Consider This is a column focused on how important elements of a woman's life look in single life and in marriage. This week, we're considering what it's like to live under quarantine as single and married women. One single woman and one married woman have written essays, to be published on different days. On a third day, they respond to each other's experience. The married woman's essay is here. Read their responses here.
If we’re being honest, in our wackiest nightmares few of us could have imagined a pandemic like the one we’re living through now—fighting a global virus, isolating at home, wearing face coverings, coveting toilet paper.
At first, as I closely watched the news of coronavirus spreading abroad, it seemed a distant threat. A devastating one, but not close to home. When the first cases in the United States were confirmed, it started to get real. And then it arrived in Detroit, where I live, and my city quickly became one of the nation’s hot spots for coronavirus. Things started to change fast.
I live alone (with my two cats), so quarantining and social distancing has taken away almost all of my human interaction. I’m an introvert through and through, so I thought the stay-at-home order would be a breeze—wasn’t I made for this? Turns out I’m not. During a crisis of this magnitude, being alone at home in isolation has had its challenges.
When big emotions and isolation meet
Human interaction has helped ground me in this overwhelming time. I’ve made an extra effort to reach out daily to my parents, siblings, and friends to see how they’re doing—especially over video. We planned a family Google Hangout on a Saturday night just to chat and played a spontaneous game of “name that song.” I also planned a virtual happy hour with some girlfriends. We poured our favorite beverages at home and caught up through our screens.
This proactive outreach nurtures the meaningful relationships in my life and takes my mind off the crisis, even if just temporarily. It reminds me of life free from the confines of coronavirus, giving me hope for the future—although knowing it won’t be the same.
I’m also being more attentive to my mental health. Over the past few years, I’ve had an on-and-off relationship with therapy to help me deal with anxiety and depression. In the past month, I’ve scheduled more frequent appointments over Zoom with my therapist to work through my feelings, concerns, and mind blocks. Her support has been incredibly helpful in managing my mental state and anticipating the challenges of quarantine living.
But even with these supports and interactions, the isolation compounded with the global crisis has stirred up a lot of anxiety for me. With coronavirus sweeping across the country, my thoughts have spiraled. How long will this pandemic last? Will it affect my work and job security? Will anyone I know, including my fragile grandparents, contract the virus? How will this affect the education of my brother, who’s supposed to start college in the fall? Will this lead to a national, possibly global, recession?
I’ve learned it’s okay not to feel okay. I’ve felt down, scared, overwhelmed, anxious, fatigued, and frustrated. But without daily interactions with co-workers, friends, and other loved ones, it’s easy to get lost in my head and my emotions, making it hard to find perspective in the midst of this crisis.
If I lived with someone, a roommate or partner, I would have more chances to express how I’m feeling, process those feelings out loud, and receive a different perspective. Isolation can quickly lead to loneliness, which is an epidemic of its own.
As I usually do when I feel overwhelmed, I’ve called my mom in my moments of spiraling thoughts. During one conversation, after listening patiently to my blabbing, she responded, “It’s important not to think too much about the big picture right now.” Processing my thoughts out loud and hearing my mom’s perspective, I realized that all my worries boiled down to one thing: fear of the future. Now that I’ve named this fear, I can try to focus on what I control right now instead of the unknowns ahead—there are too many to consider.
A lesson about love and life, now and later
This reminder to not fear the future is applicable not only to the pandemic but also my state in life. Currently single, I’ve had a few serious relationships (too many “are we or aren’t we” situations) and gone on loads of dates. My self-worth has never depended on my relationship status, but I start to feel pressure when I compare myself to others who are coupled up or happily married. Having tried app after app, I’ve sworn off online dating. But there’s lots of chatter about quarantine being prime time for dating apps. Since in-person dating isn’t an option right now, I reconsidered my ban on apps. However, if I hit it off with someone . . . when would I actually get to meet him IRL? Would it just end up being a distraction to fill my time?
The realization that every life has its own timeline when it comes to romance and marriage has helped me accept singleness. Just because my best friends are married or engaged and my mom married at 25 doesn’t mean that I, now 30, should also be married. This mentality is comforting, especially in a time like this when dating of any kind is on hold. This quarantine is just part of my life’s timeline, as it is for my future husband, wherever he is right now.
The truth is, none of us know what the “new normal” will look like after the stay-at-home orders lift, and that can cause a lot of anxiety. There are lots of memes and voices out there encouraging us to be hyper-productive right now. They tell us to use our time at home to start new hobbies, take an online class, work on passion projects, or finish that book. These are all wonderful things to do, but if you just can’t muster the motivation, then that’s okay.
I’ve had ups and downs. There are days when I'm grateful for a chance to focus on a creative project like sewing and writing without the pressure and guilt that I “should” be doing something else like nurturing my social life, creating opportunities to meet “The One,” or exploring new spots in Detroit.
But then there are days when news about the latest cases and deaths pulls me in, or I learn that someone I know is fighting COVID-19, and my fearful thought spiral is triggered. Who else might get sick, or even die? Will our nation’s economy be able to come back after this shutdown and the major layoffs? What will happen to the millions of people out of work? Will my own job, and the jobs of my family and friends, be in jeopardy? Will global and national leaders make the right decisions for the world’s health and economy?
Sometimes leaning into hobbies or doing something productive helps me to overcome that anxiety and sometimes taking a nap, watching reality TV, or calling my family is more helpful. Self-care is more important than your productivity. It’s not an excuse to be lazy, but it’s a reason to give yourself a break.
Discovering new meaning in self-care
I’ve found that my daily self-care routines have been surprisingly grounding in this time of tumultuous emotions and unknowns. I used to do my workouts, skin care, and makeup mindlessly—they were just things to check off my to-do list as my day began and ended. In quarantine, I’ve realized that these self-care rituals aren’t just to keep up appearances; they’re also a big part of my mental health.
Initially, it was nice not to have to think about how I looked while working from home and socializing over Zoom. Why bother getting ready with nowhere to go? But I soon realized that the absence of these self-care routines was affecting my productivity and mindset. So I started to do my hair, skin care, and makeup every day. Even if I’m not in the mood or I’m feeling groggy and out of sorts, I make sure to keep up these routines to feel more centered and put together.
The coronavirus pandemic has really tested my resilience and flexibility—and I’m sure it will continue to. It’s made it harder to deal with the already challenging parts of solo living as a single woman. It’s taken more energy to reach out to family and friends, focus on work, maintain my mental and physical health, and do basic things like grocery shopping. For now, I’m taking it day by day, but I know that on the other end of this crisis I’ll be a more grateful and intentional woman.
Do you have an experience about quarantining that you'd like to share? Tell us here and your response may be published by Verily at a later date.