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Embracing solitude: Retiree finds peace in yearlong quarantine

Over the past year, watching sunsets from the window of their New Jersey house was often the best part of the day for Lynn Jones and her husband, especially during the winter. Donated photo Over the past year, watching sunsets from the window of their New Jersey house was often the best part of the day for Lynn Jones and her husband, especially during the winter. Donated photo

In the pre-pandemic world, life was a constant swirl of activity for Lynn Jones and her husband. 

“Our lives were a privileged social shuffle of dinners out, parties, vacations with friends, volunteer activities and self-maintenance appointments,” she said. “The calendar was full, and we dashed from one date and one plan to another.”

For decades, the couple ran an outdoor clothing store on the beach in New Jersey. Now retired, they move between their home in Cape May, New Jersey, and their house in Waynesville, where they live part-time. They were used to being busy during their working years, and retirement was no different. 

“My husband keeps a diary, and he was reading to me what we did last year the first week in March and the weekend before everything shut down,” she said. “It was amazing how much stuff we packed into a day.”

For the past year, there have been no parties, no live music, no leisurely restaurant meals with a tableful of friends, no crowded stadiums. Since mid-March of 2020, the calendar has been empty. To her surprise, Jones found that she liked it that way. 

“It was nice not to have to think about making those plans, and I think you can just get caught up in your lifestyle, and you don’t think about maybe the fact that you’ve overcommitted sometimes,” she said. “I would say that my pre-COVID self would have been surprised that it wasn’t that hard for a year. Maybe it wouldn’t even be hard for two years. I don’t know.”

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Over the course of the year, Jones, 66, often thought of an elderly friend of hers in Waynesville who always asks why she can’t just sit down and enjoy being at home when she’s in North Carolina, rather than filling the weeks with activity. 

“It was just nice to sit on the porch and read a book and do things that you haven’t had time to do,” she said. 

Jones recognizes that fear, isolation and the virus itself have been detrimental to many across the nation and the globe, acknowledging that, “it’s a sign of my privilege that I’m able to react this way.” It’s also a sign of the fact that she’s married to someone she’s actually compatible with — during their working years, they ran the business together, so they’re used to spending their days in tandem. 

“I talked to other people who don’t have health issues and some of our friends that have long-term marriages — and they’re good ones — this was actually a reaffirming time for a lot of people,” she said. 

Jones said they were fortunate in that they never caught COVID and really didn’t know anybody who did. They don’t have children, so unlike many of their friends they weren’t struggling with missing their grandchildren. Their yo-yo schedule between New Jersey and North Carolina also worked out favorably as they often found themselves living in one state while a spike was occurring in the other. 

But as the light grows larger at the end of the tunnel, Jones finds herself thinking about lessons learned and the future ahead. 

“I see us all being a much more cautious society,” she said. “I think there’s going to be a little bit less of the casual hugging and greeting with kisses. I think we’ll all be better handwashers. I think we’ve learned to be outdoors more in cooler weather, which I think is a really positive thing.”

Personally, Jones sees herself continuing to eat out less, benefiting from the healthier options available when cooking at home, and entertaining in smaller groups of six to eight people rather than planning larger parties. Also, she’ll continue to use Zoom for at least one reason. 

“I am hooked on Zoom exercise,” she said. “I hope I never have to go to a gym.”

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