The 5 Surprising Things I Haven’t Missed In Isolation

Cute hamster in tunnel.
Image from Unsplash by Zimbahcat

What’s surprised me most about this virus and its impact on my life is WHAT I HAVEN’T MISSED in isolation. While the 5 O’clock shadow above my lip is evidence of how much my body has missed the minimal amount of upkeep it demands – there’s loads of stuff I thought my happiness depended upon that I haven’t missed of all.

Obviously, I’ve missed certain elements of my life – going to restaurants, weekends away, and trips to the movies, to name a few – but what this virus has gifted me is a window to put into perspective what’s truly important in my life and what isn’t.

Below are 5 surprising things I haven’t missed in isolation:

1. People

FRIENDS, before you rush to Facebook to unfriend me, hear me out. Because I’m not talking about people per se, I’m talking about people I don’t really know that I’m forced to mix with at large social events or in the work environment. You see, one of the chronic sides to my anxiety is my social anxiety, which I’m sure is not that obvious to most people – because I’m a professional at disguising it, AKA an alcoholic – but it’s a problem that explains why a big part of me is loving this excuse not to leave the house right now.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t become a recluse in isolation whose only source of happiness comes from her dog and bullying her husband – I’ve been working my butt off within the four walls of our home – but I think the extra enthusiasm for work has derived from my contentment at being alone, rather than under the gaze of others.

The work required to socialise is what kills me, i.e. the diplomacy required to fit everyone in and not offend anyone. So while I’ve kept myself busy during this time, I’ve not missed being socially busy and I’ve embraced the extra time and energy to pour into projects I WANT TO DO that I’ve had to put on the back burner in the past.

2. Shopping

There’s not much point in clothes shopping when there’s nowhere to go – not that that stopped me before – but on the rare occasion I’ve visited the mall for “essentials”, I’ve discovered that my desire to shop has all but disappeared – cue fist pump from hubby. Materialism really does feel unessential right now.

And it’s nothing to do with not having the cash to splash, it’s about that change in my priorities again. I used to waste hours at the mall, trying to live up to unrealistic expectations that now seen ridiculous. Like many women, treating myself and spending compulsively used to make me feel better about myself – now I wonder why.

3. My Anxiety

This is a strange one when governments around the world are preparing for a mental health emergency, but it makes complete sense to me. Aside from the ramifications of certain domestic triggers (hmmm…), my anxiety hasn’t been exacerbated by COVID-19 – if anything it has reduced, and recent research in Japan confirms that I’m not alone. This may be because triggers such as work have been removed, or it may be (my theory) that the threat of the virus trumps most of the fears anxious people like me ruminate about on a daily basis. COVID-19 is the disaster of epic proportions we over-thinkers have been waiting for our whole lives, and now it’s here it feels somehow more tangible. It’s like looking the enemy in the eye.

Added to which, health anxiety simply isn’t an option right now – I mean, NO-ONE in their right mind wants to end up in the ER at the moment, right? On the personal front, while having Kurt back at home has added some tensions, it has also removed the fear those calls in the middle of the night caused. Enabling or not, it is much easier to support him during this pandemic under our own roof.

4. “The Treadmill”

The treadmill issue ties in with people and my anxiety. While I like my routine, I don’t necessarily enjoy all of the functions on my personal treadmill. At fifty-four, I’m still trying to shape my life into the one I want i.e. working for myself (preferably from home); and doing something I feel passionately about that scales well with my work-life balance. This break from certain outside pressures has paused the tension that usually mounts. It has provided me the opportunity to step back and do exactly what I want for a short space of time, when I want to. I’ve been able to step off the treadmill and roll around in the bedding.

5. The Weight Of Expectation

I am aware that it is my personal responsibility to control the weight of expectation I feel – or so my therapist says. Everyone wants to succeed, but for those of us who measure success in terms of work- life balance rather than financial reward, that weight of expectation can feel heavier and be difficult to keep in proportion. This difficulty is interlinked with my anxiety and I can only describe it as needing to nail everything, to be there for everyone, not to let anyone down even if when I’m drowning. With less expectation, my head has bobbed back to the surface of the water again.

Of course, these thoughts may just be symptomatic of middle age

I can’t deny that I’ve had an innate desire to find more inner peace for some time, and for those of us lucky enough to come through this virus unscathed, a positive of this COVID-19 experience has been how it has highlighted areas of our lives we took for granted. Nature, family relationships, and my health have been pushed back up to the top of my priority list. I may be missing the opportunity to explore countries I’ve never travelled to before, but I won’t miss the anxiety that used to accompany those trips, in much the same way I haven’t missed my invisibility at our local pub.

Is there anything surprising you haven’t missed in isolation?

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How’s Everyone Coping With The Latest COVID-19 Isolation Restrictions?

So…how’s everyone travelling?

YOU’RE NOT, I assume, and neither will you ever consider booking a cruise ever again, I would take a guess (if you’re of sound mind).

Photo by Curology on Unsplash

In the spirit of Gloria Gaynor, I am surviving, although as you can imagine, this is not a great time for hypochondriacs. Reassuringly, very little has really changed in our house, aside from an escalation in the toilet seat debate and some highly competitive stockpiling of toilet rolls in our own bathrooms.

Fortunately – and that is a serious downplay of that word in an uncharacteristic attempt at sensitivity – we don’t have young kids at home, and having worked at home together for some time, we are used to avoiding each other as much as possible within the strict, self-imposed boundaries of our home. But it’s funny how much this crisis has improved communication – in general.

It has certainly increased mine. Anyone who knows me well will be aware that I would rather have a mammogram than make a phone call, and yet I’ve been Messengering and WhatsApping like a Millennial over the past week – mainly in my attempts to keep tabs on anarchist, older members of my family.

My stepmother has reported back that my father is adhering to the new restrictions, much to my surprise. Apparently, he has taken an uncharacteristically sensible approach to isolation in spite of his disgust at the government’s decision to open the supermarkets to his age group between 9 and 10am – when he rarely surfaces before 10. I think the word he used was “unrealistic” in his description of a decision he believes is based on unfair stereotyping about old people being early risers.

Evidently, he’s not too worried about catching the virus, because ‘It’s only going to get the really old buggers” he tried to reassure me as I counted the hairs in his nostrils during our weekly video chat. And that’s why he put his chances of survival his the hands of alcohol rather than government restrictions and has upped his whisky consumption – “Just to be safe.”

Mind you, Dad has always been a pragmatist. I’m pretty sure he mentioned the same “more chance of getting run over by a bus” analogy during our conversation that he used to terrify me with during my childhood, hence, although he has always blamed my mother for my issues with anxiety, I’m beginning to question his accountability.

Meanwhile, the other old man in my life has been burying his head in the sand – particularly in relation to our finances. Having agreed to curb our spending at our last finance meeting – instigated by him, I should add – I was somewhat surprised by his expenditure on golf over the past few weeks – since curtailed by the closure of all courses yesterday.

“Essential?” I queried as I trawled through the bank statement and watched him splutter some excuse about therapy for his mental health in these highly anxious times. So it’s anyone’s guess how he will fare as we move forward.

He hasn’t been quite as successful at concealing the delight on his face each time one of our social engagements is cancelled. I swear he rubs his hands with glee each time the government limits the number of people that can gather in a group, and any day now I expect him to bunker down with the dog in full isolation mode.

Life’s ‘Colour’ Shouldn’t Cost Anything

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I overthink all the time, particularly these last few days in the light of the death of Robin Williams.


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Overthinking is not necessarily a bad thing. It helps us remain accountable for our decisions and to think about whether we are making the most of each day.

 

 

 

But overthinking can be exhausting.

 

 

 

The ‘thinkers’ among us, and I don’t define a ‘thinker’ by intelligence, are those of us who are more prone to self-analysis, self-blame and general dissatisfaction as a result of those exhausting thought processes. We expose ourselves to setting the bar too high and then being disappointed, which can ultimately lead to depression.

 

 

 

I wish I was one of those people who have the fortunate disposition to embrace life no matter what shit it slings at them. I envy them. But many of us become bogged down by the nitty-gritty and what we perceive as bad luck – a bit like when you ski over a mud patch. We become ‘victims’ because even though we might believe that we make our own luck very, very deep down, when fate throws those curve balls to test our strength, we can’t dodge the feeling of inadequacy they create.

 

 

 

Being a victim is not an attractive trait and we’re very aware of that.  But sometimes the victim’s lair is a hard one to crawl out of.


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When that shit rains down on us personally, or we hear about something awful that has happened to someone we love and catch ourselves thinking ‘fuck, that could have been me’, we might have a short-term knee-jerk reaction and make a pathetic effort to try and remain positive for a while, but it usually only lasts until the next dollop of shit hits the fan.

 

 

 

From a global and superficial perspective, we know how lucky we are in the western world. In theory, we have very little reason to be unhappy. It is impossible to compare the poor in the west to the poor in the East, if you measure those riches in terms of money. We are fortunate to have the best health care systems, we take sanitation for granted, we suffer from little disease, have adequate employment and enough money for most of us to be able to feed our families.

 

 

 

Yet, still many of us aren’t happy, are we? Because we know that those riches aren’t the important ones. Rich people get depressed and commit suicide too.

 

 

 

An Indian client of mine told me the other day that his first impression of Sydney is of a lack of vibrancy and ‘colour’; and by ‘colour’ he was not describing different races.

 

 

 

I was surprised. There seems to be plenty of vibrancy and colour when you walk down Oxford St or into The Rocks late on a Saturday night.

 

 

 

But in his opinion, even though Indian society has so much less to offer in terms of monetary reward and benefit, the people have so much more to give. Their ‘colour’ is not superficial, it’s not dependent on things that cost money. The spirit and ‘colour’ of his country comes from its sense of community. A sense of community that offers an inner peace and happiness.

 

 

 

Interestingly, there is very little depression.    

 

 

 

The large western cities of the world can be isolating places to live – full of tourists and migrants who are alone and bereft of support from close family. The ‘colour’ of a community emanates from the love and warmth of family and friends and it can be lost when that family is divided. Community is created from spending time with people, knowing and understanding them and having a focus outside of work.

 

 

 

Religion can work to bring a community together too. It’s not all bad. I admit that I’m one of those sceptics that walks by my Christian church each week and watches their happy-clappy group love longingly, and then bitches about religion. Religion has its issues, and we certainly don’t need religion to build a community, but it can be a starting point.

 

 

 

Our children become more self-centred without elders to remind them about manners and respect. I see this problem in my own children. They haven’t had to sit through the rituals of family dinners or been knocked into shape by elderly, less tolerant relatives and so they have a tendency to be self-absorbed, to act ‘entitled’ – anything that doesn’t benefit them directly is too much for them.

 

 

 

We have failed in our responsibility to teach them how to give properly.

 

 

 

On the positive side, they are confident young adults because we have given them the opportunity to explore more of the world, absorb different cultures, the freedom of dual citizenship and access to a lifestyle that is more at one with nature.

 

 

 

But who do they turn to when they are pissed off with us? Who talks to them when we don’t know how to handle them? Communication with their friends is via their phones and social media these days, not at church, not around a raucous, Sunday lunch table with their extended family.

 

 

 

We are creating our own isolation and giving ourselves more time to overthink.

 

 

 

Perhaps that’s where western society has got it wrong. Life’s ‘colour’ shouldn’t cost anything.