I am so over quarantine and social distancing. Everything in me wants to go out to my car and drive until the sun goes down. I want to see something new, feel the air somewhere else.
I’m sure I’m not the only one having fantasies of ignoring the quarantine and going back to a version of life as if it were 1999, I mean 2019. The news certainly shows the nation as a whole trying to impose the reality of 2019 life in August, as the national debate focuses on returning “safely” to school while our nation’s infection numbers are higher than they were in April when schools were physically closed. The frustrating truth is that due to how our government has faced this pandemic as a political issue, instead of a health risk, we don’t have control of the problem.
We are all done with the pandemic, but the pandemic isn’t done with us.
So what are we supposed to do? Ultimately the choice is up to each of us individually based on our level of risk-aversion and our economic realities. Because of my economic situation and health issues I spend most of my time at home. I focus on waiting for a combination of solutions that give me confidence in returning to public life. This means I might be living in quarantine for many more months or years.
Accepting that reality has really brought me down these last few weeks. I see other countries largely back to normal as they use contact tracing, testing, and quarantine strategies effectively. But here we are nowhere near that and it leaves me feeling hopeless. I know if I feel hopeless for too long I will likely take much larger risks because death or chronic additional health issues seem better than putting off the inevitable. That possible logic jump is very concerning given that staying home really is the best for me, my family, and community.
I’ve decided to fortify myself to keep doing what I think is the right thing and that means I need connection and focus. I have seen the power of people and community in bolstering each other through these last five months in ways that deeply inspire me. I want to be a part of this in every way that I can. In that spirit, I thought I would share twenty things I’m doing at home to fill myself up, create purpose, and keep the tedium at bay. These things reflect the privileges, challenges, and opportunities I have. I hope you will comment and share what you are doing. Sharing solutions can give us more to work with and it’s one way we can lift each other up.
- Hosting friends and family game nights over video conferencing
My experience is that this is technically difficult but better than nothing. I wish there was a way to have side conversations as if we were all in the same room. This is my new sci-fi fantasy, video conferencing that allows for easy side talk and mingling.
I have been online shopping from local and Black-owned bookstores. I am nowhere near done reading what is already on my shelves. I lie to myself and say I will finish all of these books by the end of quarantine.
We’ve resumed playing board games and puzzles in our house. We did just sign up for Hunt a Killer because one of my quaran-teammates really likes detective things. That has been a huge hit for a couple of hours here and there of escapism and mental focus.
I have the privilege of a house with some space and I am currently growing plants with a focus on edible and medicinal. However, one of my quaran-teammates lovingly calls it “the bartender’s garden.” He’s not wrong.
- Drive or walk to the local county parks
The drive breaks up seeing the same things. The hiking is a bit of a risk, but so far we have been able to find places without much crowding allowing us to meander with plenty of social distancing and we have our cloth masks.
- Movies & Binge watching
I think most of us have been there and done that. I’m trying to make it more special lately by making a special snack or treating it like a slumber party with blankets and pajamas.
- Spa Day
It’s amazing the household things you can use to make a rather luxurious spa day. Pinterest for homemade masks, foot baths, skincare, and then make it. Bonus, pair treatments with a movie to make both feel a little more special.
- Podcasts & Audio books
While gardening and cleaning, if I’m not in the mood for music, I try one of these to feel like my house is full of new and fascinating people. I really loved the New York Times podcast Rabbit Hole and my go-to is NPR’s Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me.
- Make a game out of the mundane
Pick or have a roommate pick one food item in the kitchen. Then try and make a meal with it. My kid created a family game where you get points if you are the first person to recognize a Michael Jackson or Panic at the Disco song. It makes driving and hanging out listening to music much more exciting especially when you are the first one to shout out “MJ point” or “Panic point”.
- Perfect a drink recipe or invent your own
This summer I am working on developing my favorite sangria recipe. So far I have found multiple ways that I enjoy this drink, which makes settling on my signature recipe very difficult!
- Gratitude and appreciation
I try to find things I am grateful for every day. I’m also working on telling people what they do that I appreciate. There is a lot I am frustrated with right now, and it seems to make the lovely things people do shine even brighter.
- Exercise creatively
I like to walk and I used to go to the gym. Now I am working on re-imagining workouts around my house. This is an adventure.
- Clean and organize that thing
Clean behind the fridge or go through the junk drawer. It’s better than staring out the window for another hour while contemplating how to tactfully respond to that email.
- Go through my camera roll or old photo albums
I do this often. I like to see my kiddo growing over the years and to imagine revisiting the places I have gone to. It’s bittersweet, but overall I like the mental vacation.
- Slow down and find pleasure in the small things
I feel like each day is impossibly long and short at the same time. Leaning into a task with intention and detail can be a balm. My husband pours a cup of coffee and then sits outside to see if any birds or squirrels wander by. I try to single-task. Normally, I would watch a television show and fold laundry, while trying to figure out what to make for dinner. Now I force myself to do one task at a time, like making each drink with intention and the occasional garnish.
- Study something new…give up, and try again
I keep starting, quitting, and restarting the study of Spanish and Japanese languages. Not having anyone to talk to in my emerging practice seems to slow me down, but I’ll get back to it again soon.
- Reach out
Call, text, and write to everyone. We all feel some amount of loneliness and loss. Imagine what hearing from someone would do for you. Maybe if you take the first step your actions will ripple out. My experience with this so far is a mixed bag, sometimes it feels great and other times it feels overwhelming. But I think it is worth it to keep trying.
- Small exchanges
Do you have food to share or a stash of toys that could brighten somebody’s day? A few months ago in our neighborhood kids were writing encouraging messages in sidewalk chalk. People put teddy bears in their windows to give toddlers something to count on walks with their family. One person provided painted rocks with encouraging statements around #BLM and left them in the park. Neighbors offer help on the Next Door application. A few people have Little Libraries or boxes with books marked free. A friend organized a puzzle exchange. All of these actions make me smile and remind me we aren’t so alone.
- Give back and lift up
So many people are hurting and need support right now. There are endless opportunities to lift others up through donating money, making and donating masks, signing petitions, attending local virtual or in person city and county meetings, making signs for protests (display in a window or attend), learning about issues including those in the upcoming elections, etc. I do at least one thing everyday to move toward the society I want and to become the person I need to be in that society.
- Build yourself up
I write myself affirmations and put them places where only I will see them. I also talk myself up in the mirror a couple times everyday. I also try to do one thing just for myself everyday, sometimes it is making a special snack or sitting out in the sun for a few minutes to clear my head. I’ve also changed the way I organize my planner. Instead of making weekly and monthly to-do lists, now I write down what I accomplished and spent time on each day. That way I get a visual reminder of what I do contribute instead of what I still have left to do.
What are you doing to lift yourself up and feel connected while social distancing? Please comment and share what is working, or not, for you.