A few articles on quarantining have stood out for me these past months, including this one by Julio Vincent Gambuto (which I understand has been edited since I first read it), and this one, with the best title ever, “Fuck the Bread. The Bread is Over” by Sabrina Orah Mark. Each of them spoke to me, loudly. Each reflects on how we will be changed, or won’t be, because the world stopped. Each charged the reader to consider what we thought we needed, what we thought we wanted, what we valued and where we thought we were going. Each points out that perhaps we now have a choice in what to make of this new life, in how we change, or don’t. A choice in how we live and what we intentionally place value upon, once the world reemerges.
Charged to consider these ideals, I began by listing what I love about quarantine so that I can figure out the why. I love:
- No rushing, because there is no where to go, and no where to be
- No birthday parties or school events to buy crap (usually $15-$20 worth of plastic from Target) for and feel obligated to attend
- No compulsory socialization – no guilt driven urge to go see x, y, or z person once a week, or because they invited us, or because we “should”
- No “I’m bored” trips to Target or Michael’s that include leaving with shit I didn’t need because the kids saw it/it was cute and cheap, or worse – it was on super sale and Michael’s/Target made it look so IMPORTANT, and WHAT A DEAL! (They are so good at this.)
- No options to entertain “I’m bored!” My favorite quarantine realization: BORED DOES NOT NEED TO BE FIXED! Not in me. Not in my kids. If I just let bored be, guess what – we all find a way to entertain ourselves (without going out into the world). Fancy that.
- Time to spend with my kids doing . . . nothing. Time that I’m not distracted by planning social events, responding to RSVP’s, signing up for class parties or looking up recipes of things to bring to the “thing” we’re going to on Saturday, or texting friends about what to bring at the gathering on Sunday. Just time. To lay on the couch and flip through a book while they climb all over me, or sit on the porch and stick our feet up on the railing and watch the clouds go by. To BE.
- No fucking planing and scheduling! No weekend plans. No playdates. No RSVP’s, Guess what? The family survives and thrives with no schedule. We wake up when everyone is awake, organically. We do our best with the days we have to get our adult work + the kids work done (this has gotten harder and harder because – guilt that we’re neglecting the kids and we’re their only people), but I wouldn’t trade it – yet.
The crazy result of this lack of obligatory socialization and constant activity? I quit drinking, and that’s a big fucking thing. For the last 6+ years, I’ve been a daily drinker (aside from abstaining during my 2 pregnancies). A daily drinker who drinks a couple cocktails, or glasses of wine, sometimes 3, between 5 pm and kid bedtime at 8:30ish, and can easily put down another drink or two after the kids are asleep while watching Netflix or HBO. So, it’s kind of a big deal to put down the daily bottle of wine +1. Like, a big fucking deal – and it feels really good. I just looked – it’s been 5 weeks tomorrow, that’s kind of a long time. Why did I do it?
Quarantine has offered a lot of TIME, quiet time, time to feel yourself (uh, not like that). I know, there have been many phases of my life when the very last thing I ever wanted to do was feel my feelings and sit with myself. Times when I was barely staying sane in my own skin. When having two kids 15 months apart and the constant needs, and need to happily interact with them, seemed to go better and lighter along with a beer or a vodka-soda or a glass of wine. There were days when I barely made it to 4 pm to have my first drink of the day (my goal was 5 pm). Days I felt like “no-one”. My only meaning was in caring for my little beings and there was no “me” left without one of my precious appendages. There were plenty of days when I didn’t want to see me or hear me, at all. That would have meant acknowledging all the ways I was unfulfilled and mind-numbingly bored. So, all I wanted in moments of solitude was to disappear into an alcoholic beverage and have someone tell me a story I could get lost in – a book, show, or a movie. Being alone with myself, sober, with no distractions, was a quick shower, and even then I wanted to get away from myself.
But, things change. My kids are becoming unique little beings, separate from me, and fierce in personality. They can play together and do small things for themselves without my assistance. Their games are more sophisticated, so playing along is no longer brain-numbing. They understand so much more everyday, and they are funny. Then, there is quarantine, and suddenly now is the time to feel. The perfect time, because there is so damn much of it. I realized I can either drink myself and my wild-animal-children-making-never-ending-sounds away, or come hang out with all that, be present and notice it all.
Being present is so much better than I thought it would be. Looking in the mirror, I like myself alright. My kids are incredible, creative, kind, funny, and so damn smart and insightful, and even though they are loud as shit and crazy as hell, I don’t want to miss a thing. I don’t want to forget their bedtime rememberings and rambles, their silly songs in their little kid voices, their nonsense stories, or the feeling of their skinny little arms wrapped around my neck (or their pokey elbows and knees jabbing me in the guts as they use me for a jungle gym). There is a wealth life that I was missing, and I’m not ok with missing any more.
I have embraced my introverted self, and that helps too. I don’t like to socialize in groups, gasp! This will surprise a lot of people, because I was very social, and the way I got through all those afternoons and evenings with strangers was with liquid courage. Funny how society acts like we should be social and friendly and chatty. I’d guess that almost half of us do not come to the gift of the gab naturally, and have to use “supplements” to get there, but we do it to please society. We are afraid to come across as cold or unfriendly. We don’t want to be seen as standoffish at the party. We don’t want people to think we’re rude. What bullshit. I’m over pretending to be a good bullshitter, and I feel so much happier to have let that image go. I’m an introvert who is made uncomfortable by crowds and big social groups, and does not enjoy chit-chat. The show is over, y’all.
We’re still not home. We’re still at the borrowed lake house. The vulture babies are almost ready to fly. The vulture parents have come to terms with us and no longer hiss when we pass. The toilet is sort-of fixed in that it flushes – for now. We can’t throw toilet paper in, so that’s fun. The roof only has one small leak. The fridge and AC work, and we can cook food and sleep in soft beds. The lake is full, and we get to go swimming every single day if we want. We have everything we need and we are so grateful.
I couldn’t ask for more, but I am homesick. I want to dig in the dirt, plant a garden, prune my trees, and re-nest my house. The kids talk about missing home daily, mostly they miss their beds and toys. They miss their friends and family, and school and seeing neighbors. There is a lot to miss, and some things will never be the same again. The world has changed, and if we’re lucky, we get to choose how and whether we will change alongside it, and carry that change into the post-COVID future.