I remember hearing a story about a kid who was picking his nose while riding in the back seat of a car. His parents kept turning around, yelling at him to stop it. They weren’t paying attention, ran off the road and hit a tree. Both parents were uninjured; however, the kid was still picking his nose at the time of the crash. Tragically, the impact caused his finger to jam so far up his nose that he touched his brain, killing him instantly.
I’m not a scientist – whether this is a true story or an urban legend is a question I’d normally punt to the good folks at Snopes or MythBusters. But last week, I decided that it is definitely not true.
Because last week I got my first ever “nose swab” to test for COVID-19, and I’m 90% sure they touched my brain. Yet here I am, alive to tell the tale.
I’m fine. I haven’t gotten the test results, but my symptoms (which lasted about 5 days) appear to be subsiding. In the meantime, I’ve been self-quarantining in our bedroom for over a week now while my wife handles our two girls with 20% less space and 50% less help than before. Despite my condition, I definitely have the better end of the deal.
Around this time last year, I quoted Stephen King in a post about writing. King wrote that a writing space “really needs only one thing: a door which you are willing to shut.” I remember at the time lamenting the fact that I couldn’t seem to shut out life’s distractions, and wondering whether I truly had such a door. Well, now I’ve got one:
Staring at the door, I’ve been thinking about just how unique this situation is. Yes, the human race has suffered pandemics before. And yes, although technology is constantly changing and evolving, most of what we now consider the “basics” (phone, email, video conferencing, even social media) have been around for a while, relatively speaking. But at no point in history have we ever encountered such a far-reaching challenge, while also having such far-reaching means of sharing our experiences.
In some ways, it’s the perfect opportunity to develop empathy.
If the word “opportunity” sounds optimistic, it’s because I am optimistic – at this moment. I’m in a good mood. Which, by the way, changes day-to-day, sometimes hour-to-hour. There have been plenty of times when I’ve been downright pessimistic. If this isolation has taught me anything it’s that I can be quite the moody person. And my perspective on all this, along with my opinion on how it should be approached, changes with my mood. I chose to write this post while I was in a good mood, because if I’m going to put something out there I want it to be positive. If the results are a little Pollyannaish, so be it.
I’ve seen a lot of back-and-forth on social media about what’s “the right way” to handle this isolation. It appears there are two camps:
- You should take care of yourself, be kind to yourself, and cut yourself some slack. This event has no precedent – do whatever it takes to stay sane, and forgive yourself.
- You should take advantage of this opportunity to push yourself, to “pivot”, and grow – you should come out of this thing better than before.
This is a false choice, and it isn’t unique to pandemics. These approaches are not mutually exclusive – taking care of yourself doesn’t mean you can’t grow, and trying to better yourself shouldn’t come at the expense of your self-worth. I like how Gretchen Rubin put it recently: “Accept yourself and expect more from yourself.” There’s no reason we can’t do both, although it isn’t always easy.
So what am I doing? I’m sleeping as much as I can, but I’m making my bed when I get up. I’m getting dressed in new clothes every day, but I’m keeping it casual. I’m eating as much as I want, but trying to limit it to healthy foods (pizza date night notwithstanding).
If you’re getting a little stir crazy, I feel you. I am too. Keep fighting the good fight behind closed doors – there’s important stuff on the other side.