Aside from a brief period of time in my 20’s when I experimented with acting my age, I’ve always had the habits of the stereotypical senior citizen. I rise early. I go to bed early, like real early (8 pm). I believe dinnertime is 5 pm, and if I haven’t left my house by 4 pm, I’m probably not going to make it out that day.
I have other similarly geriatric affinities too, which I blame on being raised without a tv. Part of this is undoubtedly because of training. But, even in the off-season, I’ve always been an old soul. Even as a child, I wanted to stay at the table and listen to the adults talk instead of playing. Perhaps labeling these things are geriatric is unfair, but I think that the label for my early dinner and bedtime is certainly apt. Oh, and in case you’ve forgotten, I have bunions, which I only ever remember hearing about prior to my own foot pain as something that reserved for the over-70.
All of this is to say that I associated a daily crossword puzzle habit with a sort of thing that one did after retirement (excepting professional crossword puzzlers, of course). Further, I’m a digital girl living in a digital world, so perhaps I assumed that there would surely be a more technologically advanced way to test my trivia and word skills than with a piece of paper and a pencil. Yet, as I’ve tried to find ways to take a break from constant work without leaving my house, I’ve found crossword puzzles to be the respite I needed. The fact that crosswords are oh so analog is bonus – I’m already suffering from digital and zoom fatigue, so the last thing I need is my recreation to keep me staring at a screen.
We have a family subscription to the New York Times, and while I read the rest of the Times using my app, I cut out the crossword out of our physical Times paper (from the Arts section) every day so that I can work on it throughout the day. Each morning, as I slowly eat my breakfast, and every evening after dinner, I work on the previous day’s crossword. My goal, in general, is to complete a puzzle a day. This isn’t always possible because the puzzles get harder throughout the week – some puzzles take a day and the next breakfast (I see you Friday and Sunday). But, I’ve found myself looking forward to this post-dinner rejuvenation that I find during my crossword puzzle time.
Completing a crossword does, I suppose, make me feel like I am doing something productive in the sense that completing one requires a bit of my brain – but the reality is that I simply enjoy them. They are relaxing, and I even find that I enter a bit of a flow state as I work on them, with time elapsing without my awareness as I work. Flow has been related to improved mental and emotional outcomes, so I know this on its own is good for me. But I also find crosswords incredibly relaxing even without the benefits of flow state. The puzzle aspect, too, is fun – and the reward for figuring out an answer that I’ve been thinking over is an endorphin burst. Finally, there is a sense of connection within completing the puzzles, because readers across the globe are working on the same puzzle at the same time as I am. There is solidarity in knowing that I am working with others and, hopefully, knowing that someone else is struggling with a tough or tricky puzzle when I am, too.
Crosswords are, quite simply, what I needed during this time of isolation.
Have you taken up a new activity during the pandemic? What? Why?