Quarantine Silverlining

As this pandemic and quarantine stretch on and on and on, I am trying hard to hold onto the perspective that this is only temporary (even if it doesn’t feel this way) and to look for the positives in every day and situation.  Sometimes I succeed at this, and sometimes I don’t, but it’s a journey, right?

Recently, on a Zoom call with my practice group, one of the partners suggested that we each share one of the silver linings to our particular quarantine cloud with the group.  The answers ranged from sweet (lots of people celebrating newfound or renewed connection with family and friends) to funny (a partner shared that he has been drafted into his daughter’s Tik Toks).  My answer was that we are finally sitting down for family dinners.  My kids go to bed so early that when I’m in the office, Steve usually ends up giving them dinner before I get home.  But since I’m now teleworking like everyone else, it’s easy to take quick break to throw dinner in the oven so we can all sit down together.

It got me thinking about and looking for some other silver linings, too.

The biggest one, I think, has been that I’ve learned to be more assertive in both my work and home lives.  Now that I have to homeschool my kids, I am just “out of office” while I’m doing that.  I do sometimes end up taking a call in the morning, but for the most part I have been able to tell colleagues and others when I am available, and most people respect that.  (Certainly my colleagues do!  Results are a bit more mixed outside of my firm.)  On the flip side, once I am logged on and working, I am “at work” and I’ve been able to tell my kids “Daddy’s in charge” during my work times.  I have a fear of appearing unavailable to anyone – it’s perfectionism rearing its ugly head; I can’t easily wrap my head around being anything less than the perfect employee and the perfect mom – but I have had to get over that, because I have no choice.  If I’m trying to do both jobs at the same time, it goes horribly – witness when I’ve attempted to contribute substantively on a work call while simultaneously taking the kids for a walk to get them out of Steve’s hair.  So I am trying not to do that anymore.  When I’m with the kids, my attention is on them, and when Steve and I swap “shifts” my attention turns to work.  I’m not 100% yet, but I can tell that my ability to be fully present with whatever task I am engaged in at the moment is getting better and better by the day, and I’m feeling less guilty about it.

Another thing I am feeling less guilty about: running.  In recent years I’ve found it hard to get motivated to lace up my running shoes and enjoy my old sport.  There is always something or someone that needs my attention, or I’m just tired.  But with quarantine, despite having less time than ever, I’ve insisted on taking the time to run.  (This is something Steve is really good at: he doesn’t ask permission or feel guilty; he just puts on his shoes and goes running when he wants to.  Now instead of jealously wishing I could be like that, I’m just doing it, too.)  I signed up for a Train Like a Mother virtual race program and have been enjoying the thoughtfully-made training program and all the support in the private Facebook community for TLAM participants.  I haven’t done every workout on the calendar, but I’ve done most of them – really embracing one of Another Mother Runner’s taglines: “Don’t Think.  Just Go.”  I don’t really think about running anymore.  I just put my shoes on and go do whatever the calendar tells me to do.  The fresh air and movement are paying off in so many ways.

Hiking has been pretty impossible.  First the trails were unusually crowded – it was as if everyone in DC suddenly discovered hiking – and that made us nervous.  And then the parks started closing their gates, either entirely or partially.  Some stayed open “for passive use only” meaning hiking was still allowed, but you couldn’t park your car near the trailhead.  Some intrepid folks might be able to find a parking spot on a road outside the park and hike two miles in before they even get to the trailhead, but we’re hiking with kids and we can’t do that.  So while we’ve made a few attempts at it, hiking has been mostly off the table – which has been hard.  (I know, many people have it worse.  I recognize the privilege in what I just wrote, believe me!  But hiking is a huge part of our family culture and one of our favorite things to do together, and I miss it.)  The upside of not being able to hit my favorite trails as often as I am used to doing: we are going for more neighborhood walks than ever.  We still want our fresh air and to get out and walk together as a family, so this is how we have to get it right now.  And it’s forced us – or me, at least – to stop and pay attention to the beauty in my own backyard.  I’m on record as thinking that my neighborhood is the most beautiful town in America (change my mind) so it’s not like I was failing to appreciate it before.  But I usually look at the historic buildings and the quaint cobblestone streets, and now I’m also noticing the blue skies, blooming trees, and sunlight sparkling off the Potomac.

With the library being closed for going on two months now, one of my quintessential weekend activities is tabled: there’s no popping by the branch to return books and pick up new holds, or letting the kids run around the children’s section.  In addition to the obvious benefit to that (we are physically unable to check out that book about motorcycles for the four millionth time, Nugget, I am super sad about that!) I’m finally reading from my own shelves.  Not all the time – I did have a stack of books checked out when the library closed its doors, and I am rationing those, and I also had a small pile borrowed from my friend Susan that I am finally getting around to reading (I just don’t know when I’m going to be able to see her to give them back, but details).  But luckily, that’s not all I have.  I’ve got a pretty big, and thoughtfully curated, collection of books that I have either read many times and cherish, or that I just know I’m going to love (I’m fairly well acquainted with my own reading tastes at this point).  I’m always saying that this will be the time I read more from my own shelves, library addiction or no library addiction – but now it’s really here.  It just took a quarantine and a closed library to make me do it.

This isn’t really a new thing, but baking with the kids is getting more and more fun.  Before the schools closed, Peanut was struggling a lot with her confidence around math.  I could write a book-length blog post about that, but I’m not going to for several reasons (including respect for her privacy).  Since we have started homeschooling, I think she has made a lot of progress with math.  In addition to workbook pages – which I do make her do every day – I have been trying to show her how we use numbers in our everyday lives.  We talk about money, and I show her how I use math in my work (for instance, double checking to make sure a client has cut settlement checks in the right amount – I am pleased to report that my clients always do that correctly).  We measure the amount of birdseed that we need to fill our feeder, and we talk about clocks and telling time.  But more than anything else, we bake.  At the beginning of quarantine, scanning homeschool resources, I came across a sentence in one blog to the effect of “A great deal of homeschool math is done in the kitchen.”  I’ve used baking before as a way to teach Peanut to follow directions – she likes to march to the beat of her own drummer, which I think is cool, but sometimes you need to follow directions and baking is good for that concept, since she enjoys it.  Now we’re also using it to talk about measurement and fractions.  And at the end, we get Victoria Sponge, or upside-down cake, or muffins, or bread.  (Don’t worry, about half of what we churn out is handed over the fence to the neighbors!)  Win-win, right?

This is definitely a weird and scary time, but practicing gratitude and looking for silver linings is keeping me grounded.  I’m starting to think about what I’d like life to look like after this is all over – I believe that there will be things that will have shifted, both for me personally and on a global level, and I want to be intentional about the way I structure my life after quarantine.  These silver linings are definitely guiding my perspective around post-quarantine priorities.  More on that to come, maybe, if I have any organized thoughts to speak of at any point.

What are your quarantine silver linings?

2 thoughts on “Quarantine Silverlining

  1. Pingback: Reflections on One Year of Pandemic Shutdowns – covered in flour

  2. Pingback: Post-Pandemic Planning, Part 1 – Little Things – covered in flour

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