Today I wanted to share how its been living in quarantine a month in.
I’ve already shared a bit about how the process of dealing with coronavirus has been for us as expats living in northern Italy. Today, I thought I’d share a bit more of the interior life (pun intended) of quarantine for us one month in.
A confession: I’ve written this post twice already. First on a sleepless night where the fear was winning, and again this morning. It’s hard to crystallize this experience into something concise. I want to be honest, but not despairing, hopeful but not glib. Provide an insight, something relatable, something of value instead of One More Person Complaining (or possibly worse: acting like there’s nothing to worry about).
The reality is so much messier than that. Some days, I feel hopeful and clean my kitchen and try a new recipe and practice my Italian and research future travel. Other days, I feel lethargic and exhausted by the 10 minutes I take the dog out to pee, feeling like I’m breaking the rules even though I’m not. Still others I’m scared: not necessarily for myself, but for my 80 year old neighbor across the hall or for my American friends who haven’t been taking this seriously. Sometimes I cycle through all those every twenty minutes for the entire day.
Within 24 hours of announcing that Italy’s national quarantine would be extended (only 10 days, but more coming), lockdown restrictions tightened to require anyone entering a supermarket to wear a mask and gloves. Rules are changing and evolving almost daily, making the already confusing regulations nearly impossible to follow.
For a rule follower like myself, this is a low-key nightmare. Is it an essential errand that I get my dog his usual brand of food, even though I have to drive 20 minutes to get it?
What about babysitting for spouses of deployed military members? Can I spend a few hours with my friend’s kid while she gets diapers and milk and prescriptions? According to the local JAG office (USAF lawyers), it’s fine for me to babysit. But will carabinieri stopping me on the way there see it that way? That doesn’t even touch on the anxiety of navigating these conversations in a language I speak at a kindergarten level.
Quarantine one month in looks like me making lists and then trying to be kind to myself when I can’t muster the energy to do whatever’s on it. In some ways, I’m fairly well-suited to this weird lifestyle shift in that I’m a structure-craving person who’s already been forced to make my own structure for the past several years.
Our big beautiful apartment has essentially boiled down to one big room where we both do everything. Between the dining room table being the only space to spread paperwork and the wifi not reaching the guest bedroom very well, it’s resulted in us always being within 10 feet of each other. It’s not a bad thing, but it surprises me.
One month in has me still feeling a bit like a petulant child when it comes to what’s been canceled. I’m heartbroken and mad about what we’ve canceled and lost. How much more so for those who’ve postponed weddings or missed seeing the birth of their kid or attending graduation.
Selfishly, I don’t spend most of my days in fear for my health or that of my loved ones. I think it’s because I have the considerable privilege of living in an area with relatively few cases. I have moments – when I hear a siren in the distance, or the once a week I leave the house for groceries – but I recognize I’m one of the lucky ones.
The warmer weather has been a blessing. I can feel myself come alive the way I do every spring, a waking up of my spirit. I fling the windows open each morning before it’s quite warm enough for that, just to feel that much more alive. Even if we can’t go out to enjoy it for real, I’ll still take it over the doldrums of winter.
Right now, everything feels intensified, like someone turned the volume up too loud. It’s as if the barometric pressure changed and you can’t quite clear your ears, leaving you with a minor but insistent discomfort all day long. Small interactions feel loaded, and even the essential errands leave me exhausted from tense shoulders.
But then I make myself do a workout video and take a shower. Or I bake something experimental and it turns out lovely. Or I sit on the balcony in the sunshine with Wedge, soaking up the vitamin D and hope.
And I feel better. I think that’s been where the lists help. I feel better if I can accomplish something. I also feel better if I take care of myself – real restorative care, not just turning off my brain for a while. Which also has its place. But we need both.
There’s a quote floating around instagram that says, “You are not working from home. You are at your home during a crisis trying to work.” It’s a distinction worth making, and it applies to all our walks of life. I think that’s true. We’re all operating in a completely new paradigm. Even for those of us who worked from home or already homeschooled our kids, we are still shifting in significant ways and to pretend it’s business as usual is unfair to everyone involved.
On a bigger picture, we in Italy are finally seeing the results of the lockdown. After a month in increasingly strict quarantine, the daily new cases are decreasing significantly: there are half the new cases daily there were two weeks ago. It’s working, albeit slowly. This is good.
This isn’t a neat, tidy post summing up the first month of quarantine. I share this partly for myself and partly to throw it out there for all of us who are feeling confused and angry and all the things at once.
I know it’s hard and weird and strange and stressful. Hang in there, friends. This isn’t forever.
Want more life in Italy? I’ve shared more about life in Italy including moving to Italy, life six months, cultural differences between Italy and the United States, and life in Italy during coronavirus. You can also explore all my Europe content!