[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.]
"All this social isolation is really getting to me," I murmured to myself as I lint-rolled my yoga pants and attempted to pluck a stray eyebrow hair. I have not been isolating that hard (or at all) during the entire COVID-19 pandemonium. If that fact upsets you, kindly go place your hand on a hot coiled stove top and direct your anger elsewhere.
I haven't been actively isolating, but much of the world still is which means that I'm still working from home which means that I normally don't talk to or see other living humans during the day, which means my brain gets a bit frayed around the edges sometimes.
Sometimes, I gaze longingly at my cat and wish I could nap. And then, I realize I can nap, because my haphazard workstation is approximately a foot and a half from my very large, very welcoming bed. Sometimes I boil rice in the middle of the day, just because I can. Sometimes I put makeup on just to look more human, and sometimes I putter around in my thick, comfy socks for hours before brushing my teeth. Quarantine has not necessarily made me a better person, but it has made certain life things easier. I can do laundry in the middle of the afternoon. I can cook all my meals from home, instead of packing leftovers in Tupperware bins like a 3rd grader allergic to everything in his dreary public school cafeteria. I am putting fewer miles on my car. I don't have to dress like a wannabe business lady. My feet haven't suffered the indignity of high heels in months.
There is nowhere for me to be, so I am never in a rush. I am never annoyed in traffic because I'm never late to my nonexistent meetings. I have more time to consider life things, like where I want to be, or who I want to be with. My tolerance for small talk has degraded significantly. I'd probably rate it a 2/100 because why tolerate petty bullshit when the world is supposedly ending?
There are some things I miss though: going to see a live show, for instance, or sitting in a coffee shop, writing on my laptop and people watching. Once, I overheard a woman bomb an interview in a public Starbucks. Another time, I watched a man yell at his wife then watched her throw her lukewarm cappa-frappa-something onto his chest and walk away. "Yay," I thought, "lady power!" Another time, I watched a homeless man get kicked out of a coffee shop, but not before the barista warmed up a croissant sandwich and handed it to him, carefully wrapped, along with a tall cup of coffee.
I used to do weird things alone out in the world, like sit at Whole Foods drinking red wine and writing about food or brains or existential crises while businessmen bought expensive flank-steak-things and mothers bought overpriced organic fruit snacks for their unhappy young. I would go to Sunday matinees at a tiny theater that played old films and smelled like must. I would ask strangers to pet their dogs and watch them light up as I complimented their pet, "what a beautiful dog," I'd say, "the most beautiful dog I've ever seen." It is wise to compliment people's babies and pets. Nothing will endear you to a stranger faster. Nothing serves as a more universal and safe common ground.
When the pandemic hit, I had to do weird things alone in my apartment, which is much less fun and far less interesting. I started doodling intensely, filling not one but two entire pads of 8x11 paper. I started trying to paint things, crouching on my knees in my bedroom, paint brushes in hand, biting my tongue and producing disheartening results. I started making my own drinks: mixing white wine with red just to see what would happen, or mixing Jack Daniels with different types of beer, or adding vodka to unsweetened cranberry juice (not good). I read a lot of books and unsuccessfully attempted to paint my right hand nails. I scrubbed my bathtub more often and walked along the beach more days than not. I slept just as much, hugged anyone who let me, and gave up caring about the wrinkle forming between my eyes.
I'm getting vaccinated in a few weeks and I'm not sure my life will change much. I will be inoculated from the deadly virus that passed either threw or over me. I will continue to talk to myself, fidget over zoom meetings, and badly mix alcoholic beverages. It is not popular to say, but COVID was good to me, providing a lesson that will hopefully spill over into normal times and indent itself upon my conscious. Namely, the pandemic taught me both to be happy in my aloneness and reminded me that I am anything but alone.
What did it teach you?