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Remember when I said quarantine had turned me into my best and worst self? Lately it’s just been feeling like one of those. I’ll let you wager a guess as to which self it is.
I’ve entered a new phase of my quarantine existence: The Era of Indulgence. That makes it sound lavish, but it’s really more about catering to my smallest desires, like I’m ten years old again, and it’s really working for me.
For the past two weeks, once I’ve clocked out of work, I’ve melted into my couch. I’ve watched innumerable episodes of Sailor Moon, impulse-purchased Tollhouse cookie dough rolls and Bagel Bites and mini corn dogs from the grocery store, and played endless hours of a Nancy Drew PC game from 2004. At this point, the only thing missing from the equation is Saturday morning “Courage the Cowardly Dog” with fistfuls of dry Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
Anything that requires real mental or physical labor is basically too tall of an order these days. As long as I can take my inherent judgment off the table in those moments of indolence, that feels good right now. It’s taken me two weeks to get through a book that would have otherwise taken me two days, and that’s okay. Going for a run uphill with a mask on has sounded extremely unappealing—so the most exercise I’ve done is a couple crunches and a headstand in my bedroom. That’s also okay. I purchased a folding screen to serve as a headboard in my bedroom and it’s been lying flat in my living room for three weeks now. That’s less okay because it’s annoying the crap out of me, but at the same time I know it will happen when I feel like it can happen.
I’m not going to deny the correlation between these feelings and depression. It’s very much there. I’ve been depressed before, and I’ve been medicated before. I know this sadness. I remember what it’s like to not feel like I can move my body to even feed it. I remember what it’s like to not feel excitement in meals or conversation, or even in being outside. I remember what it’s like to ache for friendships and intimacy I’m not even sure I ever even had in my life.
All of these feelings are back. Knowing this grief is collective, not just my own, is the first balm to the wound. The acetaminophen is to listen to the smallest needs that are coming from my body and my spirit. If unhappiness is the foundation upon which we’ve built our houses now, then you need to furnish that metaphorical house with things that can revive you. Whether that’s a Tollhouse cookie for breakfast or an hour of meditation, that’s for you to decide.
We’ve received this same message many times since entering quarantine. But after the initial adrenaline-rush of being our best, doing our best, exploring every corner of ourselves–it’s time for a recalibration. Going into week nine, I think it’s never been more urgent: Allowing yourself to settle into the jacuzzi-warm waters of compassion for yourself, your desires, your needs is about the best choice we have. Permit yourself the Era of Indulgence, if only to keep your head above water.
I keep returning to the song “On I Go” from Fiona Apple’s quarantine album “Fetch the Boltcutters” (sorry if she’s not your girl). In it, Apple repeats over and over: “On I go, not toward or away / Up until now it was day, next day / Up until now in a rush to prove / But now I only move to move.” In a Vulture article, she explained that she started repeating this to herself when she was walking or hiking, and as she repeated it, it started to take on meaning: “What I really wanted it to be about was, there doesn’t have to be any specific meaning or reward or consequence of the things I’m doing. I do them for the doing of them, not for the results…I do things because I want to do them, because I like to do them. I don’t do them for any other reason.” I’m allowing it to be my mantra, too.