My Retired Life

Is this the new normal?

By Donna Cordello

Donna Cordello
Donna Cordello

Funny thing is now that I’m retired and have the luxury of sleeping in, I usually can’t and just wake up without an alarm clock.

I have my coffee and the first decision is — do I really want to watch the news first thing in the morning or should I take advantage of a little more ‘ignorance is bliss’ time?

Then, the big decision of the day: Why do I have to put a bra on, when I have nowhere to go? Truth is, if I went out and bought an entirely new wardrobe, seven pairs of new sweats or pajamas would probably do the trick.

And that’s not like me. In fact, nothing these days is like me. When I was working and had deadlines, I could easily meet them while multi-tasking. But, lately, I look at dangling projects and have a ‘maybe tomorrow’ mindset. And, the reality is, I have never been this lazy.

I’m eating out of boredom. I’m constantly sighing. And I’m anxious at times. And trying to figure out what the heck is wrong with me.

And then, I realized the answer is crystal clear. I’m depressed.

There I said it. I’m depressed. And I feel embarrassed because I have so much to be grateful for: a beautiful loving family, fabulous friends, a nice home and on and on.

It’s not that I’m so depressed that I can’t function or be productive — because I know I can. It’s just that on most days, I choose not to — unless you consider watching endless reruns of “SVU” on television an accomplishment. The good news is that even though I’ve watched every episode of “Law and Order” countless times, I always forget the ending so it’s kind of like watching them for the first time.

Maybe, the isolation of this past year has finally gotten to me. It wasn’t so bad in better weather when we ate outside every day, explored walking trails and fresh air infiltrated my home through open windows. But, being locked in— in the winter, for people like me, who hate the cold — is another story.

When you include the mandatory quarantines, along with the breaking news reports, which are always dismal, it’s depressing. I can’t find another word for it. And, the insurmountable amount of hatred in this world surely doesn’t help, either.

We have all faced new challenges and have been displaced in one way or another. And because of it, now, more than ever, we need each other. But instead of bonding closer together, some people are drifting further apart. It’s so sad to see relatives and long-time friends argue and sever relationships over politics and issues that they have absolutely no control over. When did we lose our ability to be kind to one another, despite our differences? Is it because our tolerance and patience dwindled and outright disappeared because of what’s going on around us?

Children are in a foreign social and learning environment. Parents are struggling to manage schedules and working at home in between changing diapers and preparing dinner. Essential workers are wearing protective gear for hours on end. Businesses are trying to stay afloat while making changes to adhere to mandatory guidelines. Snowbirds have clipped wings along with everyone else. From weddings to wakes, we really can’t plan anything with certainty and have made more cancellations than reservations. What’s even worse is that we can’t even visit and comfort our loved ones in hospitals or nursing homes. It’s been a year where nothing is like the ordinary lives we once knew.

The physical things we’ve always done without a thought have changed, too — even the simplest things, like wearing glasses. They fog up when you wear a mask so you have to figure out how you can see and breathe through a covered nose at the same time. Or when you walk into a grocery store and realize that you left your mask at home or in the car. Or, for me, the biggest change is something I inherited.

I’m Italian. I grew up with lots of hugs and kisses. I’ve carried these outward displays of affection throughout my life and it’s how I greet and bid farewells to relatives and friends. But now, when we rarely do see each other, we bump elbows and blow air kisses, out of fear of getting sick, or worse, getting someone else sick. And it goes against my tradition, my instinct and the very core of who I am.

It’s not my ‘new normal’ but my ‘new abnormal.’ And honestly, something I don’t thing I’ll ever get used to. And that nobody else should have to either. Because, the human touch is medicine for the soul and sometimes, nothing is more welcoming or comforting than a warm embrace.

I guess the sooner I accept all the changes in this world, the better off I’ll be. I realize I’m in a much better place than many others are. And, although I’m grateful for all the blessings I possess, it doesn’t alter the way I’ve been feeling.

So, instead of beating myself up for thinking I have no right to be depressed, I’m owning it, because I know it’s temporary and maybe even somewhat normal for these times. And, I know the things I have to do to get out of this miserable slump I’ve found myself in.

I’ll start off with forcing myself to get dressed every day — even when I have nowhere to go.

Donna Cordello, 64, is a freelance writer who lives in Penfield. She can be reached at donnacordello@aol.com.