Hi from two months of quarantine in Hong Kong! I am watching the world start to put different forms of social distancing in place. I just wanted to say – Welcome to your new normal! I shall be your reluctant guide on this adventure you didn’t sign up for. I didn’t want more people in the Corona Club, but here we are. I’ll send your member badges in the mail.
In good news, my dream job was to narrate the Jungle Cruise ride at Disneyland, so believe me when I say I am going to be the MOST FUNNEST quarantine guide you ever had as I give you a preview to the next few weeks of your life.
I present to you, in my particular order, the phases of social distancing. Please keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times. Please note – you might circle back to some of these phases from time to time, and phases may overlap. Phases last different lengths of time for different people. This is not meant to diagnose your phases. Please call me if you experience any different, funnier phases. I want them.
Stage one – The Beginning. “What?! I’m supposed to stay home?! That’s where I wanted to be in the first place! This is going to be awesome. It’s going to be like a vacation! This feels special.”
This is where you might experience thoughts like:
- I believe we shall engage in daily happy hours that start at noon.
- I’m going to have so much free time!
- I’m finally writing that novel!
- I will bake things I’ve never baked before!
- I’m going to knock everything off my Pinterest board!
- I’ll look up YouTube tutorials! I will finally master the wingtip eyeliner thing I hear the youths talking about.
- All the good habits I’m going to set! I’ll work out so much! Hashtag Quarantine Bod!
- I’ll go to bed earlier, I am going to be so well rested – 48 hours of sleep minimum every night.
- My skin care regimen is going to be amazing.
- I’ll complete my college scrapbook and finish that cross stitch project that’s been under my coffee table for the last eight months. Oh my gosh, I can’t wait to do all the things.
- I’m going to start a side hustle of stamped jewelry and sell it on Etsy.**
This stage will last approximately five hours for extroverts. Introverts can enjoy several days of this phase.
Stage 1b – This applies to teachers and possibly parents of multiple children. This is when you realize that no one understands what you do on a daily basis. This stage is a lot of reading emails, becoming tech support and video editor overnight, angry group texting, bad words, crying, and wondering how you can make this work. This phase lasted about two weeks for me. I started work at 7:30, realized I hadn’t eaten or moved at about 4pm, ate while still working (my keyboard is now a science experiment of different food crumbs right now), kept working until about 11pm. I wouldn’t pee for hours, because I would forget to drink water, because my eyes never left the screen. My vision went blurry. I developed sciatica and everything hurt. I legitimately couldn’t feel my toes for a few days.
I blame my poor Wifi connection when my students say I look sick or tired during my online teaching hours. Really I just am not wearing makeup, haven’t put on any pants that have zippers since January, consider bras an option, and comb my hair once a week. (that’s generous)
Stage Always – Call your mom a lot phase.
Yeah, this is kind of a permanent life phase for me. She’s mom, but also a nurse, so if my toenail hurts, this warrants a video chat where I describe all symptoms in great detail.
Stage Two – Panic shopping. This is where you act like the world will stop making food and that Covid-19 is something that makes you have 149 bowel movements a day. You buy endless toilet paper* (you’re not sure why), canned goods, things you can freeze. If you’re me, you decide to fulfill your “Little House on the Prairie” fantasies and learn how to make homemade bread. Instantly gain five pounds. But who cares? Nothing matters. There are no rules anymore.
Stage Three – The “My hygiene has been sorely lacking” phase. Realize you touch your face all the @#$%ing time. Realize you never washed your hands long enough, or just enough in general. Realize face masks are uncomfortable and your breath smells. But wearing the face mask helps you remember to not touch your face. During this phase, you will sanitize your house like crazy and get a delightful little high from bleach fumes. Panic over every minor symptom you can’t be sure is allergies. Peel away layers of skin on your hands with different chemicals. You’ll be watching a show on Netflix and think “they are standing too close together!” and realize you’ve kind of lost your mind a bit.
Stage Four – We cool! Phase. “I have found a groove! This isn’t so bad. I can do this. This is good for me. The Earth gets to breathe, we get to reconnect with our inner warrior self, reset humanity. Dolphins sighted in Venice canals. Amazing.”
This will last for five minutes.
Stage Five – Escape phase. Time to finagle a staycation for your mind because you have now memorized your apartment and hate hate hate it. Questions emerge like “Do we have renters insurance? Wouldn’t it be fun to light a big fire?” If you start asking these questions, please figure out a way to es-cap-e. Sometimes this is a “turn my phone off” phase because if I don’t read about it, it might not have happened!
Stage Six – Scientific Panic Phase. Become an expert! This is an ongoing stage where you consume all the news. Grant yourself an honorary PhD in reading ALL the things about this virus. Memorize stats. See things you can’t unsee. Learn a lot of new words. Start arguments with relatives. Try to know the anxiety away. This doesn’t work, by the way. But I’ve noticed it’s better to just read news instead of watching it. Hot tip.
Stage Seven – The World is Ending! phase. During this phase, you might decide to try and make a will. For me, since I own nothing at all, I told my flatmate to take whatever she wanted, that I hide my cash in this box, and please burn all my diaries. I asked her to make sure the photos in my funeral montage are flattering, and I request Cheetos, frosting, a glitter bomb, and a costume in my funeral goody bags.
This line of thinking also makes me go “we’re burning the nice candles tonight – why was I saving them? I’m wearing this dress that I thought was for special occasions. I’m eating what I want. Let’s live life hard while we’ve got it.” I’ve started getting super honest. With my friends, with my work. Sometimes even with myself. What do we have to lose? I should have always told the whole truth anyway.
Mostly I find myself saying “love you” a lot more.
Stage Eight – Consume all the internet fun/meme phase – this is how the younger crowds deal with crisis. This is also when you realize teachers, health care, food and customer service are the backbone of society and vastly underpaid. This is where the creativity shines through, and where we engage in gallows humor. If you are so inclined, make that content. Send it my way.
Stage Nine – ‘Nah, We’re fine!’ Phase.
“Are we – is this – things seem okay. Things have died down. Cases are stabilizing. Are we overreacting? We are overreacting. Let’s go out! Live life! We’re good!”
THIS IS A BAD PHASE PLEASE SKIP THIS PHASE IT’S NOT GOOD FOR THE VILLAGE.
This will come after a few weeks, when cases start to dwindle a bit, and you’re going crazy being inside so much. You will think it is safe to bend the rules a bit. And then a bit more. You’ll get too confident. Around week six here in Hong Kong, you could feel the people itching through the walls to get out and about. BUT the moment we relaxed this week, we had the two biggest case spikes we’ve had ever. One was a secretary at an international school, the rest were imported cases (students flying back to Hong Kong from the UK). They visited the gym, grocery stores, work, and who knows where else in the two weeks before they were officially diagnosed. So now we’re going back to even stricter measures. We ruined it for ourselves.
You MUST socially distance to protect those around you. It’s the only way to be sure.
Stage Ten – Realize “I don’t have enough hobbies” phase. When we first started this “live indoors” thing, I thought I would practice guitar more, finish edits on my book, blow the dust off my Portuguese, etc. But what I realized is that when I am done with work, I want to just chill out and decompress, which for me used to involve a workout (fractured my foot, could no longer do this) or my laptop screen. But I just spent all freaking day sitting down in front of my laptop while teaching online. So the LAST thing I want to do is look at it again. So now I’ve run out of things. Can’t be physically active, I don’t want to use a screen, having lived abroad for six years means I don’t have physical books. . . this is where my “make homemade bread” phase really kicked in. Not great for my waistline but oh, oh so yummy.
Stage Eleven – Despair.
You’ll know you’ve hit this phase when your walk turns into more of a shuffle and you’ve been in a bathrobe for a few days.
Stage Twelve – Punch Drunk phase. I cycle back through this every few days, where I am so desperate for adult conversations (typical hazard of being a teacher) and so tired of my own company and absolutely out of my head, that my brain can no longer register what is and what isn’t actually funny. I tried to tell this really bad joke about beans, which you’re meant to deliver in an Irish accent, but mine was somehow more Jamaican? Anyway, my flatmate and I laughed so hard that we both were in tears and nearly peed our pants for about twenty minutes, until I had to look up and ask “hey, wait – what are we laughing about again?!”
We weren’t able to recall for the longest time. We had completely passed the realm of reason.
Stage Thirteen – Hyper-critical/Aware of Self phase. This will be in reaction to the many hours you have now spent video conferencing, or playing back videos of yourself delivering asynchronous teaching. You will learn to set your laptop up on books to avoid drawing attention to the several chins you’ve grown during this time. You will get really close to a mirror and figure out things about yourself – like HEY! I have two freckles in my armpit! And one really uniquely long eyebrow hair that is grey.
Stage Fourteen – Inventing Ways to Pass Time phase. A few weeks ago, I really hit this wall hard, and texted a friend saying “I now understand why people might sniff glue and lick paint. I am so beyond the bored.” This is when you have to find creative ways to let the clock spin until it’s reasonable to get back into bed. This is when you give yourselves silly games like ‘Which Nickelback song is the worst?’ Well, clearly you must listen to them all first before deciding. And you should probably dress up like a lawyer to present your case for the jury, which is stuffed animals and canned soup. There! That is easily a two hour task. Congratulations – you have now spent time.
Stage Fifteen – the “It’s Over” phase. I can’t tell you what this looks like. This is the one no one has been through yet. This is the one we are waiting for. This is where we emerge from our homes, blinking in the sunlight, shaking hands and hugging and kissing each other freely again (and are so grateful for it). Where we return to work, to school, to church, to normal.
I can’t wait for this phase. Can’t wait to full on snuggle up on people again.
I promise to never take normal life for granted again. SOS Jesus – help us get there.
Until we do – take care of yourself and each other. Be safe and send me selfies.
*BUY A BIDET!