I have a lot more free time in quarantine than I’m used to. A lot more. Practicing social distancing and self-isolation gave me time to reflect on some of the things I miss from our BC (before corona) world and some other things that I’ve learned to appreciate even more.
At first, the pandemic changed how I viewed the people around me. There’s so much about someone else that you don’t know; their bodies house their fears, their hopes, and their unspoken thoughts. But they also represented other unknowns — when did they last wash their hands? Are they feeling sick and haven’t told anyone yet? Going out to get gas or groceries brought a whole new set of anxieties — what if I accidentally touched something that wasn’t disinfected? Or brought the virus back into my home? I felt fear in every part of my body, from the ache in my shoulders to the heaviness under my eyes. My cheeks flushed with contempt when I’d drive around town and see signs that said “FREEDOM IS NOT AFRAID.” Is their freedom so brazen, so reckless, and so inconsiderate, that others must be afraid for them? That others must be afraid of them?
But worse than the constant soreness of fear was the loneliness that filled my belly. You can’t starve the feeling of being alone — it’s forced down your throat until you’re full. It feels almost blasphemous to eat dinner over Zoom. While it’s comforting knowing that our friends and loved ones are only a few clicks away, how do you give a hug from behind a screen?
Before social distancing, I didn’t realize how much physical and emotional contact we make with one another as part of our mundane daily activities. Going to buy coffee and smiling at the barista while you take your cup from their hand seems unimaginable now, but I never gave it a second thought before.
I miss the joy shared in high fives; they were little claps of thunder sparked between two palms, passed like notes between school children when no one was watching. We usually don’t notice the little things we do to show others that we care, but they remind us that we’re human. But it’s hard to show someone you’re smiling while wearing a face mask, and it’s hard not to feel paranoid of others when we’re supposed to stay 2 meters apart.
Keeping apart from our loved ones also included some emotional distancing, but being physically alone teaches us to become our own companions. Self-isolation has made me see new value in old habits, and find a little stability when everything around seems so shaky.
One of those things is yoga. A while back I started going to a yoga class a few times a week. It was one of those things that was just another part of my schedule — something fun to check off my list to feel productive. But sustaining a yoga practice at home made me aware of my body in a way that I never expected.
Concentrating on my breath while flowing between poses or focusing on my posture reminded me that my body is mine. So much of the pandemic feels outside of our control, but taking the time to do yoga helped me understand that my body is not just a vehicle for the virus. It’s something to be grateful for — after all, it can bend into shapes, take a walk on a sunny day, and give pretty solid high fives.
Cooking took on new meaning, too. More time at home meant more time to reflect on how I nourish the body that did so much for me. The yeasty smell of fresh bread and the little extra warmth in the kitchen while it baked taught me that not everything that enters our body must be feared. I learned to taste heritage, memories, and love when eating family recipes that passed between generations and traveled across borders.
While we keep social distancing and getting used to our “new normal”, we’ll have to make do. Hopefully, soon we can go back to eating dinner together, seeing each other smile in person, and giving high fives. Hopefully, our post-Covid world will be a little more gentle and a little more appreciative.