My Shrinking World

World

I’ve been working exclusively from home for over a month. It doesn’t feel that long, but in other ways it feels like it has been forever.

I’m fortunate to work for a very forward thinking healthcare system. A few years ago our department leadership saw the day when we would run out of office space, and also the need to be flexible in terms of where people work to make itself an attractive place for college grads entering the work force. Thus emerged the Alternate Work Arrangement initiative, which was the catalyst to getting folks wired so they could work from home. It certainly has served us well when the virus hit and we had to transition a lot of people from the office to their homes.

While I was never an advocate for or desired working home full time, I did dip my toe into the water by working home one day a week. I enjoyed not having the daily commute where the round trip took between an hour and a half to two hours. I also enjoyed rolling out of bed, making some coffee, and working in my sweats. I didn’t have to get up as early to get to the office at my desired time, and finished the work day at home a lot earlier too.

When the reality of what was coming was irrefutable, I was glad to have been set up for a remote location and have taken to it like a duck to water. The only downside was that my world began to shrink considerably. But I have to admit,  I enjoyed spreading my stuff out on the kitchen table, and enjoyed the casualness of working from home. I still do.

However, the recent flood forced me to reorganize the work place at home because my mother in law is living in the big open area that includes the living room, where she sleeps, and the kitchen. I removed a table and the rolling office chair that went with it from downstairs, deposited it into a  corner of my bedroom,  and parked my laptop upon it.

Every morning now, I literally crawl out of bed, throw on some sweats, brush my teeth, shuffle over to the kitchen to make my coffee, then head back to the bedroom to pull the table and chair away from the corner and get to work. This takes all of maybe seven minutes.

It’s a more comfortable set-up, and the view, which you can see from the picture that leads this post, is much nicer than anything I can look at from the office back at the mother ship, but my shrinking world has become even smaller. Other than occasionally going to the bathroom and kitchen, I am there from about 5:30 in the morning until 4:00 in the afternoon. I enjoy the new house and my new work space, but sometimes it feels like a glorified prison.

The psychology behind self-isolation is a weird thing. It’s a necessary evil, but we are more alone than ever. I don’t know about you, but being alone with my thoughts isn’t always a good thing, especially now. How can you not wonder where this will all lead, and what things will look like on the other side? When this all started, I firmly believed, and still do, that someone who is near and dear would perish from it, and there was a good possibility who this person was would turn out to be a complete surprise. So far, I know one person who I believe has the virus (not tested but has symptoms and is self-quarantined). Thankfully, he seems to be doing well. I have not been near him since that time. A good friend of ours who is a nurse was exposed at work due to a colossal management fuck-up that from the way she describes it is negligent at best and borderline criminal at worst. K and I worry about her.

It is hard not to feel alone even when I venture to the store. Social distancing requires us to give everyone a wide berth, so if I see someone I don’t know heading in my direction I turn the other way. And when I see someone I do know, I make sure I’m at least ten feet away from them. How can anyone feel connected to anything under those circumstances? When I do go to the store, it’s at 6AM on Saturday mornings, when practically nobody is there, so even these chance meetings are infrequent.

Most of the news is bad, so I have sworn off watching news programming of any kind, getting my information via the print media instead, which only creates a different kind of isolation. Because of the MS and how it affects my walking, I can’t go for an easy outside stroll, or visit state parks, the beaches or nature preserves. I’m beginning to understand and appreciate the plight of many with MS who have had lived like this for a long time because their disabilities make it hard to do otherwise.

I can’t explain why this came as a surprise, but isolation is also boring as hell, so I’m trying to cope in a variety of ways. Other than pouring myself into my work more than usual, I am also working out a lot more. I try to get outside at least once a day to breathe real air. The good stuff on Netflix, Amazon and all those services is really limited, even thought there is tons of stuff to see. I’ve refused to watch dramas because there is too much drama in real life as it is, and there are no sports. So I’ve reverted to watching a lot of documentaries.

I’m also drinking more. Not a lot mind you, and certainly nothing to be concerned about, but where before that was something that was reserved for weekends, a can of beer or glass or wine has become an every night kind of thing, along with the MMJ. On weekends I’ll indulge and have a vodka (or whiskey) and seltzer (or two). And there have been nights where I have made sure I was numb to anything and everything.

Whatever has been preying on my mind never seems as terrible with a buzz-on. It also helps me stop thinking about shit I don’t want to think about, at least most of the time. It is hard to think about happy things when the world around you is turning into shit, so this becomes an emotional crutch.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who does this, so I can’t help but wonder if there going to be a lot more people with substance abuse issues compared to before this started.

Life has become routine and predictable: Get up, work, work out, have dinner, clean up, take a shower, have something to drink and toke/eat, watch television, then get up the next day and do the same exact thing. Just like the subject of Jackson Browne’s “The Pretender,” I sometimes feel like a happy idiot, struggling for the legal tender.

On weekends, add house cleaning, whatever outside stuff that needs to be done, and a trip to the store, but those diversions don’t change the fact that we have become solitary, secluded beings out of necessity, and it isn’t fun.

Each day and week that goes by deepens the feeling of my detachment from the world. At least I have a spouse that I adore and can hang with, but that doesn’t prevent the feeling of separation from everything I know from building and deepening every day and week this continues. I can’t imagine how this will feel in another month or two.

All we can fall back on is that we are doing the right thing. The short-term sacrifice will help hasten the spread of this thing and save lives in the process (unless the Federal Government continues to downplay the severity of this), so how can anyone bitch about that?

Still, I sometimes feel like the incredible shrinking man, whose only connection to the world outside of my family unit are the words on texts or the voices on the phone. It’s a poor substitute for the real thing, but it’s better then nothing.

We will all be changed when this is over. Only time will tell if that is for the better or worse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Steve Markesich

I am loving husband, a doting father, a Red Sox fanatic, an aspiring novelist and MS advocate. Feel free to check out my stevemarkesich.com web site.

14 thoughts on “My Shrinking World”

  1. Honestly Steve, routine is important, yours sounds good. The drinking? You are of age, it’s legal… MMJ? Guess what? Really not a problem. Life is incredibly scary right now! This entails life or death decisions! It’s damn serious and very depressing! Give yourself a break. Shit got real. Cope however that makes sense to you and yours. Enjoy your beautiful view! Check out Ted Talks and YouTube. Search out FUNNY podcasts… just do whatever works! Judgements? You’ll get none from me. Stay sane my friend. You are doing your best!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing this, Steve. I have been wanting to read more about how people are coping with the isolation. Honestly, it isn’t a new thing for me; my small corner looks pretty much the same as it did before the virus, but still I feel the changes in the world so keenly, the fear and the uncertainty. Being at home full time is an adjustment that took me years to deal with, so to make that adjustment while dealing with the fear that comes with this pandemic, well, I think some extra drinking and toking are more than reasonable.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hopefully people will be more appreciative and understanding of folks who have had to live this way through no fault of there own before this started, and will continue to,do so afterwards. For me, one of my goals is to help you find the perfect Zelda. Hate the idea of you falling in public, or anywhere for that matter

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I can’t even imagine what life would be like if I didn’t have to go to the store every day. The only two things that have changed are this: we decided to be open only M-F through this, so I switched my Thursday off for Saturday (not a bad switch, when ya think about it), and I don’t go to “church” (the bar) anymore. I miss the people but not the expensive drinks. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I cannot relate. I want to. I know this is hard as hell, and I watch as friends and family on social media lament (“it’s just the fucking flu!” “Dem hoax!” “Free my state!”) and I say “hang in there, it’s working,” but my words are hollow. I’m not trapped inside. I’m at work, most of the time.

    Not surprisingly, my drinking has ticked up a bit. I was already the one or two every day guy, with more on weekends, but the sunny weather and the totality of it all has changed that to an extra one or two most days. For some, out there, I know it will be a problem. There are social and personal implications and when folks say the cure might be as bad as the disease I get it. I get it.

    I still think we’re doing the right thing, but I get it.

    Hopefully we can ease back into normalcy a bit now. Maybe there won’t be a second wave. Maybe everything won’t have changed forever, after all. Maybe.

    Hang in, Steve. I can’t fully relate but I can understand. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well, my first decision was that I/we are in this for the long haul, 2-5 years at least, so grin and bear it. Smile every day, think up a joke or two, sing a lot, be respectful to my partner–lots of pleases and thank yous, etc. This is actually easier for me than most, because I never liked human beings. Even though we can be nice, and we know how to be nice, there is so much meanness, hatred, and bitchiness being done by so many people to so many others, intentionally harming each other for no good reason but to impresss our own egos, this can be a great time for a lot of self-love, and a lot more self-work.
    People can hate me for saying this, but the more you truly love who you are, the easier it is to live alone in your own skin. Or with just one human friend. Lots of pets helps a lot.
    I FIND THAT THOSE WHO NEED TO FIGHT THE ADVICE OF EXPERTS are the ones who don’t like themselves, don’t respect themselves, and have no idea how to love themselves or why that would make such a difference. If you cannot do anything else, live like you love yourself. If you havevto, FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT. That will help.
    I do have my WP friends whom I communicate with almost daily, and as I said I have my partner, and our furry, fuzzy, even flying friends, and that is enough for me. We pick up our food about every four or five days without going in a store. We no longer eat out at all. My partner does watch a lot of tv, but she has a PVR, and she only watches what she wants to watch when she wants to watch it. I am a retired senior living on a govrrnment pension, she is a medically-retired woman fighting with anxiety while living on a small insurance pension. We can’t afford much, and we do our best to live within our means. I suffer from C difficile, which is like always having the flu. But that’s part of our lives, so we don’t sweat it.
    I really don’t know why I am telling you all this, as this post is the first post of yours I’ve ever read, a totally random choice, but it seems you yourself aren’t doing too badly. You allow your wife to be a bit of a mystery, and your mother-in-law is a total mystery, but you’re pretty open about yourself in front of potential strangers such as myself. You definitely seem to be on the good side of living in your own skin. That you use MMJ, as you call it, and some alcohol is totally up to you and no one else, as long as it does not effect your home life..
    Maybe it was you saying you know someone with Covid that got me to commenting here, but I just found out a good friend who lives 100 kms away was diagnosed with Covid today and we won’t see her for quite a while as she is living in a hotspot with a bunch of people who don’t wear masks or social distance. It is a religious town, and they believe themselves to be immune, even though they aren’t. So far she is not being hospitalized, but she too has a number of medical issues, and anything can happen,
    Anyways, just wanted you to know there are people such as my partner and I who have no trouble being locked down. It’s all about how you feel about yourselves and those around you. I don’t want to sound teachy/preachy, but be responsible, be respectful, and be nice. If there is a way to survive this pandemic, that is it.
    Peace to you and yours.
    rawgod

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have a handful of good friends but am a loner at heart. I am comfortable riding this out for as long as It takes. I don’t fear this as I did initially because the novelty of it has long worn off. Times like this brings out the best and worst in people, and the worst is truly disheartening and frustrating. I have heard some of the people who sound like those you described saying they don’t wear masks because God didn’t intend for them to breathe that way. Well, I wonder how they will feel with an ventilator jammed down their throats.

      Take care, and be safe. And thanks for comment. It is going to an interesting rest of 2020, to say the least

      Like

      1. David Pangborn, 1960s writer of science fiction, gave me the phrase, Loner by Trade. I adopted as my spiritual profession. I like your Loner by Heart. As one of my sign-offs, I use Take care, and stay safe. Hmmmmmmm. Weird….

        Liked by 1 person

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