In the midst of a pandemic, the likes of which have not been experienced in my lifetime, folks are doing their best to cope with quarantine and isolation. Humans are social animals, accustomed to being in the company of others. The U.S. is now about a year into the Covid-19 health crisis, and most people look forward to the day when quarantining will cease. Remaining physically removed from friends and family is a challenge. However, it is possible to find the silver lining.
If you had told me a year ago that I could pick up 8-10 hours per week of precious time that I did not have before, I would have said bring it on. Not in this way, of course, but being at home has its upside. This may not hold true for everyone, especially households with children who are not in school, but it is still possible to find the light in difficult times.
For me, social isolation and working from home these past months has had a practical component. There has been no need to polish my nails twice a week or spend hours drying my hair. I have not had to race for trains or travel, nor run to the salad bar every day to buy a ready-made lunch or dinner. Suddenly, I found myself with precious time to dedicate to other things. While some things have gotten harder, others have become easier. I could even fit in a full night’s sleep.
I began to cook. What started as necessity blossomed into skills and the enjoyment of creation. Suddenly, I was having Zoom calls with more distant family members who I only previously connected with on social media. I was in contact with international friends, one of whom I had not communicated with in decades. So, in a funny way, isolation made me less isolated. There was also a feeling of community. We are all experiencing this together.
Another outcome of the pandemic is that life has gotten less materialistic. My new faux leather pants and fashion boots have never been worn. A closet full of clothing for every occasion sits idle save for a few practical items. While I miss the excitement of donning a new outfit, I don’t miss the constant need to update my wardrobe as hems and colors change, and pants go from skinny to jeggings to boyfriend cut. There is something nice about the fact that comfort is the name of the game.
Chelsea Manning is an activist who was convicted of disclosing classified documents to Wikileaks. She spent seven years in jail. In a recent GQ article by Chris Heath titled, The Happiness Project: Finding Joy in Tough Times, Chelsea shares how she finds joy as influenced by her prison experience:
“It’s like learning to find joy and hope despite not having access to close family, not having access to close friends, and just sort of being in the moment. Because I feel like we spend so much time seeking having, as opposed to being. The strangest times that I’ve found that I’ve been content are moments when I have so little that everything sort of falls away. Finding little moments of joy.“
Home isolation may be a kind of prison for some. But, by being present, living in the moment, and finding small wins to celebrate, there is an opportunity to experience happiness.
Like most people, I look forward to the day when life will return to normal. We are social creatures. Parties, events, gatherings with friends and family, face to face meetings in the comfort of an indoor environment are things I crave. But, while I may yearn for the days that these seemingly innocent activities return, I do take solace in what I have gained. Isolation has afforded some precious time, activities, and connections that have truly been the silver lining in tough times.