Thoughts on the Coronavirus Pandemic – Part 6: How I Spend My Days


One of the things I had to get used to when I retired was not having a regular routine.  My workday used to be pretty structured. When I retired, it took me a while to formulate a new routine.  The fact that Mark had to still wake up every morning at 5:20 a.m. dictated the start of my day. I woke up at the same time, and then we left the apartment at 6:30 together.  After one block, he ducked down the subway. One block after that, I entered the gym.

Now, the gym is closed, and Mark is working from home for the foreseeable future.  The gym being closed is really rough. The exercise was important not just for my physical health, but my mental health as well.  I used to listen to an audiobook every morning for just about 90 minutes. These books relaxed me and expanded my horizons. I still listen to my audiobooks, but I can’t be as consistent with it as I’d like to be, unfortunately.  I will say, it is very nice to not have to wake up at 5:30 a.m. Not having to set an alarm was always listed as one of the greatest things about retirement. I hadn’t gotten to experience that until Mark was asked to work from home during the pandemic, and I will agree, waking up naturally is fabulous. 

As for a routine, I’ve fashioned one, and I try to adhere to it as closely as I can.  Basically, it’s…

  • Sit-ups 
  • Beat Saber
  • Meditate
  • Watch a Dutch video
  • Instapaper
  • iPhone Academy video
  • Do some Blogging
  • Magazine
  • Audiobook
  • Book
  • Television

I have an inflatable exercise ball, and I start the day by doing 3 sets of 25 sit-ups on the ball.

Beat Saber is a game that I play using my Oculus Quest virtual reality headset.

In this game, red cubes and blue cubes are flung your way, each cube having an arrow pointing up, down, left or right.  Your job is to slash the red cubes with the red saber, and the blue cubes with the blue saber, slashing in the direction that the arrow is pointing.  This is all done to different songs that you can choose, at varying levels of difficulty.  

The higher the level of difficulty, the faster the cubes come at you, and the more physical the game becomes.  I’ve mastered the easy and normal level. I can do just about all of the songs at the ‘hard’ level, and amazingly, I’ve managed to do two songs at ‘expert’ level.  I do this for about 30 or 40 minutes, and by the end of the session, I’m sweating. 

I ordered some exercise bands, and when they arrive, the combination of sit-ups, Beat Saber, and exercise bands should make for a reasonable workout until the gym reopens.  

I then fire up my Oak app and do a ten minute unguided meditation every day. 

However, I am finding it tougher to concentrate.  It’s normal for your mind to wander when you’re sitting there quietly meditating.  The idea is to become aware of it, acknowledge it, and then refocus on your breathing.  Now when I meditate, my mind wanders immediately, and I am consumed with pandemic thoughts.  I try to refocus on my breathing, but my mind often drifts right back to them. I still find the ten minutes of meditation to be beneficial, but I don’t think it’s recharging my mental batteries as effectively as it used to.   SEE ALSO: A Review of the Oak App

I’ve been taking Dutch lessons for a little over two years.  Amsterdam is my favorite city aside from New York, and when I retired, I decided to splurge and buy a small apartment there. I typically visit the city twice a year, staying for a few weeks at each visit.  Although everyone there speaks English as well as Dutch, I feel that knowing the native language helps you appreciate and understand the culture better. In January, I advanced to the next level and am now “intermediate”.  It’s a difficult language and when I left in January, I had no illusions of ever being fluent, but I was definitely more comfortable with the language than I had ever been. It’s the kind of language, however, where if you don’t see or hear a little of it every week or so, you’ll rapidly forget it. 

The website has short videos (15 to 20 minutes) on a variety of interesting topics, presented in an amusing way, with the option of adding Dutch subtitles.  I watch a subtitled video almost every weekday. I understand about 75% of what they’re saying, and I’ve learned some interesting stuff.

Instapaper is an app that allows you to bookmark articles that you see on the internet, so that you can read them later on.  It’s a free app. Once you set up an account, you can then drag the small Instapaper icon to the top of your web browser.

If you come across an interesting article on the internet, you just click the icon, and the word “saved” appears at the top of the page, and presto, the article is saved for you.  Over the past few months, I’ve let too many articles accumulate. My goal this year is to read a few each day until I’ve cleared them all.

In October of 2018, I traveled to Goa, India as part of the veterinary humanitarian project, Mission Rabies. During that mission, the staff and volunteers formed a private WhatsApp chat group where we could converse and share photos during the project.  One of the volunteers, Jen, took the most amazing, stunning photos, just using her iPhone. I was very impressed with them, and I made a mental note to figure out a way to master the iPhone.

A few months ago, I started seeing ads in my Facebook newsfeed for an online course that teaches you how to take fantastic photos using your iPhone only. It’s called the iPhone Photography School.  

I looked into it, and it seemed great, but it was a bit pricey. Then, as Thanksgiving approached, they ran a black Friday sale, and I took the plunge. I had another Mission Rabies trip scheduled for February and I wanted to be able to take the highest quality photos that I could. Well, taking that class was definitely the best thing I ever did.  I learned everything you can possibly know about the iPhone camera, and my skills went through the roof, especially when it comes to portrait photography. The course is taught through a series of videos, and they are packed with information. To keep myself from forgetting the important tips and pointers, I try to re-watch some of the videos every day.  They keep my skill sharp, and inspire me. They have a second course, all about the best ways to edit the photos that you’ve taken. That course was also a bit pricey. Recently they lowered the price for a few days, and I signed up. I’m only about 25% through the class, and already I’ve learned some very cool stuff. A few days ago, I learned how to remove unwanted objects from a photo. After each lesson, you’re given an optional assignment.  I found a photo that I had taken while traveling in Ethiopia, of a man praying at one of the amazing rock churches in Lalibela. The photo is one of my favorites, but there’s a second person near the praying man, and I think this detracts from the photo. I tried removing him, using the techniques taught in the video.

I used to have a blog called Cat Man Do, and it was focused mainly on cats and their health.  Now that I’ve retired, my horizons have really expanded, and I thought my blog should expand as well. I gave the blog a new name – Leisure Commando –  and a new look, and turned it into a lifestyle blog. I keep myself busy by happily adding all sorts of new content when I can. I’ve made it my goal to do a little blogging every day if possible.

I used to subscribe to many magazines: Kiplinger’s, Money, Afar, Conde Nast Traveler, Travel and Leisure, National Geographic Traveler, Men’s Health, Mojo, Out, New York, Vanity Fair, plus all my veterinary journals. They would start to pile up, and I would fall behind in reading them, and this would stress me out. I finally decided to pare back.  I stopped several subscriptions and have caught up on my magazine pile.

I try to go out and get a little air every day.  On crappy days, I go up to my roof. It’s not a finished roof deck, it’s just a roof, with a mediocre view.  But it’s outdoors, and it’s a change of scenery. While I’m up there, I listen to whatever audiobook I’ve downloaded. The source of my audiobooks is a really great app called Libby.  Through this app, you can access thousands of audiobooks, of all genres, and borrow them for free. The catch: this is through the New York Public Library, and you must have a NYPL library card to borrow the audiobooks.  I’m a New Yorker and I have a card. This app has been my lifeline. Last year I read 73 books, and I’d guess that 25 of them were audiobooks.  

After Mark and I watch NBC news at 6:30 pm, we eat dinner, and then we spend about two hours watching television.  We have HBO, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime video, so we have a wide selection of things to watch. We watched Tiger King, of course, and last night we watched a bizarre documentary about a cult, called Holy Hell.  We also started a new series last week, called This is Us, and have finished the first season. There are a lot of movies and series that we’ve wanted to watch, and now we’ve fallen into a groove where we’re able to watch a bit every night. 

When bedtime finally rolls around, I get in bed, turn on the reading light, grab whatever book I’m in the midst of, and spend that last hour of the day with all devices tuned out.  The computer is off, and the iPhone is charging in the next room. It’s just me, my book, and my cat. That’s how I like to end my day.

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