Managing Social Distancing
We’re on something like Week 6 of social distancing. I would not say that I have turned into a totally well-adjusted homebody, but I have managed to find a few things that lift my spirits and create a bit of routine.
I have, for as long as I can remember, been a planner (I have also always used a day planner, even when my days looked nearly identical during the years I worked at the thrift shop). Losing a grip on the future threw me for a loop. I felt anxious, hopeless, and unmoored (I still feel this way for at least a few moments each day).
And then, there was the reality that all of the scaffolding holding up the present fell away, too. Classes moved to Zoom, church services and meetings went online, and suddenly I was in the position to wear my home clothes at all times.
For the first four weeks of staying at home, I tried to pretend that I was on vacation. That meant that I basically never bathed, I stayed in my pajamas all day, and I let go of a schedule.
This is fine – even liberating! – when you’re on holiday for a couple of weeks. But as the days wore on, I realized that I couldn’t keep it up. I was losing my grip on living.
So, reluctantly at first, I changed things.
A Clean Break
First, I took a week off from virtual morning prayer. This was the main thing tethering me to how things used to be, as an expected part of communal life at seminary, and it was helpful to set it aside for a moment in order to fully recognize my new reality.
Without that discipline, I was able to ease into what I needed, and now I am ready to go back when it suits me.
Then, I started taking regular showers, regardless of what time of day I finally felt ready to do so. These are brief and more like wet-downs, just enough to feel a bit more put together.
I put on a pair of stretchy jeans and a plain t-shirt for the morning, since that’s normally when I have classes and other meetings over Zoom.
A Bit of Makeup
When I gave up makeup for Lent a couple years ago, I discovered that I don’t need makeup to feel comfortable living in the world, but that I actually like wearing a small amount of it simply for the self-care ritual and the little confidence boost.
A Power Walk
My physical therapist, meeting with me over tele-health last week, asked me what my goals are for ankle recovery. I told him that, mainly, I just want to be able to walk with no issues. So he prescribed a daily 1-2 mile walk. This has been a godsend, and I am learning each day where the best spots are to avoid the crowds, and discovering beautiful buildings and secret gardens along the way.
A Leisurely Lunch
Since the very beginning of social distancing, I have been relying on cooking as a stress relief. Mostly, I’ve been roasting things (potatoes, cauliflower, chickpeas, broccoli), but I’ve also been making soup in the Instant Pot.
I used to dislike cooking because it felt like an antifeminist thing I was socially forced to do, but now that I am more confident in the egalitarianism of my marriage and have all this sprawling time, it has become something I look forward to.
I’m still in classes, so I have had to strike a deal with myself about getting work done. My professors and school have been extraordinarily generous in their approaches, removing major projects and creating more equitable grading systems, but it is still difficult to put in the work each day.
I learned in the first few weeks that I cannot push myself to do work, because that results in a lot more anxiety. Instead, I commit to one project per day, whether that be reading for section, planning out a paper, or working on a take-home exam. When I tire, that’s it. I put it away.
Normally, this brings me to about 4 in the afternoon, and then I call it a day.
Having a set schedule in the absence of larger or longterm plans has given me a greater sense of purpose. While I am on board with all of the memes and think pieces about refusing to be productive during this time, I think there’s a case to be made that some forms of productivity – even if that means simply washing your face and starting a book – give us a bit of mental calm and clarity.
We’re in this for the long haul, and so we have to live it. I had been waiting for things to “go back,” but realizing that there is no going back and then creating new rituals for what is right in front of me is helping me stay grounded in my body, in my community, and in my passions. Even if things still feel, in so many ways, like they’re on hold.
P.S. PACT Apparel is doing a big 30% off sale for Earth Day through 4/26. I’ll be back with a big review of PACT products later in the week.