What stage of self-isolation are you at? I’m looking back at Celia of early last week. I had seemed to be at a pretty good stage considering there was and still is a global pandemic outside my well sanitised front door. I had fully embraced the ideas in those judgy “Here’s what you should be doing while self-isolating” articles and begun to use the word “pivot” when talking to job recruiters and financial advisors.
Without having a commute, an office or a full-time job after temporarily being stood down to worry about, I was confident I could fill the empty days pretty well. I would build up my freelance writing client base. I had also often fantasised about early retirement, and this was finally an opportunity to make my dreams reality. I could get around to projects I kept putting off for rainy days or not being able to do because of that poor excuse of not having enough time on my (well washed) hands. With 24 hours of every day for the next couple of months in my sights, I was excited as I started planning my week.
Starting Sunday, I scheduled morning Tai Chi with beginner videos on YouTube and slow-cooked the fuck out of everything I could find. I Instagrammed every meal. Afternoons were for walks, my imagining was that once I had built up a level of fitness (my fitness being at a level zero), I would turn the walks into jogs, then eventually runs. I re-potted plants, started listening to self-improvement podcasts and started a fresh new writing journal. I sanitised my front door handle, keys, fruit and the actual hand sanitiser bottle every 45 minutes. Mega productive.
Then Thursday came.
Did I do Tai Chi that morning? Did I fuck! Had I progressed to walk/jog yet? Nah, I was too busy growing anxious even to go outside. A friend suggested I must have been writing more, what with all this free time. Nope. Was I showering or dressing? Barely.
Instead, I went into the kitchen in my bathers and poncho and reached for the dry pasta in the cupboard above the bench. A few hard strands of my pre-breakfast snack of choice fell from my grasp and onto the laptop perched on the bench below.
“Do you mind, I’m trying to work here,” my husband said with annoyance, papers and cords and pens spread out all over the kitchen, which inconveniently had somehow now transformed into the Asia Pacific Region for his company, rather than somewhere I could create a delicious dish.
Resigned to hunger, I retreated to the bedroom, closed the door with a clink and lay down for roughly six hours. When I wasn’t drifting in and out of consciousness, I was holding my phone up to my unkempt hairy face, with my eyes growing drier than my over-sanitised hands. I was staring at articles on the 49 most stylish celebrity houses, watching videos showing how they make choc-tops and icy poles, playing this crossword game I am convinced is spying on me and shows me ads for sniper game apps in between levels, and checking Instagram so many times that all the stories of other people's food had run out.
As day became night, I woke up in a puddle of drool and also in a panic. Despite it not even being a week, I became anxious about being unproductive. It was only Thursday and I was already falling behind on my Tai Chi. I was worried about my employment, about money and germs, being cooped up in a confined space with my husband and cat with easy access to cooking knives and more importantly, I was running out of Maggie Beer recipes to cook.
If the Maggie Beer thing wasn't bad enough, I hadn’t pivoted at all or done anything about looking for income since Monday. To be fair, it is hard to pivot when you’re wearing a horrendous grandma-style dressing gown and beached, face down on the bed, but still. I hadn’t cleaned the bookshelf OR washed the cushion covers. I was worried about the increasing number of Houseparty calls that required me to look an acceptable level of sober. I stressed out trying to think of something exciting to say to friends that I had been doing with all the free time that wasn't related to not wearing any underpants.
Not only stressed, but I was also feeling guilty. How dare I be anxious or wallow in self-pity when others were out there working their butts off in hospitals and supermarkets, when elderly relatives couldn't visit their grandchildren, or when others didn’t even have homes to self-isolate in?
Globally, we are collectively making massive adjustments to the way we live. These adjustments are stressful. No shit Celia. No one would question someone feeling anxious or stressed in a wartime situation, but this pandemic has been referred to as our biggest global test since World War Two. No wonder I'm bloody freaked out. However, after an afternoon of literally staring out the window today, I am attempting to put my anxieties into perspective. In times of crisis, you realise what’s important.
When you look at it, a lot of us have been given this totally weird but wonderful opportunity to press pause on our lives and to take a step back and assess what we value. I have found it incredibly heartwarming to have unscheduled meaningful conversations with friends and family. I reckon I have spoken to more people in the past couple of months than I did for most of last year, often putting off plans because of life's "busy-ness".
This time is also an opportunity to adapt and grow with the change. I hope to focus on the good and the humour that this incredibly challenging situation has brought out in our communities. I want to be a cheerleader for doing sweet fuck all when you need to and to not feel guilty about it. I think it's ok not to put pressure on ourselves, like I had been doing, to be productive all of the time. I also think it's ok not to put on underpants from time to time.
The anxiety and the guilt, the drooling and the excessive hand washing will come and go. We don’t know when this all will end but if we're kind to ourselves and look for the joy I think that's a pretty good stage of self-isolation to be at. If your joy is to make sourdough and posting all the steps on your Instagram story, knock yourself out, I’ll probably ask you for the recipe after my fourth nap of the day tomorrow.
Here you'll find some unfiltered musings from my brain.
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