Pandemic Life, Inside and Out

In his exploration of contrasting experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, Low Entropy Volunteer Writer Mike Vaness shows how gratitude can be gleaned from others’ perspectives.

The alarm comes to life, and your eyes reluctantly open. The room slowly comes into focus as you slam your hand down on the snooze button. The bright red pixelated time stares back at you: 6:30 a.m. You know you need to get up. You should start your morning, but lately it has been getting harder and harder to push yourself out of bed. You don’t really want to face the world. Perhaps your hesitation comes from the colder weather and dark mornings, making the warm bed much more appealing than anywhere else. More likely, it’s your growing concern about going out during a pandemic. You don’t want to leave this bubble of safety and comfort, but you also want to keep your job, so you don’t really have a choice. Your partner is still fast asleep: they work from home now, so they always get to sleep a bit longer. Jealousy bubbles inside you, but you swallow it down as you step away from your partner and start your automatic morning routines and rituals. Your partner arises for a sleepy goodbye, and for yet another day you step out to brave this strange world. You look back as the door clicks shut, already yearning for the warm reassurance and safety of home. They’re so lucky.

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The alarm goes off like a siren, and though you are awake, you keep your eyes tightly shut. Your partner dawdles for a few minutes before finally slinking out of bed to prepare for their day, but you remain still, cozily embraced by the thick duvet . . . you don’t really want to face yet another day of the same things, within the same walls . . . 

With a start, you awaken for the second time – when did you fall back asleep? Your partner is about to leave for the day. You pull yourself together to see them out. Not only will you miss their company, but this ritualistic goodbye is one of the more reliable methods for getting you out of bed. Motivation has become a scarce commodity, and you don’t foresee any new stimuli helping you through your day anytime soon. You shut the door behind your partner and turn to the same walls, the same furniture, the same decor you have seen day after day. You are growing increasingly weary of this monotony: the same computer screen and the same desk in your makeshift living room office. The bitter taste of envy coats your tongue as you think about your partner’s day. They can leave the house and go out into the bright, wide world. You yearn for the fresh air and freedom, the company and companionship of colleagues and clients – anything that could break this mind-numbing routine. They’re so lucky.

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Which of these scenarios speaks more to you? In conversations with my friends and family, I’ve found that our households have become all too familiar with this break in perspectives between partners – while one’s routine has remained mostly consistent, the pandemic has completely changed the other’s daily life. Even if your routine is familiar, with your work and commute fully operational, now it feels like maintaining this life places you in harm’s way. If you have either lost your job or transitioned to working from home, sheltering from COVID-19 feels, by now, like being trapped in a cage. Each situation comes with pros and cons, but no matter which day you are experiencing, the alternative always seems more appealing. The pandemic has put everyone into uniquely challenging positions; we have to deal with whatever hand we have been dealt. 

Businesses need to work harder than ever to stay open. In many cases, working from home is not possible. We’ve heard of “front line workers”: employees who are required to still go out into the world with the added challenge of keeping themselves, their colleagues, and their clients safe. The added responsibility can be anywhere from concerning to downright scary, as you are reliant on the public to do their duty and meet these same responsibilities. It can be hard to trust strangers, when you witness people disregarding the directions from our leading health professionals as soon as you walk outside or turn on the news. Going to work with the public makes me feel like I’m taking unnecessary risks, and there have been times I wished for a harsher lockdown so that I could find a safe haven at home.

Meanwhile, my partner was laid off when their office permanently shut down. The sudden loss of your environment outside the home can really affect your mental wellbeing – your home may be comfortable, but soon the lack of company and outside stimuli becomes boring and depressing. At the same time, the news is full of fear, so the outside world has become so unfamiliar and dangerous that even going out for exercise and basic essentials seems like too much of a risk. What is your motivation for the day? You are trapped inside a comfortable cage, and the walls that you found relaxing, comforting, and safe are now the source of your malaise. Working from home, there is no longer any separation between your place of rest and a place of work. It’s even harder to disconnect from the workday, often leading to longer work hours and added stress.  

Please remember that we are all getting through this pandemic together. While everyone’s situation is different, it’s as they say: the grass is always greener on the other side. There are always good things to find and appreciate, no matter where you find yourself in life. Your work may be riskier than your home, but at least you are able to get outside and interact with people. If you are at home, you have gained safety and security. No matter what you are going through, there are others who are going through the same, so don’t be afraid to reach out to friends or loved ones. We are all in this together.

How do you remind yourself to look at the bright side of life? Bring your life lessons and stories to a Low Entropy meeting, or share your insight in the comments section – and definitely stay safe and healthy out there!

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