Powerful Lessons Gained from Living in Isolation

Powerful Lessons Gained from Living in Isolation

When country after country announced lockdowns and issued shelter in place orders back in March, it was inevitable that lots of blogs would address the change in everyone’s lives. I have been silent so far, mostly because I write my posts a month in advance. Way back in March, I figured the isolation would end by the time I had a chance to say something.

Now we’re heading into our third month of this global pandemic, and our province is just beginning to ease restrictions. It seems the foreseeable future is still going to involve minimizing personal contact outside of the people we live with. If the lockdown ends by the time my birthday rolls around (beginning of June), then this post will serve more as a retroactive look at living in isolation.

But I have a feeling social distancing isn’t going away any time soon.

Isolation Describes My Life

When warnings to socially distance first popped up at the end of February, I didn’t pay much attention to them. I work from home. I spend most of my time working with word processors and only go out once in a blue moon. Social distancing largely describes my daily life.

The first major change for our household came when schools closed. When my husband first mentioned his school was working on a backup plan to teach from home over video conference, I was adamant it would never come to that. But then March Break was canceled. Suddenly, we needed to find a second workspace in our new house.

One of the biggest draws of the house we bought back in November was that it had space for an office with a door that closes. Now I can block out excess noise when necessary. Unfortunately my work, which requires long periods of quiet so I can focus heavily, is incompatible with my husband’s work, which involves a lot of talking and video chats. Especially when you throw my clickity mechanical keyboard into the mix.

After some back and forth on the idea of sharing the office, we decided to dismantle our old guest room. (We aren’t hosting anytime soon.) We set up my old desk and it became the husband’s new office / classroom. In retrospect, it was the best possible solution. It means we both have comfortable spaces where we can close the doors to gain a little privacy.

Isolation has been Unexpectedly Challenging

Living in isolation doesn’t hugely affect my day-to-day. Since I already worked from home, I still get up every morning and try to get my words in. Whether I’m writing, editing or marketing, I have the same goals as before this all started. The biggest difference is that I now run into my husband and talk to him a lot more often during the day. I’m certainly not going to complain about more chances to chat with the person I love most.

The drawback is that it’s easier for us to distract each other. Some days are worse than others. For example, I was working with a new cover artist yesterday. I kept knocking on my husband’s door to get his opinion on the mockups. He was patient with me – which I’m grateful for – but it meant both of us worked later trying to make up for the interruptions. Our shared working arrangements are particularly challenging on days when one of us is distracted and the other isn’t.

But the biggest challenge for me has been staying motivated to complete the same workload I balanced before the pandemic. Living in the midst of a global crisis is understandably exhausting. A lot of the energy I usually put into my work is drained by other things. Like keeping the cupboards stocked, or checking on friends who are heavily affected by the financial aspects of this crisis.

The Difference Between Won’t and Can’t

Many people don’t realize how energy-intensive creative endeavors can be. But my writer friends have sure noticed the brain-drain. Every writer I’ve talked to has expressed how much more difficult it is to perform their regular tasks. A job that might normally take an hour suddenly takes three. Words that once flowed easily now come halting and jerkily in between checking news articles for the latest local blow.

My first and biggest new rule for living in isolation was to check the news less often and read only certain articles in order to keep the weight of the crisis from becoming crushing. There’s being informed and there’s being overwhelmed. I spent the latter half of March and the early part of April overwhelmed.

I found a level of equilibrium sometime around the beginning of May. Made an uneasy peace with accepting that things simply are the way they are. I won’t say that makes this situation easy, but it has helped me stay sane.

Even though I rarely went out before Covid-19, I have learned there is a big difference between won’t or don’t want to and can’t. When you simply don’t want to leave the house, it doesn’t matter how many options there are. But when you can’t go out no matter what, it seems to hover in the back of your mind, shrinking your world to the confines of your home, which makes isolation feel suddenly suffocating.

We Will Remember these Lessons

My husband and I are lucky; Covid-19 hasn’t robbed us of our jobs or made us worry about how to pay next month’s bills. We know many don’t have that same luxury, and we count our blessings every day.

But living in isolation has still imparted many lessons to the two of us.

First and foremost is never to take for granted the conveniences that keep our life easy. The difficulty in acquiring certain supplies has reminded us that there are people – important, hardworking people – at every point in the supply chain. It’s my hope that, when this is all over, we won’t forget the hard work and dedication that allowed us to keep our shelves stocked and our bellies full.

Another important lesson has been that a little goes a long way. It turns out that ordering takeout every now and then, or having a few extra snacks in the house keeps our anxiety levels down. Likewise, every purchase to a local company helps them stay afloat. So wherever possible, we’re trying to make sure our treats support local businesses.

In the end, the world keeps on turning with or without us. The sun rises every day. Winter has faded to spring and nature is out in force. Isolation hasn’t been fun, and I don’t think anyone will remember it with fondness. But so long as we learn something that helps us make a better future for everyone, something will come of the struggles.

And I’d rather stay at home until it’s safe for everyone, than put a single life at risk.

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