Winners and Losers of Social Distancing

We’ve been holed up now for two weeks. Or is it three? I think it’s three, come to think of it, but who can keep track? Time as we know it has broken down.

As we settle unwillingly into new routines, some aspects of the new normal clearly work better than others. There are winners and losers to this whole social distancing thing. To be honest, it’s mostly losers, but I did my best to summon some silver linings, too.

The family dog definitely goes into the winner column. Sweet Buddy doesn’t even know what to make of his good fortune, having his humans home with him all day. And, far from wearing him out, all the extra walks have only fueled his joie de vivre. He spends a good portion of every day blitzing through the house with a chew toy in his jaws, squeaking madly. This is especially fun when I am participating in video conferences. The ear-splitting shrieks of a polka dot pig add a festive air to any meeting.

On the other hand, the poor mailman probably doesn’t enjoy the fact that the dog is now indoors when he makes his deliveries, given that Buddy does his very best impression of a rabid grizzly bear every time the nice man arrives on the stoop.

Another loser is personal hygiene. Let’s just admit that. All the memes are true. When you’re stuck at home for days on end, your standards slip. It’s inevitable. There’s simply no reason to wear blue jeans when you’re going to sit on your bed with a computer on your lap for seven hours straight. Yoga pants are the only option. And when you can’t keep track of what day it is, remembering when you last showered becomes tricky, too. I’m one of the many people who missed a critical appointment with the hair stylist and my fun and punky hair is quickly becoming a scraggly lion’s mane.

Another winner? Children with bikes. When the rain finally let up, the bikes came out in force. We live in a wonderfully self-contained neighborhood with wide streets and rolling hills, perfect for intrepid young cyclists. Kids don’t understand social distancing, but fortunately, when they stay on their bicycles, they can’t touch one another. Exercise plus sunshine plus companionship without the risk of contagion? Yes, please.

Even my youngest finally broke down and learned to ride, after nearly a year of boycotting the very idea of a two-wheeled bicycle. The concept of braking is still under development, as she tends to take her feet off the pedals entirely when she gets nervous, but we’re making progress.

But speaking of children, my parental boundaries are a casualty of the times. I’m a pushover under the best of circumstances. My kids know they can wheedle that extra chocolate chip cookie (heck, I want one, too!) or another story at bedtime. Now, with the world in chaos, I find myself even less likely to hold the line. Particularly when it comes to bedtime. When everything is off kilter and your seven-year-old crawls into bed with you, you just let her stay.

Although when you have multiple children, that moment of compassion then results in two more children arriving shortly thereafter. You’ve seen that scene in the Sound of Music where the kids all run into Maria’ bedroom one by one during the thunderstorm, right? That’s my room at night. Plus, there’s a dog.

The last winner that I want to highlight is art. When the world goes crazy and everyone is stuck at home, humans turn to art. We seek beauty and connection in times of uncertainty – and that is what art is all about. I see it everywhere I look, from the free performances streamed by major performing arts venues to the neighborhood art galleries springing up around the country to my friend who posts videos of himself playing the piano. It makes my heart happy.

I’ve been making more art, too. I’ve fallen in love with tiny glass mosaics created on flat river rocks. After my kids are in bed, I’ll stay up too late creating turtles and butterflies out of glass shards. And lots of hearts.

A pink sparkly heart is always a winner, no matter what else is happening.

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