Stir-crazy, broke, and isolated
December 7, 2017 6:08 AM   Subscribe

I live in a super small town in southwest Virginia (just outside Blacksburg) with my mom. I don’t drive so getting around can be hard. My mom is away, so right now it looks like I’ll be stuck at home all day today, tonight, and tomorrow. I get paid tomorrow, which means that today I’m dead broke. I’m looking for tips on not just surviving these couple of days but actually enjoying at least a little bit of them.

I live in a very very rural area. Our shopping is limited to one gas station, and even that would require walking along the four-lane highway for a while. There is a town about 15 minutes away, but there’s no bus service to get there. Uber will sometimes come out here, but that’s iffy. Plus expensive (I can’t afford an Uber today). My neighbors are great about helping with rides, but I’ve already asked twice this week.

I can get pretty down when I’m isolated and stranded like this, especially since the weather is gray and cold. I’m looking for things to do to stave off the stir-craziness. I love art and writing but have been doing a ton of them lately. I’m sick of tv/movies. If I get industrious, I’ll tidy up some and maybe try a new recipe. But I can’t think of much else to do that will make me feel any better. I think since I'm already feeling pretty down about being stuck here, especially when broke, it's harder to convince myself to listen to language tapes or do yoga or things that might be popular suggestions.

I think the worst part is the isolation. I get isolated here fairly often, and it’s really gotten old. I don’t have a ton of local friends, but I’ve reached out to the ones I do have. It’s such a busy time of year, and a lot of friends have families or really demanding jobs, so it can be tricky to be social.

So yeah, this could be a rough couple of days, and I’d love some ideas on how to improve this bad situation. I’m especially looking for ways to social contact (even if it’s just sitting in the library), ways to cope at home, and ideas on getting to town when super broke. Thanks.
posted by mermaidcafe to Grab Bag (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe this counts as art, but if you have paper and scissors what about surprising your Mom by making paper ornaments and decorating the house for the holidays. There are a lot of different styles of ornaments to try, from simple paper snowflakes to large modular origami pieces.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 6:18 AM on December 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

What about asking your neighbors if there's anything you can do to help out around their homes? Rake leaves, small repair projects, something like that, or maybe someone has small kids you can entertain while they wrap Christmas presents or take a shower or something? You can either explicitly tie it to wanting to repay their generosity in giving you rides or not. Ideally though it gets you out of the house and productive, plus maybe some human interaction.
posted by mskyle at 6:32 AM on December 7, 2017 [22 favorites]

Ask around and ask if anyone needs help with anything - walking a dog, a bit of yard work, decorating with lights, housekeeping, watching over kids, light cooking... In exchange for some help, they might be willing to pick you up and even pay you.
posted by HeyAllie at 6:34 AM on December 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

I live not far from you - Ride Solutions might be able to help. They are based in Roanoke but cover NRV and the whole region. Carpools, transit options, bike-commuting, etc. They connect people with each other and with transit options. Lots of people commute from your town to Bburg and Cburg; maybe not today but if this is a regular thing, then you could plan ahead to catch rides into town in the morning and make a day of cafe-writing and sketching, or volunteering at an animal shelter, then "commute" back at the end of the day.

As for today, it is chilly but clear, so get out of the house and make an adventure of bundling up for a goal-oriented walk:

- find five things that are inspirational for you
- come up with two ideas for art that embrace the grey (I looked at the link in your profile, and your art is GORGEOUSly bright and colorful, maybe there's some value in channeling your inner Bronte to mix things up)
- create a new recipe based on what's in the house, for a warm cozy drink to treat yourself with when you get back home.

Or if you don't want to go out:

- do something at the house that your mother maybe can't do anymore, or has been meaning to do forever but you know she never will
- use your phone camera to do a photo essay about looking with new eyes at the things that surround you in your home but you don't notice anymore because they've been there so long

Good luck. Once you get paid or have access to a vehicle, maybe go out to the Cascades, and Barney's Wall if you want to go the extra mile. Everyone loves it during summer but it's really beautiful this time of year.
posted by headnsouth at 6:40 AM on December 7, 2017 [12 favorites]

A lot of people get real social value out of online multiplayer gaming - have you ever tried that? Also sometimes I stream other people gaming on Twitch or YouTube while making art and some of the conversation that goes on feels somehow participatory/social for me in a way that television and movies don't.
posted by vegartanipla at 6:43 AM on December 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

I would suggest making yourself a schedule for those days. A nice day to myself can go downhill fast if I just kick around the house.

I'd brainstorm what you'd like to do, like the tidying and some cooking, yoga/walking/stretching, art, writing, music, language studies, then break up your days by am & pm and assign one high energy activity followed by one low energy activity per block, like

Day 1 AM
language studies

Day 2 AM
tea & books (my favorite low energy activity!)
listen to music
posted by carrioncomfort at 6:48 AM on December 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Walking to town? Presuming you are physically capable, walking is great physical activity, not generally too strenuous, and could get you to town maybe? Our culture seems to ignore (or make difficult) the possibility of walking as transportation, and I personally have been trying to do more of it, and honestly some times where I live, it's faster than a car with traffic and parking. 20 minutes a miles is average I think, and 5 miles really isn't that far...
posted by j810c at 6:52 AM on December 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

I’ll gchat with you for a few minutes tomorrow! Or write me a letter, and I’ll write you back! I’ve done this with a few mefites and it’s fun! Memail me if you’d like a gchat add or my address.
posted by functionequalsform at 7:03 AM on December 7, 2017 [6 favorites]

Is there anywhere nearby or in town that you could volunteer at for the day/night? Depending on who it is, a drive to/from can often be arranged if you're giving a few hours of your time.

I'm thinking a soup kitchen, library, seniors home, etc. You'll get a lot of social activity that way and the bonus is - you may feel really good about yourself afterwards.
posted by notorious medium at 7:17 AM on December 7, 2017

Being totally alone sounds like a complete dream to me! I would spend this time dropping all expectations of decorum: blasting my music, hanging around the house naked, and eating directly out of food containers or pots and pans. I would go outside and jog around or something so i don't feel like a slob.
posted by WeekendJen at 7:18 AM on December 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

Do you have a bicycle? If you're physically able to ride, that can dramatically increase your mobility options (now and in the future). I bike year-round in upstate New York, but even people who aren't as badass as me generally find biking to be comfortable as long as it's above freezing.
posted by metasarah at 7:37 AM on December 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

Any neighbours close by with dogs? Walk over and offer to walk or throw a ball with their dog for a while. Everyone appreciates a tired dog!

Since you have internet, learn a new skill via any of the millions of online classes or youtube?

Audiobooks or podcasts while just chilling, sitting on the couch and drinking your warm beverage of choice? Maybe doodling/drawing/knitting/etc as well to keep your hands busy.

If you can track down a used bike you can borrow, that might be useful to get into town. There's probably a non-zero chance a neighbour has one thats just collecting dust in a garage or something. Might just need to add some air to the tires -- that gas station should have air.
posted by cgg at 7:41 AM on December 7, 2017

Take a walk and listen to a podcast? (2 dope queens would be my choice)
posted by raccoon409 at 8:34 AM on December 7, 2017

Go for walks and be a naturalist of your local environment. Sketch the plants, watch the bugs, listen for birds. There’s a great free app called LeafSnap for identifying trees that should work great in your area. Then come in and make some hot chocolate!
posted by bluebird at 10:49 AM on December 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

I find walking and bicycling much more interesting when I can integrate cell phone or some other form of photography and share the results online. This piece by David Sedaris also has some ideas for purposeful walking in your community:

Stepping Out.

Having decent cold weather clothing can be really helpful to, as the weather ceases to be an excuse for not going out. But living in that kind of retail desert sounds very difficult.
posted by mecran01 at 12:02 PM on December 7, 2017

There are a bunch of good ideas upthread but if you want someone to text throughout the day for those little lonely moments, please memail me!
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 1:43 PM on December 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

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