Despite my best efforts and careful precautions, I found out on New Year’s Eve that I had been exposed to the coronavirus. This post chronicles the Stages of Quarantine for Healthy people. Spoiler alert: I did not have COVID and never felt remotely unwell. So, this is more about how compulsively busy people handle forced downtime. As such, it is light-hearted account, even though I understand that for many people, their experience with this virus is anything but.
Step one, find out you’ve come in contact with the dreaded virus. Start frantic mathematical and calendrical calculations, trying to figure out if you’ve been near anybody else in the intervening time. Call your co-parent and warn them to stock up on frosted flakes and hamburger helper because the children’s stay with them just got extended. Indefinitely.
Look at your empty calendar – a three-day holiday weekend, no less – and make ambitious lists of everything you will accomplish during your isolation. Do not actually start on any of these projects, though. There will be time for that. Instead, lie on your couch and doomscroll through Facebook for several hours.
On Day 2, launch into the to-do list. Take down Christmas decorations, do laundry, clean the kitchen, walk the dog. Stop every fifteen minutes to anxiously take your temperature. Is 99.1 degrees considered a fever? Am I warm because I’m sick or because I just carried fourteen boxes and an 8 foot Christmas tree to the attic?
By midday, decide it’s time to treat yourself for all your hard work. Retreat to your art studio with a plate of cookies and start half a dozen new projects. Stay there all afternoon.
Vow that you will not eat cereal three meals a day for a week. Triumphantly cook Thai shrimp and pineapple curry and send self-congratulatory texts to friends with pictures of your dinner. Repeat with pasta primavera the next night. By the fourth day, give up entirely and eat a peanut butter and banana bagel for dinner. Wash it down with the rest of the holiday eggnog.
Realize that you stopped all your house organization projects halfway through, meaning that the house looks worse than when you started. Guiltily resume work, but get distracted by how cute your dog is and go for a walk instead.
Decide to watch one episode of a new Netflix show over breakfast. Spend the next four hours on the couch, entranced. Video chat with your anxious children and assure them that you are not, in fact, about to perish. Repeat hourly, or as needed. Download a new crime thriller to your Kindle. Read the entire thing in one day. Stagger around the house dizzily upon completion, uncertain of what day it is or where you live.
Grudgingly return to work (virtually) following the holiday weekend. Try to remember where you left off on major projects. Rejoice that your inbox is still nearly empty because everyone else has been ringing in the new year and not emailing you.
Get tested for COVID. Pat yourself on the back for correctly writing “2021” on the sign-in register. Try to act brave when accosted with nasal swab. Fail miserably and whimper quietly. Celebrate your negative test result and make plans to reenter the outside world. Realize it’s been a very long time since you showered. Remedy the situation, then glare reproachfully at the bras in your underwear drawer, knowing that their time will come sooner than desired.
Retrieve your children from your co-parent and celebrate your reunification with pizza rolls and chocolate fondue. Mask up and continue worrying about community spread. Think aggressively optimistic thoughts about the trajectory of the year and mentally inform 2021 that it had better get its act together. Pronto. You have things to do!