Find Joy in QuaranTEAM

Isolation isn't so lonely when we turn our focus to others.

Isolation+is+a+necessary+protectant+against+a+viral+outbreak.++But+when+we+have+the+opportunity+to+safely+help+others%2C+the+experience+can+add+meaning+to+our+quarantined+lives.

photo by Reese Marsalis

Isolation is a necessary protectant against a viral outbreak. But when we have the opportunity to safely help others, the experience can add meaning to our quarantined lives.

The sun beat down on my face. Music blasted from the speaker sitting on my driveway. The soccer ball ricocheted off of my knee and flew into the tall pine tree at the side of the yard. I look up to hear boisterous laughter coming from the seven-year-old boy in front of me.

In that moment, every worry, every hint of stress, every coronavirus-related thought escaped my mind. I did not have to think about the pandemic, for once. At that moment, my only job was keeping this child happy. 

Since the school district announced its indefinite closing three weeks ago, my cousin Bryce has been spending the day with my sister and me as his mother is a doctor. Fortunately, with the invention of telemedicine, my aunt does not have to physically contact her patients, but her day includes non-stop phone calls — not the most fun environment for a seven year old. 

So, at noon every weekday, Bryce strolls into my house, and the afternoon commences. Along with my sister Halle, we begin with schoolwork. Together we sit at the dining room table as Bryce compares the rigor of his Rocket Math to my physics homework. We then proceed to tie our shoes and go outside for anything — and seemingly everything — from street soccer to skateboarding to sprints up the driveway. One of Bryce’s favorite games is quite a spectacle. He straps on his black-spiked helmet, and Halle and I proceed to chase him on his bike, feet pedaling furiously, until we teenagers nearly collapse. 

In that moment, every worry, every hint of stress, every coronavirus-related thought escaped my mind. I did not have to think about the pandemic, for once.”

By that point, hunger has set in, so we return indoors to make a snack — lemon ice when it’s sunny, and banana bread when it’s rainy.  As they say, routines are important.

Depending on the weather, we either return to our unfinished endeavors outdoors or engage in a game of UNO or Chess. More often than not, my ego deflates when I lose to a mere seven year old.

Before dinner, Bryce, Halle, and I collapse on the couch for a few episodes of Boss Baby before his mother picks him up and we look forward to doing it all again the next day. 

Needless to say, these are trying times for everyone. For the graduating class, senior year could potentially be over. A random Friday in March could be the last day I saw my teachers and my classmates and experienced a typical day of high school.  All of it is heart-wrenching. We can’t help but feel immensely dispirited that our hard work over the past four years will not be celebrated like we had long envisioned. 

But dwelling on the sadness does not make it go away. No matter how much complaining one does, COVID-19 is still here, infiltrating, to one extent or another, all our lives.

Now, don’t get me wrong: acknowledge and mourn our losses, but don’t let them consume you. Renowned psychologist and professor Brené Brown recently said in a 60 Minutes interview, “If you don’t name what you’re feeling, if you don’t own those feelings, they will eat you alive.”

During the first week of remote learning, I felt immense sadness, which at times still conspires to consume me. But as soon as Bryce walks in, my self-absorption vanishes. Immediately, I focus my thoughts and energy on someone other than myself.”

Truly, feelings are meant to be felt. The current state of the world is terrifying for everyone, but it will pass. 

I say this because, during the first week of remote learning, I felt immense sadness, which at times still conspires to consume me. But as soon as Bryce walks in, my self-absorption vanishes. Immediately, I focus my thoughts and energy on someone other than myself.

You’re likely struggling wth sadness, too, but I challenge you to take that energy and focus it on someone else. Help your mom cook dinner. Challenge your brother or sister to a board game.  Take your dog for a long walk. Find out who it is that brings you joy outside of yourself, and focus on them. I promise, isolation won’t feel quite so lonely.