Remember many, many months ago when we would say to each other, “I just want this pandemic to end! I want to travel! And go to restaurants! And go to a party! And see my parents! And I want to stop wearing a mask all the time! And I want my kids to go back to school! And I want to go back to the office! And I want things to return to NORMAL?”
Who am I kidding? We’re still saying that to each other every day. But now that school is in full swing (whatever that means) and it’s become clear that getting through this pandemic is a marathon and not a sprint, I’m trying to adopt a new strategy — one that accepts pandemic life instead of dreaming it away.
So instead of having unrealistic aspirations that keep getting me down — fantasizing about seeing my parents who live 3,000 miles away in another country, or hosting our annual holiday party with 50 unmasked, happily drunk friends — I’m trying to come up with smaller, doable plans that can actually be executed within the confines of quar life. Each of these resolutions may be tiny but each will add to my daily joy, comfort, peace of mind, or simply my overall sense of sanity.
- Prep my coffee the night before. I am clearly starting extremely micro (way to lower the bar!). But is there anything nicer than waking up in the morning and having the smell and taste of coffee ASAP? Usually I have to search the kitchen in the dark for all the stupid parts of the crazy new coffee contraption my husband chose for us. Having it ready and waiting each morning without having to lift a finger is the next best thing to someone else waking up with the children and bringing you coffee in bed. Added bonus: When my husband wakes up (hours later), he now makes me a second cup without me even asking.
- Plan regular, reliable outdoor dates with my girlfriends. One of the biggest losses of the pandemic is having nothing on the calendar to look forward to. But every time I go to a girlfriend’s backyard and drink a cocktail from six feet apart and just catch up, I feel human again — and I don’t do it nearly enough. During the early days of the pandemic, I’d look longingly at said GF’s house and wish I could go in and eat all her food, preferably with my hands. Now, I will settle for just being (sort of) near her and away from my family for a little while. Since I live in LA, this can go on all year long. Although I lived in Austria for many years and there was a lot of outdoor drinking (gluhwein!) that went on during the winter, so this needn’t just apply to us West Coast folks.
- Organize my bookshelves by color. I resisted this for so long because it felt overly-Pinteresty to me. But at my daughter’s request, I color organized her shelves, and now every time I go into her room, I am imbued with calm. And I desperately want that for myself. At this point, I will take calm anywhere I can get it.
- Buy some outdoor seating for our deck. Why has it taken me two years living in my apartment to create an outdoor space that my family can enjoy? Well, because we were NOT HOME. Now we are, all the time. So why don’t we sip a glass of wine outside every night? Why don’t I drink my coffee out there every morning? Because I have nowhere to sit my butt down. Gonna fix that. Maybe I can throw in some sort of cute outdoor rug situation? And a plant or two? And bring out the Bose speakers?!
- Make a will. This is one of those adulting things that you know you’re supposed to take care of — especially once you have children — but it just never seems incredibly urgent. And maybe it’s not. BUT if there’s anything this pandemic has taught us, it’s that life can change on a dime. Just knowing it’s done will go a long way toward easing my anxiety about…maybe…dying?!
- Refresh our emergency kit. I mean, can more go wrong? Surely it can. We live in earthquake central! When the water in our building was turned off unexpectedly, we realized we had very little bottled water on reserve (read: one jug). This is not a situation anyone wants to be in. In the same spirit I’m going to also keep the car’s gas tank half full, make a family escape plan, write down all important phone numbers someplace other than my phone, buy a safe for our documents and make sure our emergency bags are packed.
- Get a mammogram, go to the dentist, get a pap smear, get a flu shot. These are things I’ve been putting off for 6 months and now feel like minor emergencies. For a while the advice was to postpone all non-essential outings and appointments. But now most healthcare providers are advising people to take care of the screenings for which they’re due (or overdue). Preventative medicine can only prevent if we actually book and show up to those appointments.
- Bring back date night. “Bring back” might be pushing it because my husband and I never had date night. I f*$%king hate date night — miraculously solve your problems over a steak and a glass of Pinot?! But while my husband and I have been stuck inside the same apartment for seven months (and counting), we are actually seeing less of each other than before, because we’ve developed all sorts of quar coping mechanisms that involve… avoiding each other even while sharing every single space in our home every single minute of every single day. So perhaps one way to deal with this is to designate a day or night that is for us alone: Would it be so hard to spend every Saturday night together, watching a movie, eating dessert after the kid goes to bed, reading aloud to one another, giving each other a foot massage, or at least not ignoring each other? I don’t know, what do married people do together anymore?
- Lean into technology. My iPhone usage has been ALARMING, so alarming I can’t even share the numbers here. But I am determined to use my phone and computer for good. I want to stop the Instagram/Twitter/doom scrolling and use the magic little device for facetiming my parents, Zoom calling my best friends from college and listening to podcasts and music that will chill me out and/ or keep me informed.
- Pour my election anxiety into action. Any of us can call, text, write postcards or letters or donate money from home. No need to leave the house! Once a week I mask up and meet friends in a backyard to make calls (it’s more fun together) but there’s plenty I can do on my own that helps me feel like I’m doing my part to safeguard our democracy.
- Buy myself one thing. It doesn’t need to be expensive! I dream of having a beautiful mug to drink my coffee in, or a new set of (not chipped) plates. I’ve been eyeing a particular jumpsuit for approximately six months now, and a sweater for about two. We are in need of a new bedspread and our entryway has been screaming for a rug since we moved in. What is one tangible upgrade or purchase I can afford to make to make that will lift my spirits each time I see it/ use it?
Under the best of circumstances, quar life is less than ideal. Under the worst, it is full of grief. None of us would choose to live this way. But sometimes facing reality is actually easier than constantly wishing it away. What small things can you do to make sheltering in place *that* much easier for yourself?