Quarantine is a good way to learn about yourself.
Anyone who knows me, even just virtually through my social media, has likely discerned that I’ve not been a happy quarantiner. My reaction to government edicts is to first analyze whether there is logical reasoning behind the restriction. My lawyer brain concluded that the directive that we be permitted to infect only our cherished loved ones while holed up at home, but steer clear of the rest of the human race, strained credulity. I also have a low stir-crazy threshold and am claustrophobic to boot.
Given that character profile, there was no way I was capable of staying put and amusing myself with video games or long-neglected home improvement projects for an ill-defined period of forced inactivity. Luckily my husband is like-minded or there might have been a death in the family.
Once I learned that businesses had been arbitrarily categorized as “essential” and “non-essential,” I didn’t want to insult myself, so I decided to keep showing up in my executive suites office, doing my best to cope with the ever increasing rules about avoiding all mortals and washing my hands until they bled.
My attitude about my own safety was that I was very unlikely to contract the virus since I take good care of my health. If I was wrong and got sick I figured I’d probably live and if it not, I’d be dead. I was OK with all that.
I got on intimate terms with my AirPods and the FaceTime app and tried to cajole my existing clients into not using junk food and alcohol as their sole coping mechanisms. New business contacts were a pipedream, so I had to find other things to do to keep from feeling like a useless slug.
Lessons from the Quarantine
Since I tend to be introspective, I hope you’ll indulge me as I share five insights I’ve gained about myself during this most unusual time in human history.
1. I’m a People Person
Until life went into freeze frame, I’d never considered myself much of a “people person.” In fact, for most of my life I was painfully shy, although in recent years I’ve become much more outgoing, largely as a result of accepting my flawed self and shedding my tough guy lawyer facade.
But I’ll never be labeled a social butterfly and avoid most evening get-togethers because they interfere with my ridiculously early bedtime. However, during the last two months I’ve felt a real need to connect with other human beings. It’s gotten to the point that if I encounter another Homo sapiens who doesn’t immediately dart into the street, I start spewing at them. Suddenly, inconsequential small talk of the type I normally abhor, serves the purpose of forging a needed feeling of interpersonal connection.
2. My Career Provides My Sense of Purpose
I am and will always be a workaholic. So I experienced shock and awe when I realized that the government had put my business on indefinite hold. After all, no one contacts a weight loss coach during a quarantine.
In an attempt to fill my unwelcome free time, I turned my focus to completing my sixth book, this one about my career transition, entitled “How I Escaped Legal Practice and Got Myself a Life.” Look for it on the Amazon best seller list soon. To add to my ongoing education, I enrolled in yet another course in Behavior Change Coaching. You can’t have too much knowledge. Plus my website starting acting up which meant getting to know all the GoDaddy techs on a first name basis. Not what I had in mind, but it turned out to be a great time eater.
While I wasn’t sitting around scrolling social media till I was blurry-eyed, I have sorely missed having a vibrant business that fuels my soul and provides purpose to my life.
3. I’m a Sociologist
I’ve realized for a long time that my approach to living is from the outside looking in, which means that I like to study people’s behavior. The novel adjustments required by the quarantine, including sequestering at home, mask wearing, and social distancing provided me with a unique opportunity to hone my skills.
The media cleared the streets by scaring the bejesus out of us. At least 2 million of us were going to contract a horrific disease and die. If you’re old like me you’re a sitting duck. Wait for the grim reaper.
I found it fascinating to see how people complied with or ignored the various strictures. Most were obedient even if they weren’t totally sold on the necessity for the drastic measures. Attitudes defied categorization in terms of age or sex.
Now that we’ve endured this wearisome life-on-hold state for over two months and the more draconian rules have started to ease a bit, most are still trying mightily to be obedient, but many can no longer pull it off. We’re reverting to our cultural social distancing which is quite a bit closer than 6 feet. And while we’re supposed to continue to walk around looking like bank robbers, masks are hot, uncomfortable, fog up glasses, and impede communication. Everyone travels with mask in hand but they won’t be a fashion statement anytime soon.
4. Normalcy Matters
I’m a person who thrives on routine. Suddenly, nothing was normal. My gym shuttered its doors. Retail establishments went dark. My body got stiff without its assisted stretching and massaging. I couldn’t window shop at the mall and get my 15,000 steps.
I struggled to maintain some pale imitation of pre-isolation life but the reminders were all around me. My formerly bustling executive suites have turned into a ghost town.
Unlike me, most people were far more obedient, staying in except to boredom shop and treasure hunt for toilet paper at Costco or their local grocer. When they ventured out strangers eyed each other with suspicion and an eerie silence prevailed. The sidewalks, streets and highways offered unaccustomed clear sailing.
It was all very unsettling. I don’t like anyone taking away the hallmarks of my normal cushy existence. The rules seemed scattershot. Why were liquor stores and dry cleaners open but golf courses, hair dressers, and hiking trails closed? It was all very arbitrary.
5. Nightmares Exorcise Demons
This last insight amused me. After two months under quarantine, I began yearning to do things I never even wanted to do when I could. I was dying to go into a clothing store, touch fabrics and try on clothes. I wanted to go to the theatre and see a movie, any movie. Normally an infrequent restaurant diner, I felt an urge to have someone else prepare a ginormous greasy, salty meal for me.
These perceived deprivations must have been rattling around in my brain because a few nights ago they exorcised themselves. I dreamt that I was at Maggiano’s staring down a massive mound of buttery, creamy pasta, thinking it looked yummy. Not likely in normal life, but apparently a craving for normalcy expunged in a dream.
What did you learn about yourself in quarantine?