That Quarantine Life

As of September 16th, my partner and I will have been under Shelter-in-Place protocol for six full months. Functionally, since both our offices closed the week before, we have been sheltering in place since March 9th. While some restrictions have been eased since the early days, and while we did move from a Tier 1 county (widespread incidence) to a Tier 2 county (substantial instance), little has changed for us – we do not go out, except for masked walks. We get groceries as infrequently as possible. We attend religious services online. We do not see friends or family.

Especially early in the lockdown, but also over the summer as political clashes intensified, there was a lot of rhetoric around being patient with everyone, including oneself; about making time to destress, to acknowledge that things are very hard and scary right now; that even if you’re not a front-line or essential services worker, or know someone who has contracted Covid-19, that the entire situation is just hard, and is taking a toll on our collective mental health.

This was (and is) good advice. I certainly took it to heart, and while there were only so many things where I could give myself space to try and be calm (what with moving and working full-time and having life events like emergency vet visits come up), I definitely made an effort to practice self-care; to be patient; to let myself understand that this was not a normal situation, and that it was okay to feel overly anxious or be less productive.

And then we hit that six month mark, and something in my brain just… clicked over.

I’ve long known that I have a consistent 3-6 week delay in processing big emotions like grief or anger or distress. This extends further out depending on how strong the emotion is (took a solid year before I could speak at all to anyone about losing my cat, for example), but my body’s strange internal clock regarding matters of the heart is not a new phenomenon. However, I guess this year I am learning that the length of time for which I can suspend my normal functioning in light of ongoing crisis is exactly six months.

As of two weeks ago, I am suddenly intensely productive again. I’m reading; I’m catching up on email; I’m scheduling projects and writing letters and making ambitious house-renovation goals and and and-

It’s very strange. Welcome, in a way, because I had felt (as I’m sure many have) like I was operating in a stressed-out depressive fog, and that’s not a nice place to live. But it’s not as though conditions have actually improved? Or that I have become any less concerned about the enormous trash fire that is currently our American state of being in 2020? It’s just that my brain has somehow decided that none of that matters anymore. It is now just the new normal, and apparently my brain is done wasting time and energy on it.

I’m not actually all that comfortable with my brain’s ability and willingness to just throw up its hands and say, “okay, this is just how it is now forever.” I’m also sure it won’t last, at least not indefinitely; these up/down cycles are normal for me, as they are for a lot of humans, and I’ll undoubtedly hit a wall again at some point where everything feels hard and terrible.

In the meantime, I guess I’m going to try to ride this train as far as it goes.

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