By Jillian Sandy

It’s not a secret that we in the States have wholly botched our response to a global pandemic by living in denial and politicizing the act of saving people’s lives and well being. Oh, and a huge stretch of the west coast is on fire, bathing some cities in an eerie reddish orange glow. But many states have lifted a majority or all of their lock-down restrictions related to COVID-19—if they even had any to begin with.

Luckily, New York State, my current residence, has had one of the more responsive leaders to the pandemic. Though New York City was initially hit hard by the pandemic, the state now has a lower rate of infection than many others. This could change, of course. There are many decisions that seem to be supported by science, but the logic behind others is… less than obvious. Schools and universities have reopened regardless of the infection rate in surrounding areas, along with shops, restaurants, theaters, gyms, and bowling alleys.

By and large, we’ve been lucky upstate as the infection rates have stayed low thus far. The college where I work has opened for classes on campus, though many of them remain remote. This fall has meant shifting gears as we’ve transitioned from working remotely to working in-person again. And it’s quite astonishing how quickly new policies and procedures can become routine…if exhausting and stressful. I have done more cleaning since mid-August than I have in my entire life. And that’s saying something—cleaning is one of my top procrastination techniques.

What else have I been up to? I mean, not much. Here are a few things I’ve been intentional about fitting into my week when possible.

Watching old favorites

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve gone through Boston Legal, Continuum, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Lost in Austen, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and Notorious (the 1946 Hitchcock film, though no disrespect to the 2009 Biggie Smalls biopic). I currently marvel at other people who have used time stuck inside to finally watch The Wire or otherwise clear things off their watch list. My lack of focus and need for some stability means the only thing my brain craves are the comforts of familiar favorites.

Taking a walk

I admit sometimes it’s a walk inside. Sometimes it’s a virtual dance class or yoga routine. It may not be any sort of movement at all. But I try, especially while the weather is nice, to get outside.

It could be a tough winter to get through mentally, so I’m trying to get my fix of vitamin D and that (mild) endorphin rush while I can.

Doing something to engage my brain

Again, this doesn’t happen all of the time. But I have been making an effort to spend time drawing, painting, or writing. I’ve even attempted cross stitching—a difficult endeavor in a cat-led household.

I inevitably feel better whenever I do something beyond mindlessly consume media 24/7, though it can be difficult to motivate myself to do so.

Scheduling days off

I realized some time ago that I was desperately looking forward to an upcoming 3-hour ophthalmology appointment (which involves dilating one or both pupils and then looking into lots of bright lights) because it meant half a day away from work. This was a disturbing revelation, and I promptly scheduled several days off scattered throughout the semester.

I may not be enjoying time off in the way I would like (i.e. taking an actual vacation), but having some days to recharge and experiencing a slight change to my routine is necessary.

[Insert introvert’s acceptance that socializing is a good thing here]

The only social activity that will get me out of the house right now is trivia. My team’s usual trivia spot is open again, using an upstairs reception space to keep the groups socially distanced. It’s not a solution without risk, but it’s a relief that it’s even an option.

I’ve also been making an effort to keep up with people across the country (and the world!) through video chat even as I’m extremely fucking tired of virtual meetings.

Cooking

I love to cook, and I could eat leftovers for days. Now that there’s an autumnal chill in the air, I’ll be filling my apartment with crock pot smells of soup cooking all day or squash roasting. Honestly, one of the biggest disappointments of this pandemic has been the number of baked goods I’ve had to cram into my freezer or the trash—there has been no one to share with!

Letting my brain rest

There are large stretches of this year that I have no memory of. I wouldn’t advise wishing time away, but allowing it to have no particular structure or purpose can be so needed. I find myself addicted to the narrative that my life is following the plot to a story or is laden with greater meaning at every moment. Who knows? Maybe it is. But the idea of making the most of your time usually carries the implication that every second needs to be a productive one. Let’s just not buy into that.


Don’t get me wrong, this post doesn’t accurately reflect the amount of time I’ve spent anxious AF, sleeping badly, stress eating, and mentally cursing people who don’t understand how to properly wear a face mask (STILL). But I’m tired of being stressed, thinking about being stressed, and planning to be stressed for a long fucking time. Stress, anxiety, depression—we go way back. There’s no chance our relationship is going anywhere any time soon.

What have you been doing in lock-down or (non-lock-down)?

I can’t be the only one who started watching an excessive number of Bill Hader interviews and 1980s soap opera clips…right?