Quarantine (COVID-19) Letter #1

Dear P,

It’s a strange world we find ourselves in, and growing stranger by the week. So much has happened since we last met face to face, and I can only assume that it’s been the same for you. It must be the same for everyone.

Life has become a blur of the kitchen table, Zoom split screen calls, and walks snatched greedily from the day whenever the opportunity comes up. It’s becoming that trips to the supermarket are an excitement, in part because they afford the chance to leave the house, but also the implicit danger of it all, all mouths covered by medical grade cloth or patchy scarves, all contact with other people reduced to furtive looks and distance gauging.

I hope that you have not been displaced too much and you’re routines and daily life hasn’t been torn to shreds as much as mine have. Exercise for instance, has been reduced from heaving pig iron of varying degrees of thickness around for an hour daily, to lying on a pink yoga mat in my living room with the sofa pushed back against the wall trying to exhaust myself doing push ups until my shoulders ache and I get bored of staring at the same patch of floor, as it hovers several inches from my face with each ascent and descent, each zenith and nadir of the motion.

Or lacing up my old running shoes and tearing around the block several times, giving a wide berth to all those I pass but accepting their stares and glares of suspicion as sweat drips down my brow and my breath is expelled in great panting clouds.

You were always one for the exercise – how are you coping with it all? Any tips or tricks you could pass along to an old friend?

I’ve taken up running again. Not so much as for the enjoyment I used to get from it- my knees protest the whole day after, and my back grumbles and twinges- but for the feeling of movement, of motion, that is so lacking from life right now. The feeling of a breeze on my face and a horizon to chase, something to aim at, something to pursue.

You’ll tell me that my goals are more important than ever now, and you are right. As usual.

And when the endorphin rush kicks in, and my brain becomes used to the steady pounding of my feet on the ground beneath me, and the sky rises high above me, I feel less constrained for some time after, until the feeling surrounds me and I must run again. Run towards something, run away from something, its all the same. Its the movement. The motion.

My writing, I’m afraid and ashamed to admit, has taken a blow in the fallout from it all. Working from home has contributed to that. The desk I did my writing and creative work at has now become the DIY office that I do my day job from, so when I sit down at it, even if its before work hours, I cant help but having the email open in the background, to get a jump on whatever issue has occurred the night before in the factory.

I do get a lot more done though. And maybe it is showing me something, showing me a blueprint to succeed in my job – by waking up early and putting the hours into a project at home, before arriving at the office to do the actual physical showing up.

Showing up is overrated. And hopefully people will see that when this is all over, and that some good will have come from all of this. If I can work from home, and get all my shit done- reports written, emails sent, meetings attended virtually- then why is going into an office and effectively serving time at a desk any better? And if I get a few odd jobs done around the house, maybe do a grocery shop or go for a run at lunch, what of it? The work still gets done.

I can see, and will likely push for, a scenario where my work week is split between home and the office. Maybe 3 days in, 2 days at home, or some sort of schedule to that nature. If the work still gets done, and productivity is high, then there isn’t really an argument against this.

The lack of commute has saved me so much time, given me so much time back. And my commute wasn’t long to begin with. It gives me more time in the mornings, to work on writing and the like, and then in the evenings I can just close the laptop and work is over. No train, no bus.

As a result I’ve had more time to focus on the writing blog, and the writing twitter. Ah social media. That alluring succubus. That is one area to watch closely and be disciplined in, because the time spent on it starts to creep up and up, and it detracts hugely from actual creative work. The marketing has it’s place, but you just aren’t going to be able to enter the zone required to write a short story or an article, or even work on the novel, if you are constantly responding to the flights of fancy the algorithms throw at you throughout the day. And we have no training for this, no prior knowledge of it. Dangerous.

‘Don’t become an author of tweets, when what you really want is to become an author of books.’

How is L? How are you finding being cooped up together so much? I suppose you have a large enough house and garden, so perhaps that affords you some space and quiet time. Here in the apartment, the walks have become more frequent (by all parties), but we’re coping fine.

And what then of the way out of all this? I heard today that quarantine has been extended for another 2 weeks. And then, when we near this new self imposed deadline, another 2 weeks. Then another, until God knows when. I wonder how society here will cope with all that. I imagine people will get very restless. I’m in a risk category myself, as you well know, so I am adhering strictly to the social distancing, but good luck telling the younger people that they can’t congregate in each others houses to drink beer and party during summer, or that the beaches are off limits. It’s hard to say what these next couple of weeks will bring. I can see a time upcoming where people decide their own level of risk, and live accordingly. I can even see you doing that, fit and healthy as you are (although I’m afraid I’ll be staying put until this is all over)!

Sorry to ramble to you, it felt good to write something long form again, even if it is only an email.

Love to the family,

Kind Regards

Q.

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