto and tape towels and blankets over windows in addition to the curtains I do have. The more I can block the light, the cooler it will be in the house. Or, at least, I hope so. We will see how bad my neuro symptoms get. 

I am making do and going without air conditioning because I can’t afford it, no matter how medically necessary it may be.

What old habits do you have that have come back to help you cope with the pandemic?  

 

Retro Farm Life

IMG_1394

All 3 cats have learned to share the cat tree.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, farmers used to leave cash in their mailbox. The mail person would leave stamps for the farmers. This was common practice in rural areas, as the only time that farm people would go into town was for church on Sundays.

My grandparents were like this. In addition to going into town for church on Sundays, which was the only time Grandpa was not in overalls, there would be one Saturday a month trip into town. On the once a month Saturday trip, Grandma would be dropped off at the grocery store to pick up that month’s supplies, while Grandpa took the truck to Agway to get feed for the animals and any other supplies needed on the farm.

My grandparents’ farm had chickens, cows, pigs, horses and geese. There may have been more animals, but those were the ones I remember. Due to my age, my farm chore whenever I visited would be to collect the eggs from the chickens. I hated this job. The chickens do not like having their eggs taken and would peck at me. More than once, I would be found running screaming through the yard being chased by a chicken with my egg basket dropped on the ground somewhere behind me.

Because I was small when my grandparents had the farm, I did not realize that they would buy stamps through the mailbox. Or, if I did know about it, I had forgotten. I was reminded about it this week when talking to my mother.

Earlier this week, I was super excited because an orange envelope appeared in my mailbox letting me know I could put a check inside it to purchase stamps and any other mail services I need. 

I told my mother how happy I was to have this service so that I do not have to go to the post office during the pandemic. That is when she reminded me – buying stamps through your mailbox used to be commonplace on farms.

My mother and I had a great conversation about how things used to be when I was growing up. We were able to talk about things that happened that totally went over my head as a child, like buying stamps through your mailbox. I told my mother that I am glad she is here because I still have a lot to learn from her.

I have said before that one of the best things about this pandemic is that people actually have time to connect with other people and have more meaningful interactions. As part of my minimalism journey through the years, my goal has always been more quality human interactions. However, I realize that other people are more busy than I am and have other priorities, so they do not prioritize human interaction as I do.

Talking to my mother, she said that quarantine wasn’t that big of a deal for her. Growing up on the farm, they did not go out much. As I said earlier, there was the once a month Saturday trip, and then church on Sundays. You only made your grocery trip once a month. Groceries were to supplement what food you had from the farm.

Growing up, we always had venison for meat. My grandfather and all my uncles were hunters. We never had ground beef because it was expensive. Many people who meet me think that I am a vegetarian because I do not eat beef. I am not a vegetarian. I do eat beef – if it’s cheap. As someone who grew up dirt poor, beef was always out of our price range, so it is something I am not used to having. It is not a necessity, it is a luxury item.

My mother and I had a great conversation about how things used to be and realized that things do not change all that much. Well, the world has changed, but when you are used to farm life where you did not go all that much, then quarantine is not all that different.

As we are in this quarantine situation, I have been seriously evaluating my wants and needs. I have also been thinking more about my routines.

Grocery shopping once a month sounds really good to me once this is all over. Previously, I had been grocery shopping twice a month due to my pay schedule. If I can switch to once a month, then that reduced my potential exposure for when the second and third wave of the coronavirus comes through. 

There was also a time in college when I was having a very hard time financially that I remember going grocery shopping once for three months. I would get my student loan money, get a bunch of food at the store, then when it ran out .. well, that was it until the next semester student loan payout.

There are some items I have ordered online as a result of the pandemic that are set up on an autoship basis that I am going to keep going once the pandemic is over. When you think about it, it is similar to the old buying stamps through the mailbox routine.

Another aspect of farm life we reminisced was that one Saturday per month was haircut day. My grandmother would put a sheet down on the kitchen floor. She would place a stool in the middle of the sheet. Donning an apron, she would stand there with a pair of clippers while one by one, my grandfather and then my uncles would sit on the stool without a shirt on to have their haircut. The girls would sit on the stool and my grandmother would take a pair of scissors to cut all our bangs straight across so they were out of our eyes. 

Right now I have a pair of hair cutting scissors that I have used on myself. I have not been able to get clippers because there are none to be had. I have already said numerous times how happier I am having short hair because it is easier for me to take care of. I am totally fine with using the scissors to cut my own hair for right now. 

When clippers are available from the manufacturer again, I do want a pair. My goal is to go back to farm life and start doing my own hair so that I do not have to pay to go back to a salon again. Yes, there is a very good possibility that I will just buzz all my hair off at some point. I think it will be easier this way.

These are trying times and we need to remember what is an essential need and what is a want. As much as I like my hairdresser, paying $50 for a haircut is not an essential need. I can do it myself, and probably will from here on out. 

I wonder what other retro aspects of farm life will be making a comeback? Are you planting a victory garden? I have toyed with this idea, but since I do not do well in the heat and the initial monetary outlay are detriments to me right now. 

This is the perfect time to remember and evaluate what is important and what is not.