If quarantine has taught me anything, it’s about the importance of good habits.
If built properly, these good habits provide a stable sense of foundation. They provide structure, balance, rhythm, all important things. But! Like any muscle, when not stretched, they can become tight and rigid. Yes, flexibility is key. With muscles, and with habits.
I had a strong habit life coming into quarantine, both in my personal and professional life. However, these personal habits were largely built upon external factors like going to the gym, going to dance class, and marketing often (which is another way of saying “not keeping too much food on hand”); my professional habits were largely tied to workspace and productivity.
Very little of this was easy for me to translate into quarantine. I have been somewhat vocal and transparent about how challenging I have found this transition to be, which is why I want to be equally as vocal and transparent about things that have helped me find my way.
By far and away, the thing that has saved me the most has been working with my hands. This practice always does wonders for me, but it is not always easy for me to find motivation. I think it was during the second week of quarantine that I picked up a long-neglected sweater project. And then, on the last Sunday of March which was exactly two weeks into quarantine, I started a quilt project. I will forever remember the latter as a symbol of it all starting to come together.
The work of my hands quickly spilled over into the kitchen. Actually, I think the work of my hands might have started in the kitchen by way of stress baking. But that is definitely not the kind of habit I want to foster, so. The kitchen work I’m talking about is twofold, but could perhaps be summed up in a single word: organization. The physical space is organized, the pantry is organized, and our meals are (somewhat) organized. Our shopping has become rhythmic and cyclical. I’ve even tackled some things I’ve had the intention of doing but never got around to like start my own starter, make cleaning solutions out of citrus peels, and other such kitchen witchery. I’m enjoying my time in the kitchen more than ever, I think. For a long time, the kitchen was my happy place and it’s been years since I’ve felt that way. It’s nice to find joy in something that is necessary.
And from the kitchen came the rest of the house, which I’ve discussed at length already. All the difference in the world has come from making and keeping a tidy home. It might have taken a global pandemic for this to become my reality, but there you have it. Seven straight hours cleaning my bedroom yesterday resulted in the most functional and appealing home office I have ever had. I’ve got an IKEA shopping cart currently loaded with a few things to help me finish off the space once and for all. I’m reluctant to purchase, though, because I’m annoyed by the fact that in-store pick-up is not currently an option (I’m annoyed that going to the store is not an option), but I don’t want to lose steam and I do want to delare the room done. So, if I were a better, I’d put my money on a delivery being scheduled shortly.
Working through and clearing my physical space most definitely was the outer expression of me working through and clearing my mental space. I know this because much like the “craft pile” that is now a neat and orderly collection of supplies and projects, where there once lived a jumbled mishmash of random thoughts bound together with anxiety is now home to clarity and motivation.
Motivation, even, to find new and creative ways to move by body. Not being able to visit the gym or the dance studio dramatically impaired what had become my most important outlet. Sweating, over the last year, has been my saving grace. I knew it was essential for me to replace those activities with something, but I was at a loss as to what to do. I’ve tried walking the public stairs in my neighborhood, I’ve tried virtual dance classes, virtual fitness classes, and after much reluctance, I finally pulled out my running shoes and headed out the door. I haven’t quite hit my stride yet (a run pun!), but the fact that I’m trying is evidence of my attempt at adaptability. Without a doubt, the second the gym reopens for business, I will be one of the first ones there.
Obviously moving from teaching in a classroom setting to teaching virtually is a huge shift and it’s taken me – someone who is not the most technically savvy – a little while to adjust. The learning curve has been steep. There have been tears and sleepless nights. But, there have also been breakthroughs and progress. By the start of next week, I should have everything up and running and that is very good news.
After six weeks, I can finally say that I’ve got a handle on this quarantine life. It took a lot of work to arrive here and after writing this, I realize that it would be insincere of me to not mention that a major contributing factor in mustering a positive shift in the very beginning came in the form of the Three Things method advocated by Elise Blaha Cripe, who is easily the most inspiring person on the internet in my very humble opinion. Last fall, she published a book – Big Dreams, Daily Joys – which describes this practice in a little more detail but in a nutshell: identify three things you CAN do, and do them. At first, my list included things like “take a shower” and “make my bed” but those very quickly became things like “run two miles” and “reorganize my workspace.” In this time when practically everything is out of my control, focusing on what I can control has been essential to establishing and maintaining productivity.
I’m not sure how much longer this season will last, and it is indeed a season. Like all seasons, it will end and another one will follow. Someday, when my grandchildren ask me what it was like during Coronavirus Quarantine, I hope sit them down and tell them how, during a time of great uncertainty, I learned how not only to survive, but to thrive.