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What Covid Quarantine Taught Me About Being Retired

By Elizabeth Dunkel July 29, 2020 Mindset

There were many good things that came out of my experience with my first, and I hope last, quarantine of my life. But given how current events are playing out, quarantine restrictions may float in and out of our lives for some time to come.

Before Covid, I thought I was living my retired life. I had filled up my days with activities, often rushing from one to the next. I volunteered as an ESL teacher at a Latino community center twice a week and fit other activities in my “free” time.

I had a schedule: a museum day, a biking day, a lunch day, a cleaning day, a shopping day. Theatre, opera, symphony, travels.

My city shut down, and suddenly I was swamped with Time (with a capital T!). Nowhere to go, no one to see. Just me, alone in my flat. After a few fitful days and weeks, I finally calmed down with all the resolutions I made and expectations I had and began to live according to my desires.

A Life of True Retirement

In lockdown I discovered the passion filled life of delight that I had always imagined retirement should be.

What did I really feel like doing? I began to explore how I would live if I had nothing planned. It was the great confrontation with the SELF. The self is the purpose of meditation, the art of stillness.

Surprisingly, I found myself enjoying this drift and had my realization: THIS is what retirement is “supposed” to be like. A beautiful flow of time, no obligations, just living by desire and following my passions.

And as we slowly get to the “new normal” of life with Covid – not post Covid as this virus is here to stay – I plan to take this form of reverie living with me because it represents the biggest freedom I’ve ever experienced.

5 Things I Learned About Myself in Lockdown

There may be more positives to be pondered, but the 5 major things I learned about myself are these:

  • I really don’t need to eat a lot.
  • I can live based on intuition rather than schedule (what do I feel like doing right now?).
  • I have new passions I want to explore.
  • I am dependent on the rhythm and flow of time.  
  • I can really live according to my desires, which is what retirement is supposed to really be about.

Luckily, I adore many of the things that a quarantined life implies and imposes. I love to read, and I would sit down and read without interruption.

I’m also a knitter, so I could knit for hours and not feel “guilty.” I would knit and think, I would knit and listen to podcasts, I would knit and watch the telly.

I would write in my journal. I would cook and bake. I would go walking every day, masked of course! I would watch a movie. Or several. There was no one telling me what was right or wrong. I was floating, drifting on my immediate desires. It seemed peaceful and stress free.

Maybe this is what retirement is really about. To go back to that state of being a child and having no obligations and just going with the flow.

The Valuable Lessons

What did I learn in lockdown? How to be with myself. How to truly relax in the moment, live in the present. My tech skills went up greatly as I did all my connecting, communicating, and shopping online.

I learned to have no expectations. I learned about the gentleness of time, of silence, of nature. New cleaning skills and how to knit socks and Stephen West shawls.

Breathing Properly

I deeply immersed myself, through the teachings of my yoga teacher, into a pranayama (breathing) practice. Yes, we need to learn how to breathe! We breathe erratically, shallowly, and unthinkingly.

So, I learned how to divide my breath into the belly breath, the ribcage breath, the chest breath, the front body, the side body, the back body.

I experienced the extraordinary effects of breathing and yoga in a three-day a week schedule of classes and my own practice on non-class days. Today, this is my practice for the rest of my life.

Sleeping Well

I learned to sleep intuitively and naturally, without any aids – no pills, potions, or clocks. I sleep when I am tired, and I can either get up early and enjoy the sunrise or sleep late. I am always well rested. If I have a sleepless night (it happens!), I don’t stress over it and can make it up with a nap during the day.

Making Friends with Solitude

As social as you may be, the fact is, solitude is a big part of retirement. Contemplating, settling accounts with your soul for the life you’ve lived and the life you still want to live. Making friends with your soul – because your soul is your best friend.

Covid quarantine is a historical experience, added to all the great plagues of life. Take your hard earned wisdom and let it inform the rest of your life. As difficult as it was, quarantine can gift you with benefits you will one day appreciate.

What lessons did you learn about yourself during quarantine? What does retirement look like for you today? Have you learned to live like a retired woman? How is this life different from the one you had before you retired? Did Covid teach you something about retirement? Please share your observations with the community!

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The Author

Elizabeth Dunkel is a writer and novelist who recently moved back to the U.S. after living in Merida, Mexico for 25 years. Elizabeth is the proud founder of the Merida English Library. As a Cambridge CELTA certified teacher of ESL, she considers herself not just a teacher but a dream maker. “Teaching English empowers people to reach their dreams.”

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