Thoughts from Quarantine

I suppose, technically, I\’m not in \”quarantine\”. Currently, we are under a \”Shelter-in-Place\” which is a little less restrictive than a full-on quarantine as we are still healthy and able to do basic things like \”go outside for a walk\” or \”take a trip to the grocery store\”. I also don\’t have a good \”start date\” to this whole ordeal. Do I use March 13, the day my worked close unexpectedly due to COVID-19, marking the start of working from home or do I use the last day I spent with friends in person, a brunch on March 21? This would make today (April 1) either Day 20 or Day 10 of living this lifestyle — take your pick depending on how strict you\’re being.

I began listening to the podcast \”Our Plague Year\” by Joseph Fink (creator of the popular podcast, Welcome to Nightvale)  which is his documentation, coping mechanism and contribution to the world in this most unsettling time. I do not know for certain that Joseph Fink is an enneagram type 6, but his work certainly gives off a lot of 6 energy and I find it both an unsettling way to pass the time as well as a deep comfort. Odd how that both things are possible. My desire to write was inspired by this podcast. I wanted to, in my own way, contribute to the collective experience that is \”Our Plague Year\”.

I recently watched a talk by Susan Cain, an author and introvert advocate, where she stated that 1 in 2 or 3 people are introverted. That is 33.34% – 50%. From an anecdotal perspective, I find this number to be woefully low. I feel like one of the only self-defined \”extrovert\” that I know. Truly. I imagine the vast majority of my family and friends would (or have) self-identified as an introvert in the purest of terms — needing alone time to recharge and being drained in social scenarios. Some are definitely more introverted than others, but I would be willing to bet money that if I were to do a poll, that the number of my associates who identify as an introvert is way higher than 50%. I feel very outnumbered.

This fact becomes more and more evident as the days and weeks drag on. It is physically tiring for me to keep up this amount of consistent social isolation. It is a challenge for me to stay inside at home for long periods of time and while I know that this quarantine is hard for everyone on some level, it hits the extroverted population particularly hard. Yes, I find ways of connecting over the internet or phone calls every day, and I am incessantly conversing with my husband (or jailmate as may be more appropriate), but at the end of the day, my days of doing \”nothing\” drain my energy in a way that I am not accustomed to and I find myself having to pull from the reserves a lot more often than I would prefer. This is the situation for the foreseeable future and the only way I know how to really deal with that fact effectively is to steel myself for the long-haul and prepare for the energy shortage. And take lots of naps, probably.

What I find to be one of the weirdest experiences of this whole situation is the juxtaposition of the horrific global panic on a macro-level and the very mundane experience of being trapped in my house all day, every day. I think we can all feel the collective anxiety of the world, pulsing in our blood, being fed by social media and the constant news reports — the true double-edged sword in this time of isolation. It raises my blood pressure to read about the trajectory we are on as a country (as a world) and how bad things will get because they will assuredly get worse before they get better. They predict that hundreds of thousands of Americans will die during this pandemic — not to mention the hundreds of thousands of people who have already died from elsewhere. The world is experiencing large-scale trauma and there is no way to completely escape it.

And, yet, the daily experience of my life is so mundane in comparison. Having been told that the best thing we can do in the face of the pandemic is to \”stay the fuck home\” i.e. get out of the way and do not contribute to the problem, scores of people are now putzing around the house, wondering whether or not they should binge-watch the latest Netflix craze (which appears to be Tiger King at the moment, a show that from what I have heard is a crazy train-wreck that I\’m not convinced I want to witness). Yes, I am pumped with all of this existential anxiety and dread while simultaneously lazing around the house playing hours of Animal Crossing. What a weird contribution I\’m making to the collective good.

Animal Crossing New Horizons couldn\’t have come at a better time. With all this unplanned downtime, why not cultivate a little utopian island? But I notice that I cannot keep up with the demands of the game in terms of my own energy. I can get lost in hours of playing (or watching or reading), but when I stop, I realize that I haven\’t physically moved from the couch and I feel even more energetically drained. It is not the restorative experience that I actually need. It\’s great in small doses, in that it gives my mind a break, but I notice it makes me feel crappy if it takes up too much of my day.

This brings me to something I have come to learn about myself over the years. I really need to have a variety of things to do in order to feel good and healthy. I need a balance of inside time, outdoor time, movement, socialization, alone time, down-time, creative time, personal time, etc. If I stay in any place for too long, I start feeling the drain. This is probably why I fill my life with so many things to do, so many people to see and events to be a part of. My friend once looked at my calendar and asked how I could keep up with my demanding schedule — and even I will admit that it sometimes gets too full and too demanding — and I didn\’t know how to answer the question. It\’s just what I do.

My biggest problem is self-regulation. I do not self-regulate well. So, even though I know what I need to do in order to feel my best, I don\’t actually follow through with it because I get stuck in overdoing and underdoing. It is becoming clear to me that one of my strategies for dealing with this in my everyday life is adhering to external benchmarks, structuring my life in such a way that forces me to do (or not do) things at specific times during my day and planning out a series of activities that I would ideally want to do that day (spoiler alert, I almost never actually do them all).

Now my days are far less structured and I find my ability to self-regulate compromised. I simply will not tell myself that I have to do something when I know, deep down, that I don\’t really have to do it. This is both freeing and has unintended consequences. I am both liberated from my schedule and also untethered without it.

My sleep has suffered greatly under this new way of life. I am currently writing this sentence at 4:43am. I shouldn\’t even be conscious right now, let alone cognizant enough to write a blog post (although, in fairness, perhaps my thoughts are not actually as coherent as I believe them to be at the moment). Thankfully, working from home has allowed me more flexibility in terms of when I need to wake up (no more hour-long commute!) so the effects of my sleep schedule being so out of whack aren\’t quite as awful. Really, the worst part about waking up in the middle of the night is my desire to snack. If I could just avoid eating at 3-4am, I actually wouldn\’t mind being awake at this hour, in the silence and darkness of my living room, with only the glow of my screen as I type.

It\’s not a bad time to write, but it\’s a pretty bad time to eat Oreos.

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