Faith & Life

LESSONS IN CONFINEMENT

PANDEMIC ISOLATION OFFERS NEW OPPORTUNITIES, EDUCATION AND GROWTH

By Cathi Douglas     5/21/2020

The first several weeks of the novel coronavirus pandemic flew by.  

Whether it was because my thyroid medication was too strong or I was convinced isolation would end quickly – I’m not sure, but whatever the case, I seemed to have unlimited energy. 

Tackling projects I haven’t addressed in years kept my mind occupied. Digging through the boxes stacked in the back of the garage, cleaning the oven, labeling leftovers in the freezer – routine housekeeping chores kept my mind occupied. There wasn’t time or energy to acknowledge the anxiety nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Besides, ticking items off my endless to-do list gave me the illusion of control. 

My family is one of the lucky ones. I work from home and my husband is retired; our youngest daughter was able to return from college and continue her studies; our two grown sons are safe and healthy, and mom’s retirement community locked down before a single COVID-19 case occurred. 

And yet, days became weeks. My early optimism gave way to frustration. Not being able to have my mom over each Sunday for dinner felt strange. Being unable to do my own errands, things as mundane as grocery shopping or gassing up the car, rendered me helpless. 

It was not until the fifth week that depression set in. It was impossible to sleep. Zoom exercise classes were chores, daily walks an obligation, laundry felt like punishment. I ate sweets to counter my anxiety. Instead of calling my mother every night, I binged on disturbing true-crime podcasts.  

Each successive day of confinement frazzled my nerves more. Then one morning I couldn’t deny it: The scale showed I’d gained eight pounds. Ignoring my mental health meant that soon none of my clothes would fit. 

It was time to re-learn the important lessons the coronavirus confinement has taught me. These lessons include: 

 

  1. Interviewing inspirational church leaders has led me to spend more time in prayer, with my journal, in spiritual reading, and contemplation. 
  2. Technology empowers us to be together as a family for virtual Sunday evening cocktails. 
  3. The phone connects me with far-flung friends even though we can’t visit in person.
  4. Redoubling my efforts to get fit means religiously attending my Zoom classes in yoga and Tai Chi.
  5. Walking at least an hour every day forces me into the sunshine and fresh air.
  6. Cultivating my roses, gardenias, hydrangeas and azaleas, lemons and avocados gets my hands into the earth and into nature.
  7. Feeding my family teaches me new skills: I’ve learned to bake bread from scratch, create main dishes from new recipes, and I made my first-ever cheesecake.
  8. I’ve learned to make homemade vanilla and lemon extracts, began painting, and started making my own greeting cards.
  9. I’m taking an online course in decorative lettering.
  10. I’ve organized photographs into scrapbooks and recipes into cookbooks.
  11. My calls to Mom provide the chance to write down her memories, which I plan to share with her grandchildren.

 

As I write this, a cool breeze wafts in the family room. A mockingbird serenades us as our dog Samson snoozes at the front door. It’s peaceful, and I realize, again, that – even in confinement – every breath is a blessing.

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