If another series of lockdowns are to happen, here is what you need to read:
Four months. Fourteen weeks. One hundred and four days. With only the most limited exception of a combined two hours when I met with some friends and the thirty minute weekly trip to the grocer and back, I lived those days in practical isolation.
While a story of quarantine is not unique – nearly everyone in the world has now had to deal with some kind of limited movement given the rampancy of COVID-19 – mine does hold some special details. For one, I was living alone in a foreign country, some five thousand miles away from my hometown of Las Vegas. Second, I was/am immuno-compromised, meaning my body is both highly susceptible to and weak against diseases. I’ve already had to visit a hospital for your basic flu before, so you can imagine how I might fair with a pandemic-causing virus. Lastly, I have struggled for years with anxiety, depression, and suicidal tendencies. All of these factors made my own experience … interesting, so say the least. Breakdowns were not uncommon. And while I would not care to repeat the experience, like so many other trying times, there are some things to be gleamed from my time with myself:
Be Frugal, but Don’t be Afraid to be Frivolous when Necessary: I can never, in good conscience, tell someone that money is no object. It most unfortunately is, and how one decides to spend it can be quite consequential on their life as a whole. That doesn’t mean, however, it needs to be spent only on the bare necessities. If your budget allows for it after saving and paying the month’s rent and other living expenses, you don’t need to be too hesitant about buying something for yourself. A stupid simple splurge can be a lifesaver in the most literal way sometimes.
Talk. Long, Often, and with Anyone who will (Actively) Listen: Life presents many challenges. It also, evidently, likes to make them compound when things get difficult. Though there are plenty of fantasies about the will of singular men in the face of complete hopelessness (Bruce Wayne, Chuck Noland, and the like), I can confidently say that life’s strenuous nature is significantly eased if you have someone to speak to. Simple calls to old friends and relatives can do wonders – even the most mundane of topics can rekindle relationships, provided the person you’re calling is actually engaged in speaking with you.
Perfection and Productivity are (Slightly) Overrated: I know. It seemed everyday there was some new update on someone’s LinkedIn; a paper published here, a course completed there, certification for this, that, and everything in between. Even I was guilty of trying to make the most of my time in quarantine. While I applaud those who can, even if we have the time most of us simply don’t have enough energy to work day and night on tasks, particularly just for the sake of completing those tasks. Find satisfaction in what you like and can do, and don’t mull over what all you could have done.
Power it All Down: It’s ok to put the world away for a while. Shut off the computers, turn off the tv’s, unplug the telephone if that’s still something in your house. A simple nap, a little light reading, or a simple game of solitaire can help to center you a bit and calm things down from the 24/7 fast-lane lifestyle of the internet and the digital age.
Enjoy your Vices: Keyword “enjoy.” It’s ok to dabble in having an extra drink or puff or that extra scoop of ice cream. What isn’t ok is to drown yourself in the stuff. If not for your health, take it from someone who had only a half pint of moonshine and a bottle of whiskey to get him through online classes and being alone – a little needs to go a long way sometimes, especially if the liquor store is outside your designated quarantine zone.
Don’t Compare Two Tragedies – It Belittles them Both: This ones a bit long but its important. During the pandemic, I watched a lot of saddening news. I saw reports on oppression in Xinjiang. I watched George Floyd’s death and memorial service. I heard too many sirens each night in Segovia as dozens were driven to their final resting beds. In each case, I would see people online, protesting and demanding betterment and change. In those same posts, however, some would denounce anything other than absolute support for their righteous beliefs, or vehemently criticize anyone who tried to empathize with them over anything other than events of nearly exact nature. Likewise, I would see those who would attempt to state how their own personal misfortunes and sacrifices or that of their long-dead family members were somehow more distressing than whatever had captured the news that week. Now, I can’t and won’t tell someone how to protest, or how to grieve, or how to memorialize their own sorrows. What I will say is that something must be said for intentions and compassion; for example, a man like myself – straight, white, blond-haired and blue-eyed – will in all likelihood never face the blatant cruelty of institutionalized discrimination. That does not mean I am incapable of feeling rejection, or hate, or pain, that I have never dealt with death or anguish. Are these afflictions the same? No. Should they be treated the same? No. Should one even be mentioned during the mourning process of the other? I would think it inappropriate. But, should each be treated with a dignity and grace befitting of the lamentation? I believe so.
Do Something Stupid Each Day: Yessir. Sometimes you just need something fun and completely and utterly useless. Prank a friend. Dance to whatever guilty-pleasure song you like. Build a pillow fort. My personal go to was watching several idiots play video games – a fan favorite would have to be UNO: the Movie (just know, its got some strong language). Do something, anything, to smile.
That just about covers it, save for the most important of all: Some Things are Best Left Well Enough Alone. That should come without explanation.