Updated: Jun 8, 2020
It's been months since I hugged someone that wasn't my mom, my grandma, or my baby brother. Life in quarantine has us all isolated from each other and even when you see someone out in public, you can't get too close. Since the global shut down at the beginning of the year, I'm just now getting used to all the ways we've been forced to adjust: working from home around the family, having a more flexible schedule, arranging video chats, and staying on guard for unforeseen circumstances to disrupt everything.
We're all so blessed in my household to have every essential thing we need. We've turned the dining room into a public workspace. We make a field trip out of driving to the grocery store for curbside pickups. We even have dinner together a lot more than we used to. Most of my donations go to local food banks that provide meals to families suffering from this pandemic so that they might experience the same warmth I feel here.
The most challenging thing for me has been trying to balance my private and professional life in a full, quarantined house. It's so hard to have my own schedule with them staring at me much more than usual because we're all at home, all the time. I've been working from home long before the national shutdown. Running my own website has been awesome. I make my own schedule and I am my own boss. I wouldn't trade it for the world right now; However, it was a lot easier to manage when I had the house to myself during the day and I didn't have to worry about anyone barging into my room to ask a random question.
After weeks of interruptions and frustrations around boundaries, we've set up individual schedules that allocate time for the space we need. Akilah time is my personal time that is non-negotiable, written on a large poster board for all to adhere to. That way, I can have the time and space I need to get things done without feeling obligated to stop and wash the dishes in the sink or tutor my little brother in math.
At the beginning of quarantine, I used to get so frustrated by the realization that I didn't have much alone time anymore. One day I broke down and cried because the family wanted to take their bikes out and ride around the neighborhood and I felt so guilty for not wanting to join them. Being around them all day every day for weeks on end was proving to be too much. That same day I booked an Airbnb to take some time away from them for a few days. That was right around the time that businesses were beginning to open back up, thank goodness. I was really starting to lose it.
All is well now. I've since taken a couple more breaks from the house when I've needed to. Sometimes, long walks around the neighborhood and driving for long periods of time are not enough. I'm fortunate to have the time and resources to get away every now and then. Being in my family's home day in and day out is always an adventure.
At the start of quartine, I could tell early on that my usual routines would fade with the distortion of time and with everyone staying at home. These days, I wake up when I feel is best and take it day by day. That doesn't mean I don't have any schedule. I plan a list of things I'd like to accomplish during the week and assign specific days to get at least one of those things done with the knowledge that I should be flexible around those days; because every day is uncertain.
I wake up, do whatever I can to get a great start to the day (walking, yoga, online dance class, mediation), and proceed to get something done off my to-do list. One day I'll get a call from a friend who's having a day off work and wants to meet at the park, so I'll go. One day I'll get offered a chance to audition for a production that's due the same day, so I'll work on it. Sometimes a cast member gets called into work and virtual rehearsals get canceled. One day I may feel like journaling and painting all day, so I will because, hey, where've I got to go? I find so much peace in living that way. Taking each day for what it is and not what I wish it would be.
I feel pretty lonely at times, even in a house full of people. I think most of us are, since we can't physically be together like we used to. It's been a long time since I was intimate with someone other than myself. I've even heard through the grapevine that one of my exes is single and interested in me, and that makes me more excited than I expected. A lot of us are seeking comfort in familiar ways, fed up with how it feels to be absent from human contact. We're all just trying to find what works for us to stay sane during this trying time.
I've gotten lots of much-needed rest during this quarantine. I read and write a lot more. There's more space to do the things I love, and space to decide exactly what those things are. A lot of us are discovering or redefining what our values are now that we're faced with ourselves in honest ways. Our mirrors are much clearer now that we have all this time to polish them. I've been paying attention to how I am reflected in my actions and adjusting them accordingly.
Some people say that the quarantine has come as a blessing in disguise. In many ways, it has. I haven't been affected by anyone close to me dying from the virus, but I am aware of its devastating effects. We are adamant about maintaining a strong immune system by taking shots of elderberry in the morning, putting vitamin c powder in our juices and we've invested in masks to wear in public places. It's almost becoming "normal" to see people wearing masks everywhere we go.
I've always been an adaptable human being, having gone to a number of different schools growing up and traveling all over the world. Adapting to all this change is a welcome challenge. The world is starting to open back up again and no one knows what the consequences of that will look like. I just hope for the best and try with all my might to keep a peaceful center throughout all of this. Practicing grounding techniques like chanting, meditation, and mindfulness exercises are key to maintaining a solid foundation in my life. It's the only way I feel I'll be able to stand firm amidst the chaos. I want to come out of this on top, showing the world that I'm tougher than I seem. My strongest desire is to emerge from the flames with as little battle scars as possible.