When people ask me how I’m doing these days, I often find myself repeating the same phrase: “I’m enjoying the simplicity of life right now.” And it’s true. Doing my part in this pandemic means staying home, where I have only me to care for. My days are peaceful and introspective. I’m healthy and so are those closest to me. So, I’ve surrendered to what feels like the simplest way to live, foregoing the non-essential and getting back to basics. And I quite like it.
Sure, when this all started, I was scared and overwhelmed. Then, I found little ways to distract myself and feel productive. It was during week three when I found myself receiving a hero’s sense of greatness from scrubbing the cruddy black buildup of stovetop splash off the side of my stainless steel teakettle with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser that I knew I had reached peak quarantine mode. About ten percent of the stubborn stain still remains, proving that stainless steel is not in fact stainless and that Mr. Clean’s erasers are not actually magical. But, I suppose I still have another month (at least) to tackle it.
As I’m writing this, I’m listening to Spotify’s Devastating playlist, which they aptly describe as “that feeling of being punched in the gut by a song.” It’s like they know me. I’m seated on my cranberry-colored velvet floor cushion that I got from Urban Outfitters. My back is leaning on a pillow pressed against the foot of a pink chaise lounge that I purchased from IKEA years ago and put together with the help of my now ex-boyfriend/best friend. I rarely write from here, but in an effort to mix things up as much as possible, I’m straying from my usual spots at the kitchen table, in bed or on the chaise itself. I sometimes write at coffee shops, but it’s obviously been a while, and not just because of quarantine. I haven’t written anything in several months.
It’s not that I haven’t felt creative. My wheels are always turning. I spent much of last week wondering if I should design a T-shirt that reads “I MISS QUARANTINE” for when this is over because I’m convinced that one day we will be able to laugh about this. I can’t wait for that time. And maybe daydreaming about the future is one of the few things keeping me going these days. But, like most ideas that pass through my brain, I realize the T-shirt is dumb and in poor taste. Plus, I’m convinced that people who attempt to monetize on the pain of others are destined to suffer in the most ironic of ways, and I really don’t want to die from Coronavirus.
Bad T-shirt ideas aside, I’ve been channeling my creativity through dancing alone in my apartment and working on a new project with a friend that has me buzzing. But, writing essays for immediate gratification and connection has felt like a ‘should’ that was hanging over my head like a pinned GIF on an Instagram story (I just utilized that feature for the first time in my life this past week). I’ve been publicly sharing much of myself over the past two years. I had to because anything less felt like bullshit and I can’t stand myself when I’m not being my true self. I also appreciate when I see other people being vulnerable; authentic self-expression in any form lights me the up the way Snoop does a fat joint. But, I think I just needed a bit of a break. Most of 2018 and 2019 were spent processing events from my life and understanding how they affected me. I just wanted to start 2020 feeling like I could finally live.
The year kicked off with an unforgettable trip to Bali with friends. The highlight for me was hiking up Mount Batur—an active volcano with an elevation of 5,633 feet—for sunrise. While I found the climb to be physically challenging, it was the mental anguish I experienced that was the most insufferable. I was in my head the entire time, beating myself up for being the slowest in the group. My friends would check on me every now and again and I would shoo them away. An elderly local stayed back with me and kept trying to pull me by my elbow, which infuriated me and made me feel weak. I was determined to get to the top on my own.
When I finally reached the peak, I burst into tears. I was proud that I didn’t underestimate myself as I often have in the past. But, I felt truly alone in that moment. Eventually, I reconnected with my friends and discovered that they too had experienced their own versions of what I went through on the ascent. They gently voiced frustration in my shooing them away and pointed out that I had isolated myself. I immediately saw how right they were. What is the point of all this work I’ve done, of letting go of toxic relationships in order to surround myself with loving and supportive people, if I’m going to continue to go through life with an attitude of “I’m in this all by myself?” Thinking about that day now, I wish I had just let the kind old man drag me by my elbow.
Even though I’m not able to climb volcanoes at this time, I have been exploring the hilly streets lined with lavish homes just north of my little neighborhood in Hollywood. It allows me to get out of my studio apartment and see other humans. Although, I don’t technically have to leave home to do that; all I have to do is go into my bathroom at the right moment and I will likely make awkward eye contact with the man who lives in the building across the alley. Our bathroom windows face one another and with the recent heat wave, I can’t be bothered to close mine. Besides, it’s a nice reminder that we’re all in this together.
In all seriousness, I am truly relishing the time I’m able to spend with myself right now. I’m not someone who is easily bored. My unemployment money has come through, my health is good, and I’ve got a lot of great people in my life. When dark thoughts or feelings arise, I sit with them. Sometimes I even indulge them with an occasional day of binge-watching, binge-eating and smoking weed. But, often all I need is to write out my feelings or have a good cry for them to move through me. I’ve gotten better at feeling my emotions without fear. I know they’ll pass. Everything passes. And so will this.
Until then, I’ll continue to enjoy the simplicity of life right now. I’ll clean that stain off my teakettle, finally finish reading that book, and stare at the ceiling, lost in my own thoughts while listening to this heart wrenching playlist. And I’ll continue to remind myself that one day this will all be behind us. We’ll have grieved our losses, learned new hobbies and returned to our jobs (or sought out new ones). We’ll get back to being busy and things will finally feel like they’ve returned to some semblance of ‘normal.’ And those of us who weren’t working on the front lines, who’d been asked to simply stay home in order to save lives, might even think back on this strange time with fondness. We may even think to ourselves, “I miss quarantine.” So much so, that if we saw someone sporting a T-shirt with that phrase, we may actually think it was funny.