Observations from Self-Quarantine

Photo Credit: Amanda Burgess

Hello, friends! How are we all feeling today? How many of you are in self-isolation, working from home or experiencing life in lockdown? I’m on Day 7 of a 14-day self-imposed quarantine after returning from a two-month solo travel adventure on Friday. In that time, I’ve made some Observations from Self-Quarantine that I wanted to share with all of you.

I’d love for you to add to this list with your own observations and advice. One thing I know for certain: Like Rosie the Riveter, symbol of humanity’s can-do spirit in wartime, we can do this. We can get through. Together.

Photo of me as Rosie the Riveter for levity. About five years ago, as I passed my late husband in the kitchen while getting ready for work, he told me I looked like Rosie with the bandana in my hair. Asked me to pose like her. And got a graphic designer friend to create a poster. This image and that memory makes me smile. I hope it makes you smile too.

 My Observations

  1. You will be tempted to live out your days in your pyjamas. You must fight this temptation. Give yourself a limited number of days to do so, because MAN does it feel good at first. But take it from someone who lives the work-from-home freelance life: When you establish routine, when you get up, get dressed and groom yourself for no one else’s benefit but yours, you feel ready to take on the world. Your productivity surges. Resist the urge to turtle until this is all over. The world is going to need people who live by Coco Chanel’s words: “If you are sad, add more lipstick and attack.”
  2. You will feel a loss of personal freedom. Even knowing that this was your choice. Even understanding that your choice is for the greater good. Allow yourself to feel it. Even mourn it.
  3. Your car will feel like freedom on wheels. And if you don’t have a car, your feet will. Maybe you’re not the type to sing out loud in your car or walking down the street. You will now. And even if you have a singing voice akin to nails on a chalkboard, you’ll discover your give-a-fuck meter is on empty. And holy hell, that is freedom too.
  4. If you have animals, you will find yourself having conversations with them. Even if you’ve never done so before (I have). This will feel normal to you. If you weren’t in the habit of hugging your animals before (I was), you will get there. This will feel like sunshine for the soul. Keep talking to your animal pals. You will find that sometimes it’s easier to speak your truth to them than anyone in your life. They’re open to anything you have to say. It’s not about words but energy. And sometimes, it’s not about who hears and receives what you have to say. It’s the power of speaking it out loud.
  5. You can have tight-knit, uber-connected tribes. You can keep in close virtual contact with them. You can understand rationally that you are not alone. None of this will prevent you from feeling that way sometimes. Even if you share your home with other humans. This is a different level of alone than most of us are used to. Maybe you feel like you shouldn’t speak this out loud, because it’s difficult to reconcile what you know with what you feel. Do it anyway. Your people will get you. And if you don’t have people who get you, reach out to me. I gotchu.
  6. You will live for rare moments of live human interaction. You will find yourself striking up conversations with your mail carrier and every delivery person who comes to your door. Even if you’re a lifelong urbanite who couldn’t put names to your neighbours’ faces, you will find small town phrases like ‘well hello there, neighbour’ tripping off your tongue with shocking ease. Maybe you’ll even get to know them and carry that sense of neighbourhood into post-pandemic life.
  7. You will realize that digital connection can never supplant face-to-face human connection. Remember this when self-isolation, quarantine and lockdown are no longer necessary. Take it as the wake-up call it is to look away your screens and be present in the real world as often as possible.
  8. You will have a strong, primeval urge to Marie Kondo your living space. Do this in small, manageable chunks. Because you will also lose motivation sometimes. Ensure that you carve out a sanctuary in your home where none of your efforts are visible to you. Your sanity depends on this.
  9. Music and movement are more powerful mood boosters than any numbing substance. Put your happiest music on and dance like no one is watching. Because no one is. If you share your home with people, make it a mini rave. Hell, host one on Zoom. Send out the celebratory energy created by doing something that humanity has in good times and bad times since we huddled together in caves out into the world. If you’re feeling brave, stick your head out of your window and try to get a neighbourhood sing-a-long like those we’ve seen in Italy going.
  10. It’s okay not to feel okay. But you need to ask yourself why you’re not feeling okay. Where are you living? In the past? In the uncertain future? Hit pause on the apocalyptic movies playing on the big screen of your mind’s eye. Get present. Get grounded in your five senses. Name five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can feel, two things you can smell, and one thing you taste. This helps to settle your nervous system and keep you anchored in the present. Ask yourself: Is everything okay in this moment? This moment is all there is, so take every moment as it comes. Breathe through it. If you can’t stop the spin, reach out to someone who can guide you through it. But remember that the power to do so lives within you.

Amanda Burgess

Amanda Burgess is a Toronto-based writer and creative strategist whose bags are always packed for her next adventure; co-founder of the Sharyn Mandel School in Gobele, Ethiopia; and Acting Editor of Journeywoman. Follow her and her adventures on Instagram @unshakeable.me.

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