American poet Ron Rash once wrote “I have come to understand the world will have its way with us despite what we might wish, or once believed.” This is surely the way we are all feeling during this quarantine, like we are at the mercy of the world, despite whatever hopeful projections we had for 2020. That sort of reality check is not felt in a vacuum. We are each having two separate, yet linked, quarantine experiences.
First there is the macro-level experience that every person experiences as a member of the human race. This is the dialogue on social media, and punditry on the news. This is going to the grocery store in a mask and gloves. This is not going to church, or to the movies. We are all acutely aware of being in a time and place as a society, which ironically brings us closer together even as we social distance.
Then there is the micro-, individual experience. This is felt inside ourselves, and is mainly centered on how the coronavirus is affecting our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. This is about pushing some goals till later, and about starting new ventures that are more conducive to quarantine life. This is about re-evaluating what success looks like in 2020. This individual experience doesn’t have to be completely self-centered, because much of it might be concerned with our loved ones, and how they’re getting on. But the dialogue you’re having in this experience is largely with yourself.
Alcoholics Anonymous has it right when they pray for the grace to accept the things they cannot change, courage to change the things they can, and wisdom to know the difference. That is the first practice in overcoming the quarantine blues. When considering the two types of experience we’re having, it’s important to identify what the essential ingredients for change are, so we can adjust our expectations, (and give ourselves a break).
For the most part, we await word from healthcare and government officials about improvements to the virus response: coronavirus tests, vaccines, and the gradual opening up of businesses and states. Big picture stuff. For everything else, the cures for what ails us can only come from us, alone. Maybe it’s time to learn a new skill.
When you look on social media, what is the rhetoric usually about when people talk about learning something new? It’s about improving. We all need to improve, to come out of this time having made something of ourselves if it will have been worth it. While the sentiment is certainly romantic, it might lead people to put undue pressure on themselves to meet arbitrary standards. Instead, let’s talk about positive action. This is a time to do what makes you happy and to learn a skill you’ve always wanted to learn because it makes you happy.
Want to learn to cook? There are plenty of recipes out there that will cater to any type of cuisine you want to take on. Do you want to learn to dance, write, code, or solder metal? We live at the height of the Information Age, a happy time when there’s a tutorial for everything on YouTube. Of course, some activities are still restricted by money or social distancing, but coming up with something to do is going to help stretch a muscle many of us haven’t used since childhood: our imaginations.
Look Good, Feel Good
Much has been said about how we all need to come out of this quarantine lighter and fitter. Again, we can’t allow ourselves to be bullied into meeting the expectations of the mob. But working up a sweat is good for the head and for the heart, and you don’t need any workout equipment to do some good. Your body and gravity will give you all the resistance you need. You don’t even need to do a formal exercise routine; doing yard work or cleaning out the garage is enough to get your blood flowing. If you’re equipped with the proper PPE, you could even ask your family or neighbors if there’s a service project you can help them with. Lightening someone else’s burden will do the same for you.
Ultimately, feeling good is impacted in large part (maybe the largest part) by how you feel in your skin. Whatever your body type, you deserve to like what you see in the mirror. Maybe all you need to do during quarantine is whiten your teeth a bit. Remember that “positive action” are the watchwords.
The Power of Routine
Whether you are logging hours away at a new skill, or you have work and family responsibilities, a routine is one of the best ways to ensure a happy equilibrium. One of the main ways COVID-19 has disrupted our lives is in how comprehensively it has disrupted our routines. No more working at the office, no more traditional date nights, no more Sunday worship services; we are all feeling the loss of our normal grooves.
You can mitigate a lot of heartache by maintaining your routine as much as possible. Your kids still need to finish their homework, your pets still need to go for walks, and you still need to maintain your life.
We can all get past the quarantine blues by fulfilling our responsibilities, and chasing what makes us happy. How incredible would it be to be able to say that despite all, you were still happy while you sheltered in place? It’s possible if we remain smart and explore our creativity.