Today I was on a conference call and everyone got to hear Z flush the toilet in the background.
So, if you’re wondering, quarantine is going really well so far.
We moved into our current apartment a little over two years ago. At the time we were looking, there were three open one-bedroom apartments in the building. We ended up selecting the cheapest one – with no natural light and an awkwardly shaped living room – because we reasoned we wouldn’t be spending that much of our waking hours in the apartment.
And until this pandemic hit, it was pretty much true. On a normal weekday, I spent maybe 3 – 4 hours a day in my apartment (not sleeping). Z and I had completely different schedules too, which meant that we only spent about 2 hours a day together in the apartment (not sleeping). On the weekends, we tried to take advantage of the reasons we paid to live in New York City – we went out to restaurants, saw shows, walked in the parks and went to random events. After we got Marvin this past November, it meant that we were in the apartment more than before, but we made a lot of attempts to bring him wherever we could. We were also always trying to balance spending time with both our families. Quiet weekends were a rarity that usually came from bad weather.
Now, we have spent 50+ days working and living in the same space, and our biggest adventures have become going to the grocery store. We are making do, but this new reality was one we had no idea would happen when we picked this apartment.
We had to find a way to squeeze a desk and chairs into our living room, so that Z could have a workstation. It’s impossible to keep things clean and neat, since we are never not living in this space. I’m constantly pushing the limits of our limited counter space with my stress baking projects. We are rearranging the bedroom every time we want to work out in the apartment and still tripping over each other (and Marvin!) when we do.
Most people that I know have fled the city. They’ve mostly moved in with their parents in suburban homes, where there is space and company and places to sit outside where you don’t need a mask. Of course, my parents are about 30 minutes away in New Jersey and Z’s family is an hour away in Long Island – so we have places we could have fled to. But it’s not as if we could keep switching back and forth where we were staying – both for health reasons and practical ones (we don’t have a car, we’d be carrying a lot of stuff back and forth, we have a Marvin) and nobody wants their parents to be hurt or mad that we didn’t stay with them. So here we are, in our New York apartment, living between a rock and a hard place.
New York State currently has, by far, the highest amount of COVID-19 cases in the US and over half of those cases are in the city. Which means that we are currently living in America’s number one hotspot for coronavirus. It also means that the New York City that I spent years wanting to live in has become a shadow of what it used to be.
A few weeks ago, because it was finally nice out, we wandered from the Upper West Side down to Times Square. It was only when we were walking across 42nd Street that I was hit by how quiet it was.
I have run in Times Square more times than I can count. As a person who is not great at managing my time – I have run to Port Authority to catch a bus, I have run to meet a friend at a movie, I have run to make it in time for a Broadway show and I have run when I was actually on time and then walked in the wrong direction. But this time, 42nd Street was empty.
Everything was closed – the stores, the restaurants, the theatres and the tourist hot spots like Madame Tussauds. But that is only a part of the chaos that is Times Square.
Usually, you are surrounded by people on all sides. There are groups hustling in every direction - tourists paused in the middle of the sidewalk, people trying to sell you tickets to a comedy show, people in costumes who try to take a picture with you and then demand money. Sometimes a street performance will cause so many people to circle around them, that it’s impossible to get by without walking into the street. There are tables everywhere with people selling caricatures or souvenirs or fake designer purses to people who don’t know to go to Chinatown.
I do not like being in Times Square.
It’s always incredibly loud and crowded and maneuvering anywhere takes 3 times as long as it should. I hate when anyone tries to stop and talk to me, when they’re really just trying to sell me something or get me to give them money. It drives me nuts seeing people visiting New York City and going to the same stores and restaurants that they’d find in their local mall. And don’t get me wrong – I have a soft spot for places like Olive Garden, but not when it costs more money for the same stuff you can get anywhere else.
But that is a part of what makes New York, New York. And I miss that.
This is a crazy time – this never-ending feeling that things are on pause and we have no idea when they’ll restart. One time, I got stuck on the Superman roller coaster at Six Flags and nobody would tell us when they’d be able to get us moving again - when we finally were set free, all they offered was to let us ride again. This pandemic feels sort of like that.
I am also aware that I write this from a place of extreme privilege.
Z and I are both lucky to have jobs that can be done remotely, which means that, for at least right now, we are not in danger of losing them. Because of that, we still have an income and are not concerned about our finances. We are both in good health and have great insurance should we need to use it. Our close circle of friends and family are all healthy and we are able to stay close to them through regular video chat sessions.
It seems selfish, then, for me to worry about my mental health in a time like this. And yet, I find myself constantly wanting to sleep, which is usually a sign that I am battling my anxiety or depression at a higher level than normal. Which, given what is happening around the world to people, makes me hate myself a little bit.
I saw a meme that was talking about how people with anxiety are better equipped to handle this crisis because worrying is our natural state. And in the beginning, that was certainly true. I have spent years honing skills to combat my natural fretting and fears. However, my anxiety in life has usually been rooted in a coming event. It can be about a work project or an uncomfortable conversation I need to have or having to cancel plans with someone or one of ten thousand things that make my brain’s wheels start spinning off the tracks. Part of the coping mechanism I’ve always used is dealing with issues as soon as possible, which means that my anxiety will a) not spiral out of control and b) allows me to stop feeling weighed down by it.
But how do I cope with something that has no end date in sight? And even if there was an end date to this – what is the new normal going to look like? How can I prepare to go live a life when I have no idea what it will look like?
We are all struggling. We are all doing our best. We are all scared and tired and angry. Which is why, more than ever, I am trying to remember to be kind to myself.
It works about 20% of the time – but hopefully I can keep improving on that.
Taking it one day at a time has never felt so difficult.
And yet, we are all somehow making it work.