Observations from the coronavirus confinement

Florals? For spring? Groundbreaking.

I know, I know, you are fed up with this shit. But that’s what my mind has been doing for last 12 days: noticing. So, this is not a ‘how to stay safe in the midst of this shitstorm’ post and not a ‘there are so many silver linings to this’ post. I’ve seen all that, and I’m still undecided which position makes more sense… This is just a list of things I’ve noticed thanks to Spain going into an official state of alarm on March 13 and living at home since then:

How very well off we are: Yeah, privilege, yada yada yada… but we are two able bodied adults with no preexisting health issues, physical or mental, and no dependents. One of us has a job he can do from home and get fully paid for that, and has savings. Our families could actually help us if need be. We live in the very opposite of a food desert. Our flat is cozy. We know how to cook.

I’ve seen what my basics are: rooibos, dental floss, tomatoes, fruit in general, Granny Smith apples in particular, onions and carrots, mushrooms… As far as priorities go, access to toilet paper didn’t really worry me (although this just makes and additional argument for finally seriously considering a bidet attachment once this shit is over), access to fruit and fresh vegetables did worry me.

Also, I don’t crave hikes but a cold session IPA at a cozy bar is a very attractive image now. Like so:

I’ve seen fluctuations in my mood: I have been circling through being fine, feeling anxious and this thing that I’m struggling to put a name in English. For my Russian/Latvian crowd: беситься / besis (it is not even proper Latvian but we have adopted with a slightly different meaning). Wiktionary offers ‘to madden, to infuriate, to exasperate’, but for me it is not the active, rabid anger. It is the impending doom. This is how I imagine caged animals feel, it is way past anxiety and just being fucked, it comes when everything is in vain. The difference in my experience has been that a wave of anxiety – news, for example, give me anxiety for the next couple of hours – can be calmed with a shot or two of vodka. ‘Besis’ cannot. You just have to wait it our by being grumpy and miserable. Hugs and crying in the arms of a loved one might help.

I feel that my emotional world went into a confinement mood, too. From Saturday (day 1) till Wednesday (day 5) I didn’t feel like talking with anybody else. Friends were doing supportive videocalls, and I either refused to participate or really wasn’t my best self during them. On Thursday I was human again, and able – and willing – to interact adequately.

I am enjoying, though, how normally ‘antisocial’ or ‘selfish’ behaviors can be beautifully reframed now as actual selfcare. I’ve watched TV news only once, like a week ago. Never again because I truly needed a double vodka after that. Sleep is prophylactics for all afflictions, physical or mental, right? So I’m embracing that too.

When life truly comes down to just keeping one sane (as stated above, with all the physical comforts provided), so much falls away as being clearly toxic. Let me be very clear, yes, at least for my mind – and probably for yours too – the news cycle is bad. People sharing ‘helpful’ crap are not doing service to anybody. Stay at home and shut the fuck up should be the full slogan of this time. That actually has been one of my points of frustration: how do you tell your loved ones and just random people in your WhatsApp groups that the first rule of a pandemic is not to distribute any information that is not signed by a public authority?

My body is fine, though: I was expecting a harsher reaction to cease of all my physical activities. The only thing I’ve done in last 12 days is housework involving climbing the stairs (because the elevator is clearly a health hazard) to the roof to line dry my laundry. Yep, I get an occasional stiff neck and lower back unease if I have been spent too much time in certain positions but I expected much more… I’m still waiting for this confinement to get be back on my yoga mat. Hasn’t happened yet.

Food and hunger work differently depending on a day. There are some that feel totally normal, when three meals have actual sense. And there are others when it gets lost between lack of activity or snacks… and those meals end up being a ritual. But I’ve been assimilated in Spain and our life with C enough to appreciate them also for their ritual value.

The productivity anxiety is my problem: Oh, dude… when I was wishing that the world would move slower so that I wouldn’t feel so harassed all the time. It’s not about the world, it’s just me. The world has ground to a halt, and I am still anxious and harassed.

I am constantly swinging between the two extremes of ‘great, now I can just chill and do my own little things’ and ‘great, now I should really amp up my activities and do *everything* I ever wanted to’. And I not really settling down for any of these, I’m hanging there in the middle, like Boris on a zip-wire, and just being frustrated. Well, I have at least 2.5 weeks of this left, so maybe I’ll figure it out…

I’ve seen differences among people: I have been trained for the last ten years of my life to look at statistically significant differences between groups, that is what social sciences do. And there is a lot of social stratification stuff to think about with this crisis: people with and without savings, countries with and without robust public health systems, etc. But the most immediate thing before the whole world economy goes into an abyss have been the individual differences in the outlook, in risk assessment, in moments of peak panic.

Additional touch of hilarity has been guaranteed by a partial loss of persona for people videocalling: that wet hair and pajamas, those children, partners and pets interrupting, those beds in the background. That is who we really are. I do miss an occasion to dress up properly, though. I am predicting a great explosion of fashion exuberance once we are allowed out again, at least on my behalf.


How is your shelter in place going? What have you noticed? What are you craving? What has gone away with this confinement that should never come back? Tell me ♥

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