“Quarantine fatigue,” they’re calling it. I suppose it’s as accurate of a description as any… And I want to preface the rest of this by admitting that I realize I don’t have much to complain about. I already personally know 4 people who have died from the coronavirus, including my beloved Aunt Nancy; I have friends who are Emergency Room physicians and nurses who are not even able to live with their families right now for fear of bringing the virus home; I have friends who own small businesses who are worried about how they are going to continue to exist when it’s finally safe for the world to re-open, and friends who have been laid off from their jobs. So believe me, I understand that many people have REAL problems right now.
So take this for what it is—the grumbles of a “non-essential” worker who has it pretty darn good. I think there are a lot of people out there who can relate, so I’m just going to say it: This combination of forced isolation and forced family togetherness is getting old.
Just when we were getting used to being empty-nesters, our college sophomore son is back, along with his 6-month-old yellow lab. They’re both here 24/7. One of them sheds like a maniac, and the other has stopped shaving. And they both try to eat everything in sight.
With my husband and me both working from home and the kid waking up at the crack of noon to do his classes online, we are seriously competing for resources. Desk space, WiFi, peace and quiet— they’re all at a premium in our house right now. My poor husband has been reduced to using an old laptop with a broken “J” key, so he has had to get really creative with spell check and cutting & pasting. And I have had to make work phone calls from a quiet corner in our master bathroom while he’s in our kitchen participating in an office Zoom call, where for some reason he feels the need to SHOUT to be heard every time it’s his turn to talk.
We’re even competing for TV time every night, trying to decide what movie to watch or what kind of show to binge…. I usually lose that battle; no “Little Women” in my house, it’s been all Ozark and anything else with lots of action, blood, drugs, and f-bombs… I actually miss the days of aimless channel-surfing; it’s exhausting that every night becomes a television “event” that we all must agree on.
Then there’s the weekly grocery store run involving the donning of the suit of armor— face mask, disposable gloves, bottle of hand sanitizer—and the weirdness of following traffic patterns in the aisles and not being able to socialize when you run into acquaintances, topped off by the frustration that comes from not being able to find toilet paper, frozen vegetables, and the kind of wine that I like— and by the end of the day, I sometimes find myself repeating the Seinfeld Frank Costanza version of a “serenity prayer” with fists and voice raised: “Serenity now! Serenity NOW!!!” You’d better believe I’m ready for a Zoom happy hour almost any night of the week—but in some ways that makes me miss my friends, family, and normal life even more. I haven’t been anywhere worth dressing for in so long, the pierced holes in my ear lobes are closing up.
But this is all the easy part. Even though our workloads and our incomes have decreased during this great pause, my husband and I at least have enough work to keep us engaged during the day. But at night, when everything is quiet and I’m trying to sleep—that’s the hard part. That’s when the worry sets in.
I worry about my oldest son, who is working from home and living with his girlfriend in a city a couple hours away. He’s the newest person in his company—are they going to have to lay people off? Is he struggling with his anxiety? I worry about my parents. Are they staying safe? Is this isolation too much for them? When will I get to hug them again? I worry about the economy, about friends who are struggling to pay bills, about young family members and friends with pre-existing conditions that make them more vulnerable during this time, and so much more.
That’s the time to bring out the REAL serenity prayer:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Even though it feels like so much is out of our control right now, there are things we can control. Action conquers fear. Personally, I am trying to embrace action by taking control of my daily routine, by staying in close contact with the people I worry about, by working hard, by following safety guidelines, and by looking for ways to help people who need it. I’m also trying to let go of worrying about things that are out of my control; sometimes this takes incredible effort. My weekly Zoom yoga classes help me with that.
How about you? What can you control in your own environment during this crazy time? What do you need to accept and let go of?