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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

People are finding their own paths in a time of isolation

Betty Firth
Posted 4/1/20

I have been very curious about what people are doing with their time during this period of voluntary isolation, wondering if they are relieved from the incessant busyness that seems to characterize …

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People are finding their own paths in a time of isolation

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I have been very curious about what people are doing with their time during this period of voluntary isolation, wondering if they are relieved from the incessant busyness that seems to characterize modern life, how they might respond. With reflection and calm or anxious withdrawal from the comforts of eating out, shopping, and getting together with friends?
I wonder how single people are doing with the extensive solitude and how people in self-quarantine with partners, parents, or children are faring with the volume of “quality” time they’re experiencing. Will we be seeing a spate of divorces or a baby boom in the next year? Some rational thought might be the best birth control if people give consideration to the possibility of being trapped in a household where one of those people is flooded with out-of-control hormones.
I’ve asked people to share what they’re doing with their days.
“We’ve been getting out every day, talking with friends on Zoom, spring cleaning, and cooking. So far, it’s been OK.”
“I’ve been busy sewing masks requested by our local hospital and also making medical gowns for a dear nurse friend on the front lines in the Twin Cities nursing homes. I’ve also spent a lot of time on the phone supporting others who now have increased anxiety and depression.
“Focusing on staying healthy, fit, and happy, appreciating that I have enough food, a place to live where we can get outside, and that I live with someone I really like.”
“I just took a class, The Art of Perseverance, by Jen Hofman, the creator of the Americans of Conscience Checklist, and it was quite good. The weekly checklist gives a bunch of options for taking action, and we could all work on that during this social distancing time.”
“I love listening to The Hidden Brain. https://www.npr.org/series/423302056/hidden-brain. I also heard a wonderful episode of Philosophy Talk last weekend on avoiding a midlife crisis. https://www.philosophytalk.org/shows/midlife-and-meaning”
From a friend who is moving to Ely: “It’s a good time for introspection. Am I living the life I want to? What do I need to change to get there? Not being afraid to reset one’s life by moving, for example, to get where one wants to be. I am glad that I’m not postponing feeding my soul by waiting around for my kid to hang with me or for the stars to align before I begin pursuing my own passions.”
The daughter of a friend started “a collective, constructive, and hopefully uplifting exchange” through an email chain letter called Poem Exchange. “Please send a poem to the first person in the list. It should be a favorite text/verse/meditation that has affected you in difficult times. Or not. Don’t agonize over it. And send it on to 20-some friends.”
Another friend has been working her way through piles of paper that were stacked up for filing and finding she can throw most of them away. Some avid skiers I know have been thoroughly enjoying the spring skiing, going for miles every day, not wanting to miss a day when each could be the last.
One creative woman is learning Brazilian Portuguese. “I’m using three primary online resources: Duolingo, a free app that is a game-based way to learn language basics; a YouTube channel called Speaking Brazilian; and Carioca Connection, a free, weekly podcast. Videos, downloads, and worksheets help with grammar, pronunciation, and practicing skills.”
“I’ve had practice in the quarantine lifestyle. When I first moved to Ely in the dead of winter, I had nothing to do and nowhere to go since I wasn’t working and hadn’t made friends yet. I’m pretty good at figuring out how to entertain myself for days on end, mixing bits of productivity and laziness throughout the day.”
“I limit the amount of news I take in and am just trying to appreciate the privilege of a cozy home with the essentials I need.”
I also am quite good at savoring solitude and appreciating my home, with plenty of projects always awaiting me. I’ve been making a wall hanging using brilliant fabrics with wild designs, mostly greens and oranges and yellows, and just working on the rich colors makes me feel sunny. I’ve been working at home, writing grants for work, and appreciating the focus of doing something worthwhile, although tired of all the screen time. I’ve participated in Zoom meetings with some Quaker friends, the Folk School board, and members of the Folk School Alliance around the country.
Some of those long distance friends shared these bits:
“We built an obstacle course through the house out of pillows, boxes, tables and chairs for our three-year old. Her grandmother and grandfather come stand in the yard to watch her play through the window.”
“I’m working on a two-year old pile of mending. I’ve been thinking how homes used to be places of production and creativity, but now we rely on the outside for entertainment.”
“I’m randomly calling people just to see how they’re doing.”
“We can’t lose track of our Democratic candidates in the midst of this. Astoundingly, the President’s approval ratings are rising.”
“The hardest thing is, I can’t go out and do anything to help. And I’m angry that our country wasn’t better prepared. There’s no excuse for it. In 2018, Trump disbanded the National Security Council unit focused on pandemic preparedness. The military knows how to gear up in emergencies. Although it’s nice people are sewing masks, we should have been able to quickly get in production of huge quantities.”
“We’re used to being activists, but now we have to practice radical absence, getting out of the way of the health workers.”
Lynn Unger, a San Francisco minister and poet was concerned that social distancing would lead to emotional distancing, but realized that moving away from other people isn’t disconnection but rather acting out of a sense of community and compassion. And she thought what we need is more poetry, so she wrote:
Pandemic by Lynn Unger 3/11/20

What if you
thought of it
as the Jews
consider
the Sabbath—
the most sacred
of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from
buying and selling.
Give up, just for now, 
on trying to make
the world different
than it is. 
Sing. Pray.
Touch only those
to whom you
commit your life.
Center down.

And when your body
has become still,
reach out with your
heart.
Know that we are
connected in ways
that are terrifying
and beautiful.
(You could hardly
deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s
hands.
(Surely, that has come
clear.)
Do not reach out your
hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the ten-
drils of compassion
that move, invisibly,
where we cannot
touch.

Promise this world
your love--
for better or for worse,
in sickness and
in health,
so long as we
all shall live.

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