Some Lessons Learned During Quarantine

Audio Edition Coming Soon!

 

Two and a half months off of work, with pay, is a luxury that a lot of people did not (and continue to not) receive during the COVID-19 pandemic. At my day job, the shutdown came swiftly in mid-March. (For context, I work in a small branch of a public non-profit library system.) At first we thought we would be closed for two weeks. Then it became “indefinite.” I was only required to put in an hour or two of work from home each shift, be it watching a webinar or doing some kind of online engagement through Facebook with our patrons. With so little being required of me, you’d think that I would have gotten so much done during those two and half months. It’s not like I don’t have a backlog of Audio Editions to work through, or a schedule of Obscure Books From Childhood entries to get ahead on, or short stories to transcribe, or a bloody novel to finish writing.

But I did none of these things.

I started and abandoned a few projects around the house. I took walks periodically. I gained even more weight. I read a little, but mostly comfort books I’ve already read a hundred times. I spent more time than I care to admit mindlessly scrolling through Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest. I looked forward to the daily sanity check of evening Netflix Parties as my friend Fox and I blazed through Star Trek: The Next Generation. I poked at my writing, but mostly let it lie. I did my best to obey the quarantine restrictions while every day listening to the rest of my family complain about how useless, unnecessary, arbitrary, and/or draconian the rules were. (Some beefs were legit. Others… not so much.) And I had a chunk of time that I normally would KILL to possess… and yet did absolutely nothing productive with it.

Why?

Well, I think my onii-san, David had the best response when I tried to explain my confusion and frustration with myself:

If it helps, I’ve heard similar things from lots of other people. It’s like, “I have time, but I’m also in an unnatural state of limbo, so I feel off-balance and wary instead of relaxed and free to focus on other things.”

And he’s right. These two and a half months were not a vacation. This wasn’t something that I’d planned and prepped for. Hell, I didn’t know how long I would continue to be paid, or if I’d even have a job. With half of my family laid off, my own vocational demise was a distinct possibility. The uncertainly of not knowing when or if I’d be able to return to work or what it would look like when we did, wondering if the supply chains would hold out, unsure of whether the pandemic would get worse or better… there were (and still are) too many unknowns to make that time productive. Because I felt so unstable, I sought grounding with familiar things, mitigating risk in the only manner I could control.

However, I did learn something useful for future reference. For one, I’m lousy without some kind of schedule. But without a day job to keep the day structured, it’s easy to fall into the haze of “Quaran-Time” where all the hours and days and week run together. And I found it impossible to follow the alarm clock because I knew that there would be no consequences for sleeping in another hour. If I am faced with a large amount of time like this again, I need to follow a order of operations instead of one tied to chronology.

For example, instead of saying, “After feeding the cats at 7am, I will exercise at 8am, write at 9am, and eat breakfast at 10am,” I would say something like, “After I feed the cats, I’ll exercise for 30 minutes. After that I’ll write for an hour. Then I will have breakfast.” This way, it doesn’t matter WHEN I get up and start my day. As long as I do actions in a certain order, regardless of when I start, then I can avoid them temptation to “skip it” because I “missed” my start time and the entire day is thrown off. I feel like if I do that, combined with a “To Do List” written every night before bed of things to accomplish the following day, then I think I may fair better if I am faced with free-flowing time again.

Now that I’m back at my day job, I’m already missing those two and a half months, because now I know that there was an end to them that still left me employed. The benefit of hindsight makes me regret not using that time better, but hindsight also lets me see that I was in no mental state to really be of much use either. But at least I have some idea of what to expect if, heaven forbid, another round of lockdowns hit us. And no time spent watching Star Trek can be considered a waste. ^_^

And on that note… Happy Captain Picard Day!

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