So unless you’ve been living under a rock in the middle of the Amazon, or have just emerged from a two-month spirit retreat in the middle of the desert and are currently dealing with an onslaught of information and some serious sunburn, you’ll already know all there is to know about the new coronavirus. And you’ll know that a significant portion of the world is currently under strict measures that include quarantines, curfews, and social distancing.
There’s lots of great (and less great) resources out there for dealing with this tough time, and I’m certainly no expert. So I’m not going to give suggestions as to the best way to deal with self-isolation and social distancing, especially because things here in Croatia are (thankfully, for the moment) not at a critical point. I’m basically just looking to share how I’ve been dealing with the new restrictions that have been placed on us, if nothing else because writing about it gives me a chance to reflect on how well I’ve actually been handling being at home for whole days at a time.
So, a quick recap: at the time of writing, schools and the majority of non-essential businesses here are shut, and people are working from home and avoiding going out as much as possible. There’s no official quarantine, lockdown, or curfew in place. But people are definitely being extremely cautious and practising social distancing.
We all react differently to changes in our daily routines and a decrease in social contact (the one constant being that after a while we all, without fail, tend to go loopier than a slinky in a washing machine). I count myself lucky that I live in a big house with a large garden, and that I’ve got someone with whom I actually get on quite well (as opposed to living in that state of permanent tension where one is constantly about one poorly-worded comment away from recreating a scene out of American Psycho).
So aside from now having absolutely zero excuses for not keeping up with this blog, given that I’m home 98% of the time, I’ve been dealing with social distancing fairly well. So just what have I been doing?
Well, first things first, I’m amazed at how quickly time seems to pass when you’re at home all day long. This usually never happens. You’d think there’d be nothing to do, that you’d be spending inordinate amounts of time on Netflix or reading the entire contents of your bookshelf, but no.
In my case, that may have something to do with working two jobs. I finish my 9-to-5 and then get started on my freelance stuff. Hardly the best scenario, as there have been a few days where I’ve switched from one to the other without even getting up out of my chair (which is a bad idea and should not be done, if not for your own sake then at least for the sake of the poor chair). But it may also be that I’ve managed to find some failsafe ways to spend my time at home. Are they productive? Invariably not. Are they inventive? Also, quite possibly, no. But do they keep my little brain from exploding on a regular basis?
… Well, time will tell.
So here it is:
My Totally Unendorsed and Entirely Personal List of Random Stuff I’ve Found to Occupy My Time While #StayingHome
Yes, like a tiny newborn baby, or a cat curled up in the most wonderful place on the world after a secondhand bookstore – a sunbeam – I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time sleeping. Sleep is amazing, and should be cherished, and I’m pleased to say I’m getting a lot of it right now.
2. Have Card, Will Online Shop
So the other weekend I spent a certain amount of money on books. I will not specify the exact amount, but let’s just say that it was a larger sum of money than I’m used to dishing out in one go, except in the case of expensive birthday dinners and the weddings of relatives I don’t know well and begrudgingly buy midrange toasters for.
My reasoning was that I wasn’t going to be going out for a while, so the money wouldn’t get spent. Carefully squirreling it away into my savings didn’t seem like the prudent choice, for some reason.
So, okay, that little book-buying-binge happened. But warning signs have also appeared in the form of a rapidly-expanding Etsy wishlist. Needless to say, I’m a little concerned, especially as I’m of course aware that it’s a little selfish to force my poor postman to drag around dozens of packages in these troubling times, just because I’m easily distracted by shiny objects.
3. Rediscovering Skype
A few years back, there was this brief period where Skype was the go-to for video calling and long-distance communication. These days Skype seems a little bit overlooked, a kind of sad older cousin to the whippersnapper Whatsapp and its peers.
But for all that cheesy advertising about Connecting People and Bringing the World Together in a Slightly Hippie but High-Tech Kind of Way, this particular technology really has made it easier to keep in touch with my friends and family far away (and even friends closer to home, all of whom are following the recommendations on social distancing as well). So even though I’ve been hating on Skype for years now, and desperately trying to convince the only person I know who uses it as a primary mode of communication – *cough* Dad *cough* – I’m feeling the Skype-love a little more now.
4. Feeling Quite Smug about the Fact that I Don’t Have Social Media, and am Therefore Not Exposed to the Daily Onslaught of Memes
So Feeling Quite Smug is actually an activity I dedicated a considerable portion of my time to even before the new coronavirus entered our lives so abruptly. And a significant part of that smugness was reserved for the fact that I don’t have social media. Okay, so strictly speaking, I have this blog, but anyone familiar with my sporadic posting habits would challenge even that assertion.
But I definitely don’t have Facebook or Instagram. And let’s be honest, from the information and discussions that my friends are forwarding me, there’s some pretty toxic stuff there. Some brilliant stuff, of course (like a dog that drives a toy car to the supermarket for his owner, begging – forgive me – the question of whether his car has a barking brake), but also some crazy stuff. And some friends who are following the madness on social media are considerably more panicked than those friends who, like me, watch the news and avoid the social media black hole.
So I don’t know if my smugness is entirely justified (it probably isn’t) but I’m enjoying it nonetheless, because the other upside of not having social media is that your mates tend to forward only the very best content to you, the videos and memes that are so brilliant you can’t not share them. This is like having personal curators of all the Corona-related material out there, and therefore appeals simultaneously to my laziness and my desire for a good chuckle.
5. Finally Finding Out What That Damn Exercise Ball is For
Okay, hands up anybody who, like me, has always inexplicably had one of those massive inflatable exercise balls somewhere in their house, taking up space, getting in the way every time you try to do the vacuuming? Nobody knows who bought it. Nobody knows why. It was taken out of its packaging on Day One and inflated to great fanfare. Someone (not necessarily the purchaser) then sat on it once, in a half-hearted kind of way, maybe even watched the clunky VCR tape that came with it and memorised some of the exercises.
It was never used again.
The ball spent the next few years being moved about from room to room, constantly getting under foot. Perhaps someone, at some stage, had the bright idea to use it instead of an office chair (“It’ll be great! Like working in a bouncy castle!”), but after discovering that gravity is indeed cruel when the items you select for your home office seating arrangements are spherical, the ball has sat idle, growing simultaneously sticky and dusty (despite all logic) and all the while watching you with sad resignation.
Well, I’m pleased to say that I have revived my poor little exercise ball. Although I may not have done exactly what the manufacturers intended:
6. Browsing Netflix and Youtube for things to watch
I think it’s safe to say that I’ve spent far more of my time in isolation browsing for stuff to watch than I have actually watching stuff. Why this should be I have no idea. Perhaps it’s because I’m a mood watcher: I have to be “in the mood” to watch something, and no, not like that, I know you were thinking it.
In any case, my Watchlist has ballooned in size but I’ve yet to commit to a single thing, be it movie or series. I think this is the point where people usually roll their eyes and intone, “First World Problems”. With which sentiment I would heartily agree.
7. Yep, Reading
Finally, I’m pleased to say that I have indeed been reading more. The content may vary (a mixture of Terry Pratchett re-reads and The Portrait of a Lady which I will get to writing a review about… eventually; also some thought-provoking non-fiction) but basically I seem to be getting back into the swing of things after a long reading slump.
So there you have it: that’s what I’ve been up to while I’ve been practising social distancing. How about you?
I hope that you’re all keeping safe and well – looking after yourselves and others – and, like me, making some new discoveries about yourself along the way. And about your nearest and dearest. And of course, most importantly, about dogs driving little cars (instead of the boot do they call it the paw? Is there any point manufacturing them in different colours? What flavours of car scent do they have?).