Stuck at home? This month, Sam shows us how to survive Coronavirus quarantine. Seriously, Sam? is a column that looks at the lighter side of suburban life.
On the spectrum of the anxious, I fall in the realm of those who need meditation and medication to be calm on a good day. So, you would think that this past week, which has been like living in an episode of Black Mirror, might have broken me. I will admit, early-on, like on Wednesday, when I was still planning to go to Colorado with my kids (because the population is less dense so we would be ‘safer,’) I had a few panic attacks while packing. Maybe it was that, instead of clothes, I was filling our bags with a nebulizer, Advil, Tylenol, Z-packs, dried lentils, canned tuna and boxes of pasta. You could see where needing these items, as opposed to a cute new puffer jacket, might leave me covered in a deep sweat, taking slow breaths, and reaching for Valium. But, once we decided to stay at home, an eerie calm descended over me. There is very little we can control right now and new information is coming at us hourly, but one thing seems constant: you can’t go wrong by hunkering down with your family. Unless you lose your mind from non-stop togetherness. So, since, in addition to anxious, I am a type-A “doer,” I developed some basic rules to keep myself semi-sane in this new normal. Hopefully, they’ll be helpful for you too.
Make a Schedule
After I accepted that we were not going to the mountains where my children would be entertained and tired out by long days of skiing, and instead staying in the place where they are always complaining of being bored, a.k.a., home, the first thing I did was to create a weekday calendar. Literally, I canceled the trip and then sat at my computer making this:
Kids need structure. Ok, I need structure. I also need time when they are otherwise occupied (with something besides a device) so that I can write (or binge Schitt’s Creek).
Feel free to steal this beauty because I know it is friggin’ awesome. And, yes, I have an appendix list of projects you can steal too.
Lean in…to your slow cooker
No more eating out. No more delivery (unless you can put it back in the oven and cook off the potential contamination.) This means that every single meal that everyone in my house eats need to be prepared. Mostly by me. So, I am turning to that miracle worker, the crock pot.
Q. What do you get if you combine chicken, beans, tomatoes, frozen veggies and slow cook for 6 hours?
A. It depends what spices you used. Italian chicken stew, Moroccan tagine, Thai curry, really any global feast is possible!!!
Of course, my children will not go near any of these foods, so I am anxiously watching the bags of frozen chicken nuggets and Amy’s pizza dwindle, secretly wondering if this will be the event that finally forces them to eat my cooking.
Don’t Treat Every Day like the Weekend
People, we are likely in this for a while. Sure, take a grace period to drink heavily and eat fries and milkshakes with reckless abandon as we reacclimate to our new norm; but, remember that even though the days bleed into one another like one long weekend from hell, we will someday return to the world outside where clear arteries and a functioning liver are helpful. My husband had a great idea for how to manage this: every night, when we open a bottle of wine, we will pour out 1/3 of it, drink the rest and not allow ourselves to open a second one. Seems reasonable enough (except for the part about wasting 1/3 of a bottle of wine, that’s just insanity.)
Put on Something Other Than Sweat/Yoga Pants at least Every Few Days
Fortuitously, I had recently decided that I needed to upgrade my lounge wear so I have new “pre-jays” in trendy animal prints and tie-dyes, that I have been thrilled to showcase for my family like it is Couch Potato Fashion Week. Unfortunately, as you know, these forgiving fabrics can hide the reality of living every day like it’s your last. Summer is coming. Put on a pair of jeans for at least an hour or two to keep yourself honest. Maybe even pretend you can go somewhere where you will see someone who cares.
Remember Personal Hygiene
Last night I kissed my son on the head and almost gagged. I don’t think he had showered since last Friday. I’m not totally sure because I’ve lost track of the days. I have taken the opposite approach to showering and am doing it more than ever because, well, it is something to do to break up the day. But, I have entirely forgotten to take care of my unwanted hair. I haven’t really had much reason to look in the mirror lately and I’d forgotten that, in my panic last week, I canceled my eyebrow appointment. You can imagine my surprise when I was scrubbing my face and noticed above my right eye, three short grey hairs standing at attention in a field of stubble, framed by a fringe of curly brown hair that, were it not bounded on the upper end by my forehead, might be mistaken for overgrown bangs. As I reached up in horror to get a tweezer, I noticed that my armpits were shaded by a small collection of brown beauties nearly an inch in length. I long-ago lasered the dense dark forest of fur that lived under my arms, but there are a few strays that still visit and, I guess, they were taking advantage of my lack of attention and having an extended stay.
The good news about being at least 6 feet away from every other human (except your spouse and kids) is that they can’t see or smell you too well. Still, tick off your shower days on that handy calendar and, if there are parts of your body where you generally prefer not to have hair, give them a periodic check too.
Use your Ability to Virtually Connect
One true miracle of this odd confinement is that we really do have the technology to be together while apart; to lean on each other without being in one another’s physical presence. My daughter spent two hours in a Google Hangout painting her nails with her friends. Appreciate this. It’s a real gift. Except when the grandparents want to FaceTime and, due to their lack of technical expertise, you end up in a long conversation with their hairy kneecaps.
Appreciate this Opportunity to Slow Down
Every time I go to the dentist for a cleaning, they spend what feels like an hour of pure torture scraping the built-up plaque from my front bottom teeth. The hygienist always gently tells me to “really work the floss in there,” to which I nod and try to grunt that I already do. This morning, because I wasn’t rushing, because I had no one to get anywhere on time, I noticed something: when I brush my teeth I almost entirely skip over that front lower area! I’ve probably been doing it for years and never realized because who has the time to mindfully brush your teeth? Well, now you do. I wonder what other gems I will discover now that I am living life at a more human pace.
Don’t be too Hard on Yourself
This next stretch of time is undoubtedly going to sometimes be lovely, but also terrifying, trying and overwhelming. You will drink and eat too much, watch too much TV, live in sweatpants and snap at your kids and spouse. It’s okay. Do what you have to do to get by. (And when all else fails, Valium works like a dream.)
Stay safe. Stay healthy. Keep smiling.
You May Also Be Interested in:
About Suburbs 101
Suburbs 101 is an online lifestyle guide for the New York Suburbs of Westchester County, Long Island, Fairfield County and Northern New Jersey. Get the inside scoop on what it’s really like to live in the New York suburbs through our interviews with local suburbanites and features on Food, Fashion, Home, Travel, and Local Events. Be sure to Follow Us on Instagram, Like Us on Facebook and subscribe to our Monthly Newsletter.