By the end of that first month, my cabin fever was raging. I was miserable, physically and mentally. I was anxious and lacked perspective, maybe I was even slightly depressed. My spirit felt caged with no end in sight.
I started taking short walks to different parks in our area. My better half was able to organize a car from time to time and we took a couple of drives around the city, extended our radius ever so slightly. I also had my first socially distanced meeting with a friend and her husband. All these things helped a lot. I didn’t feel as stuck anymore. The world seemed a little brighter. I felt like I could breath a little easier.
Relationship challenges and opportunities
Nevertheless, being confined together in a 55 sq m (550 sq ft) 1-bedroom apartment came with its own set of challenges. My significant other and I had been living together for about 8 months by that time. And the first month of shelter in place felt like a big and exciting sleepover. I worked in the living room throughout the day, my love generously conducted his work from the bedroom. We would spend our lunches and evenings playing board games and watching TV shows and the news.
But the grind and wear down was tangible about a month in. The monotony of our everday had left us raw. Being each others’ only social contact, we subconsciously put a lot of silent expectations on each other. We both felt tense and were walking on egg shells around each other. A lot of things were left unsaid and were festering beneath the surface before they would suddenly erupt into arguments.
It took some butting heads, compromises, self-reflection and honest conversations for us to grow, both individually as well as collectively. And as painful as some of it was, I am grateful for the pandemic forcing us to confront our issues. Life before was so full of actual and self-made distractions that it would have taken us years to get to the point where we are now. Our darker hours were the catalyst for some deep soul searching and healing of old wounds and trauma. And we are so much better for it now.
New footing in a new normal
Throughout the pandemic, I have tried my hand at different hobbies and and pass times (with blogging being the latest). Yoga, walks, TV shows, video games, reading… I’ve gone through different phases, trying different ways to keep mentally healthy and balanced.
This also includes meeting my girl friend once every 1-2 weeks. We usually meet in some part of the city, usually at some form of dessert spot as a starting point and then go for long walks around that neighborhood. It’s a lovely change of path and scenery. And even though we get snacks to-go, it feels like some form of longed for normality.
One of my bigger challenges has been to find a good life balance. I love my job as a market researcher and with not a whole lot of reasons to put work down in the evening, I have a hard time to turn the computer off at the end of the day. Nevertheless, this tends to bite me in the butt. By the time the weekend comes around, I am often exhausted and maybe even moody and irritable. It doesn’t come naturally, but I am trying to become more mindful and make better choices.
This goes hand in hand with mental health. And to be honest, it’s been a slight up and down throughout this year for me. I’ve had optimistic highs, but also phases of mild depression, as I imagine a lot of people have. It can be tricky to acknowledge and work through all these conflicting thoughts and feelings while keeping realistic regarding the present and the future. But it’s become a little easier to move through the different phases and realize that all of them are temporary.
Most of our lives got put on hold or our plans got thrown over board alltogether this year. In the beginning of 2020, I wanted to make the most out of my (new) hub in New York City and travel around the USA as well as to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and potentially South America. But as for many, COVID-19 canceled most of my travel plans this year. While the case numbers where low and cleared my conscious, I took three 1-week trips within the United States: One staycation in Irvington (New York), one long distance trip to Maui (Hawaii) and a family visit to stay with my parents in Virginia.
Nevertheless, the biggest adjustment was to not be able to see my family and friends in Germany this whole year. Missing birthdays, holidays and life events… that felt rough. I know it’s for a greater good and so that we all make it out of this… hopefully unscathed. But there are days when I miss them all terribly and pray for things to change overnight.
How about you?
How have you been living through the pandemic?
Cover picture was taken in Manhattan, New York (USA) in May 2020
Missing the beginning of this serie?
Life in a pandemic #1: The start of a crazy year