Saturday, April 11, 2020

Self-Isolation Chronicles: Life After Four Weeks at Home

As of yesterday, I’ve officially been self-isolating for four weeks. I’ve left the house a total of two times - both quick trips to get groceries. Here’s a little background for you: my mum and I share an apartment. She’s retired (she’ll be 80 in a couple of weeks, which puts her in one of the most susceptible age groups for Covid-19) and I work from home. We don’t have a car so we normally travel by bus. Our city’s bus system is decent; it has its issues and annoyances like any other mode of public transit, but it gets us where we need to go. It can be difficult hauling groceries home, but we’ve been doing it for a long time. Near the beginning of March, I saw a lot of my friends in the UK talking about how bad things were getting there. The virus was spreading and so was the panic. People were emptying shelves of food and, of course, toilet paper. Will we ever get over the whole toilet paper thing? It honestly boggles my mind and I’m still hearing people say it’s scarce in a lot of places. Anyway, seeing this on a daily basis made me realize it was only a matter of time before the same thing happened here. My mum and I decided to make as many trips as necessary to get stocked up on supplies so we could avoid taking the bus if things got really bad. We made a total of three trips in the first two weeks of March, with the last one being Friday the 13th. By then, the panic was spreading here and people were beginning to stockpile. I had seen pictures and videos online and on TV of crowds of shoppers and empty shelves, but it was incredibly sobering to see it in person. I was grateful I’d had the foresight to start stocking up the week before because I knew that Friday would be our last trip before going into isolation. I want to note that while we stocked up on essentials, we didn’t stockpile; not only is there only so much the two of us can carry home on the bus, there's are also only so much storage in our two-bedroom apartment. For the first week and a bit, I was in a near-constant anxiety spiral. I pretty much lived on Twitter, reading news from around the world and stories of how people were coping - or not coping. I quickly learned I was far from alone in my inability to concentrate on anything. The countless other creatives who said they were unable to focus on work made me feel marginally better. I wanted to get off Twitter and do something - anything - and yet I’d get stuck in a loop and suddenly huge chunks of time had gone by and I couldn’t account for any of it. Reading the news was upsetting and heartbreaking, and left me feeling like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. Between my anxiety and my empathic nature, it was all so overwhelming. Add to that the fact I wasn’t writing or doing anything work-related, and I was a wreck.

The view from my balcony. Wishing on all the stars these days.

It took me about two weeks to wean myself off Twitter. Now I’m on it about as much as I was pre-pandemic. I still haven’t done much writing, but I’m back to reading, which is a huge relief because it’s a great escape. One of the weirdest things about this whole situation is that in the grand scheme of things, my life isn’t that much different now than it usually is. I work from home and I don’t have much of a social life. The only people I typically see regularly (besides my mum, of course) are my brother and my youngest nephew and niece (who I'm currently missing like crazy; their absence is one of the hardest parts of all this). The majority of my friends are online and are scattered all over the world, and my best friend lives out of town so I’m used to not seeing her for months at a time. And yet everything feels different. I think it’s the uncertainty and the fear; not knowing how long we’ll be in isolation, and also being afraid of somehow catching the virus or someone we know and love getting sick. It’s knowing this has affected the entire world, and so many are suffering.

I’m ever hopeful I’ll be able to get back to writing regularly, but I’m slowly learning not to be so hard on myself. I keep seeing people saying ‘this is not normal working from home, this is working from home during a pandemic - it’s not the same’. The thing is, my anxiety often manifests as guilt, and I was feeling a lot of guilt those first couple of weeks. I constantly felt like I should be doing something productive and using this time wisely, but it just wasn’t happening. I told so many other people not to be too hard on themselves, but found it difficult to extend that same compassion to myself. I’m slowly getting better at it. Now I’m concentrating on the things that bring me joy and provide a distraction. Some of them make me feel productive and others don’t - both are valid. The two routines I’ve managed to maintain through all of this are my daily French lesson on Duolingo and my daily step goal. What’s helped with that last one is having an ongoing weekday competition on Fitbit with my best friend and her siblings, in-laws, and a couple of friends. We started around the beginning of the year and have kept it up every week. We've all been doing fewer steps the last two weeks, but we’re still going, and I know for me it’s a huge motivator because it keeps me accountable. I’ve been cooking a lot lately. I’ve always been the main cook in my home and I swing between loving it and doing it out of necessity. I’d lost a lot of interest in it before all this, but since being isolated, my passion has been rekindled. One night my mum pointed out it was likely because I had more time, and I realized she was right; I’d normally work all day, stop to cook and eat, then often go back to work for a bit. It was a chore. Now it’s nothing for me to spend up to an hour in the kitchen every evening, and I’ve gotten back into experimenting and having fun with cooking again.

One of my favourite creations so far; click here to find out what's in it
Talking to friends has been a huge help through all this. I swear I spend half the day sending memes, pictures, and various funny things to my two closest friends. We still vent and talk about the things bothering us, but we always make sure to keep each other laughing too. I've also been chatting a lot more with people on Twitter and Instagram; it's been nice having the chance to grow closer to people I already cared about and to make some new friends too. We really are all in this together and it's important to remember that.
I'm keeping myself entertained with books, Instagram, and Schitt’s Creek. I’ve been gravitating toward the light and funny, and Schitt’s Creek is perfect for that. I guess I’d been living under a rock because I don’t remember really even hearing about the show until late last year. I started watching it a few weeks ago and it’s exactly the type of thing I need right now - hilarious, ridiculous, and heartfelt. I also absolutely love the fact it’s filmed in Canada and features almost an entirely Canadian cast. As for reading, my lack of concentration affected my reading for awhile but I’m back to it now, thank goodness. I’m all about the light and funny with books too, and I’ve been recommending tons of my favourites on bookstagram lately. I have a few blog posts with book recommendations planned too, so stay tuned for those!

How are you dealing with everything? How has life changed for you since all this began? What's been bringing you joy and keeping you sane through this?

2 comments:

  1. I've been rereading the Harry Potter series. I started it before this all blew up, but it's been nice to go back to that world right now and escape into something I know will make me feel good.

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    Replies
    1. That's a great idea! I've actually been thinking this might be a good time for a Harry Potter reread. I always say I'm going to reread it but haven't actually done it in years.

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~Marie

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