There are some things in life that truly test your patience. Isolation is most definitely one of them.
Before I get cracking on telling that story, let’s be clear that my story today does not in any way compare to the months on end that other parts of Australia have endured. Neither am I living through devastating floods, nor do I live in a war zone. For that I am thankful and acknowledge that there are some tragic and devastating global events happening right now.
In the scheme of things, being in isolation for four weeks is a mere drop in the ocean but boy, have I learn’t a bunch of stuff in the process.
Week One in isolation was a close contact for the whole household. Week Two in isolation for the whole household was Miss 17 finding COVID at a Saturday night party. There was an Oh. So.Brief. interlude moment of short-lived freedom following that, and then boom, back into isolation for me with nobody’s friend, COVID.
As a family, we have had SO many tests leading up to this, all negative (except for the party goer), so after a few days of feeling like I had a monster sinus infection, it finally occurred to me that it may in fact be COVID. And indeed it was. Around the back of the house and straight into the toy room I went for my third bout of isolation, luckily avoiding everyone in the process.
Today is my third day out in the free world and I have never been so happy to do the most mundane things beyond the scope of one room. I am not going to pretend that this virus didn’t knock me around. It did. I am triple vaxxed but pondering the potential severity if I hadn’t been, gives me the shivers.
Long story short, there are always lessons to be learn’t wherever we find ourselves in this world and this past month was no exception.
Lessons From The World Of Isolation
Get a Good Mattress
There was a great deal of haste getting myself into the toy room from the testing centre. The mattress options I had available to me in that room included three air mattresses, a self inflating camping mattress and a foam mattress that the kids have been using for sleepovers for like, forever. Air mattresses make me feel like I am on a boat for the first half of the night and then a sinking raft for the remainder, so it was a hard no for that option. Camping mattresses are perfect for exactly that, but the cacophony every time you turn over is too much to bear. Beaten up foam mattress it was.
Because I was feeling so ordinary, it would not have mattered what I was sleeping on for the first few nights. Within a few days though, I was wondering why my hip bones, ok all my bones, felt like they had been resting for hours on a concrete floor. That would be because they actually had been. I am not sure what the recommended lifespan of a foam mattress is but I know this particular foamy has long passed its hey day. This whole experience has reminded me that the life of any mattress is 10 years maximum – besides breathing there is nothing more important than sleep. How long is it since you checked your mattress?
I’m heading to the Remedial Masseuse in a few moments to sort those bones and muscles out.
Find Something Wonderful to Read
I love a good book in my hands and there is no better uninterrupted time to do that than in isolation right? Every day, I pulled my chair up to the only window, gazed out at the fine architectural lines of the tin shed and got stuck into some reading.
There is no better way than reading to transport yourself from where you are to somewhere else entirely. The sad thing is, much is changing in this department. A Gallup poll in the US found that over 50% of Americans never read a book in a typical year. In 2017, the average American spent 17 minutes a day reading a book and 5.4 hours on their phone. I can’t find any information on similar polls here in Australia but it would not surprise me if the numbers were much the same. Sigh.
This snippet I learn’t when reading the illuminating book, Stolen Focus – Why You Can’t Pay Attention by Johann Hari. An uncomfortable insight to how many of us are operating right now but also some thought provoking solutions. On the fictional side of the fence, Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton stole my heart and my imagination and I would highly recommend both of these books both in and out of isolation.
Are you reading something regularly?
It is amazing how quickly we can become disconnected from the world around us, even if for just a few weeks. Research shows over and over that connection is one of the most important aspects of a healthy, long lived life.
I feel fortunate to have had lovely friends, family and even people I don’t know really well, drop off a meal, a coffee, fresh fruit, a magazine or a note to let me know that I was being thought of.
That brief sense of disconnection that I felt, has made me think more deeply about the importance of checking in with those around you, even the people that usually seem to cope with whatever is thrown at them. What seems like a small gesture may just be the single bright light in someones day.
The question is, what can I do today to make someone else’s day better?
Tread Your Own Path
Exercise and moving is integral to the very core of my physical and mental wellbeing. It’s my first thought when staring down the barrel of isolation and I start getting all twitchy at the thought of not being able to get out to run, walk, go to the gym and do yoga. Of course, thanks to the wonderful world of technology, there are many options available online for gym and yoga. Running and walking on the other hand, do present some challenges in a toy room.
Many years ago, I worked for the Health Department when the Find 30 campaign was in full swing. Find 30, was all about finding 30 minutes across the day to move for good health and fitness. The department launched the campaign with a competition searching for innovative ideas on Finding 30. I am ashamed to say that I was extremely judgmental of one particular stand out entry that detailed the intricate geographical minutae of a nightly path made through a dining room, a living room and a bedroom. Over and over and over, to get those 30 minutes.
I remember wondering why this person didn’t venture outside and smell the roses for goodness sake! Decades later, I found myself remembering that Find 30 idea with embarrassment at my immature judgment, as I repeatedly walked the narrow pathway around the back of our house 25 million times each day.
It doesn’t matter where or how you move, you just have to find those 30. How are you doing?
Pops of Colour
Frustration and twitchiness can sometimes get the better of you within four walls. There can be a need for something soothing and calming and as I found myself in the toy room, my options were Nerf guns, board games without opponents, loom bands or crafting with glitter and feathers.
But wait. Hello colouring in. In the past few years, colouring has made a very big comeback but it never seems easy to find the time to actually do it.
In my little cocoon, I had the time, the space, 50 colouring books and buckets of pencils. Sharpening pencils and colouring became a daily project and without other commitments, I truly took the time to be in the moment and just kept doing it until my body started complaining about being in the same position for hours. I loved it.
On the back of that, I have decided to make it a small part of my everyday, by using colouring in my short breaks during work days. Instead of checking my messages at every break, I plan to do 5 minutes of colouring. Sharpening a pencil and colouring in for just 5 minutes can only result in a calmer mind and a genuine break from looking at a screen or a stressful situation.
Anyone else in?
As I reflect on the past month, I hope that you are safe and well wherever you are, and being supported with whatever you are currently experiencing.
If you have some lessons that you would like to share, I would love to hear them.