thoughts on quarantine + isolation

Living alone, in isolation, for a period of weeks does strange things for the mind. We’ve hit week six of quarantine, and I’ve become well acquainted with what it feels like to live purely in my own energy field for a length of time. And it has been informative, to say the least.

When the pandemic began six weeks ago and we became faced with the notion that maybe it wouldn’t be business as usual for a little while, I felt lucky. I thought, maybe it would be a few weeks respite from normal life. I knew how to do this thing on my own, I’d done it before with fewer friends to call on than I have now, and I am quite good at keeping myself busy. As a multidisciplinary artist and writer, I always have multiple projects on the go. If one gets put on hold, no problem – I’ll just switch onto the next task and return to the one I’d left in its own time. I have had enough experience with the self-directed lifestyle to know which habits to activate to get my things done. I thought for me, hey, things aren’t that far from normal.

There are a number of things I missed in my calculations, however. Things I couldn’t have necessarily anticipated beforehand.

The city I live in was one of the first to get hit in a big way when the virus made it to Canada. While smaller cities may have had time to anticipate the drastic measures that would need to be taken to slow the spread, we didn’t have time for that. We were thrown head-first into a city wide shut down, and I spent the first couple of weeks in dismay and some level of shock. Schools shut down overnight, shopping malls were closed. The number of people who could work in a building was first limited, then it was eliminated altogether. Cafes and restaurants attempted social distancing measures and increased hygiene before they were forced to close, except for maybe take out. Excluding those working in essential services, we were to stay safe at home as much as possible. Keep your distance from people, even if you are walking outside. It became illegal first to gather in groups larger than 250, then 50, then 5, then 2 – if you tried to see anyone outside of your immediate family or the people living in your house, you would be risking a $1 000 fine.

It all feels somewhat surreal, like something out of a movie. Social distancing, government enforced emergency measures, a wildly contagious virus, worldwide fear and panic and grief.

We are living through a moment in history, that is to be sure. And I wonder what the history books will say when we look back on it.

The pain and suffering in this time has been immense. I do not pay much attention to the news, but any time I catch a glimpse of a photo of health workers with faces bruised from long hours wearing tight masks or men covered in protective gear burying those who have passed on, my heart aches a little more for humanity. Regardless of whether or not we have personally been affected by the virus, it has an effect on all of us – in a time like this, we experience collective grief, and the weight on the already fragile human psyche is heavy. Anxiety, depression, despair … mental health has become an epidemic of its own, one that will last past this time.

As we’ve been in crisis, fighting for human life, the earth has been taking her first easy breaths in a while.

Animals are taking back the streets of cities on land that once used to be theirs. With so many less cars on the roads and planes in the air, pollution has way down. They can see the Himalayas in India for the first time in decades, and the Rocky Mountains from Los Angeles. Families are spending more time together than we have in years; neighbours are helping neighbours from afar and gathering on balconies for community sing alongs.

I think times like these are fascinating, because they teach us a lot about ourselves as humans. For those of us who have been asked to stay home, we likely have much more time to ourselves than we are used to. We no longer have those long commutes. What do we choose to do with that extra time, if we have it? How do we cope under the immeasurable pressures of uncertainty? Who are the people we can count on and which relationships buckle under the weight of our current circumstances? What do we turn to, in order to help us breathe a little easier, in order to sleep at night?

Six weeks into this quarantine, I feel like I’ve learned so much about myself. I’ve had the space and time to observe my emotional patterns – how I’ll get very upset about something, let it out and vent voraciously, then let it go and move on, almost as if it had never happened. My emotional body can be quite turbulent and there have been days where my imaginative mind has gotten stuck in a thought loop, dwelling on a person or situation without knowing the answer as to how I should move forward. It’s like that loading sign on the computer: round and round we go until we can break the cycle and move forward. How do we break the cycle? I think it’s individual, but it’s something I’ve been learning for myself.

Sometimes, in the absence of clear communication, I conjure up stories that just aren’t true. Life becomes a bit more dramatic than it actually it. So I’ve been learning how to have open, honest conversations that aren’t always easy, speak with one or two trusted confidants, or put pen to paper in my journal until I’m able to figure out what is actually going on.

In the absence of an external schedule or anywhere to go, I’ve started a beautiful morning routine: wake up, wash up, make breakfast, read a few pages from a book, eat, meditate, pull an animal spirit card for the day. I do all of this before picking up my phone, and it has done wonders for my ability to have a little more grounding and clarity for everything that follows. A consistent meditation practice had led me to be able to turn on the observer in my mind, so that I can watch patterns of thought or emotion unfold from a distance, hear my old stories instead of getting swept up in them. It’s a work in progress, of course, like all things. But this space has allowed me so much clarity.

The weather today was all over the place, like it couldn’t quite make up its mind. It would be sunny and bright with clear blue skies, then a few hours later, overcast and rainy. The wind would pick up and rain would turn to snow pellets for a few minutes before the faucet turned off and the wind picked up to whisk the clouds away. I was out of sorts, too, kind of like the weather. In the late afternoon, I finally mustered up the energy to get myself outside and went for a walk. Earbuds in, I listened to Trevor Hall’s healing music as my boots clicked on the pavement, and I felt a little more like myself again for a few minutes there. Until the ice pellets started again, that is.

As I was walking, a beautiful reminder popped into my head: life flows in seasons. This is a challenging season we are living through. I am certain we all have days that are harder than others, and that is perfectly okay. It’s important to remember that while we may have more time on our hands, we don’t have to use that time to write that next novel or take that course we’ve been meaning to. If we have it in us to do that, then that is a gift. But there will also be days when getting out of bed takes effort, and that is okay too. You are allowed to be low for a day, for a week, for a month. Just remember you don’t have to stay there. When you’re ready to crawl out of the nest, you don’t have to do it alone.

For me, this season of life is a lesson in compassion. Compassion for humanity, for the people in my life but also for myself. These six weeks, I’ve stepped into the practice of living more intuitively, of seeing when I naturally want to do what. Some days, all I’ve wanted to do is dance and move my body and go for long walks outside. Other days, like today, all I want to do is write. Some days I don’t want to do anything at all, and I am learning to be okay with that.

How can we have faith that if we follow our own internal rhythm, everything will happen in its own good time?

I am also, as many of us are, in a season of waiting. Patience. Incubating ideas and working on projects that require investment in the long term, projects that take time to develop and progress is slow. All the growth is happening beneath the surface. Patience. Step by step, day by day, we are moving. We will not be in this season forever.

This is undeniably a challenging season for us all. But I believe, it is also a sacred season. A time to slow down and go inward.

What is your heart telling you right now?

Will you listen?