There’s virtue to be found within four walls. Ho-hum activities are now the highlights of the week, and a fastidious routine helps me find solid ground.
At the beginning of March, things were rocky. Under San Francisco’s shelter in place order, each day felt like a mashup of Groundhog Day and Contagion. Repetition saddled with fear of the unknown often left me and my wife feeling stuck and hopeless, although our troubles paled in comparison to those in real danger.
Just as Bill Murray’s weatherman turns a curse into a gift, a shift in perspective has shown us the virtues of a life lived mostly between four walls. Here are a few things I’ve learned, and a few things that have changed over so many weeks spent at home.
Our Home Is a Ship
Life is a boat at sea, and my wife Margaret, my dog, and I are its crew. It stays righted when we keep morale high—and we do that largely by organizing, dreaming of future plans, and tending to projects around the house. The dishes are endless, but washing them nets a wink of achievement and some small satisfaction. We’ve become better at transitioning between spaces. Interestingly, we’re more tolerant and accepting of the occasional mess.
Anxiety Can Be Channeled Into Wellness
Liberal levels of alcohol consumption kicked off the first couple weeks of quarantine. We felt rudderless amidst the initial adjustment, especially as Margaret’s work as a photographer transitioned from on-site shoots to home studio ones. But as we accepted that working from home may last a long while, our tenacity for booze has recalibrated into a balanced self-care routine. For now at least, we’re trying some tips on boozeless cocktails from master mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka Mr. Lyan.
Meal Planning Is the Main Event
Meals were always something to look forward to, but now they meter each day. There’s a new level of anticipation that’s made them a favorite conversation topic. We’ve become better cooks, care more deeply about our food (whether it’s delicious trashy to-go pizza, a new ramen recipe, or spring onions from the farmers’ market). We keep Dominique Crenn’s Metamorphosis of Taste on hand, and, with extra time for meal prep, the sous vide cooker is seeing a lot of use. We’ve also supported our favorite restaurants by taking some meals to-go, but it’s hard to gauge if our orders put the health of workers or the public at greater risk.
Moving Around Helps Focus at Work
Dwell’s San Francisco office is a co-working space, and before the coronavirus pandemic I worked in multiple areas throughout the day—a dedicated office, a lounge, and a patio. Now, I’m changing up the scenery while working in my own home. Moving from the dining room to the living room, or to my driveway on a sunny day has been a great way to jump-start periods of mental fatigue or transition between projects.
Connecting with co-workers has taken some extra effort since operations are restricted to the digital sphere. Video conferencing between New York and San Francisco was already part of our workflow, so that has set us up for success in some ways. I look forward to our weekly all-team check-ins, where we share both work-related and personal goings-on.
Exercise Is Crucial
Stillness compounded by looming uncertainty can gnaw at the mind and soul after sitting still for too long. Exercise is far and away the best outlet to stave off spiraling patterns of thought, and it can provide a great mental boost between projects at work. It keeps boredom at bay, too, and can spark some creativity. California’s sunny weather accommodates an outdoor jog now and again, but a living room workout is snappy and doesn’t require the rigmarole of suiting up for public exposure. Maybe we’ll come out of this in great shape.
Architects Were Right
“What will we expect of our homes?” I asked 15 architects what home design will look like post-COVID-19, and they said access to the outdoors (or at least sight lines to nature), efficiency, flexibility, and privacy are fundamental for mental health during prolonged isolation. These provisions felt necessary before the pandemic, but of course now they’re more important than ever. I feel lucky to already have many of these elements in my own home.
The News Is a Weather Vane
At first I binged every report related to COVID-19, and the news often set the day’s tone. It was addicting, fascinating, and terrifying watching events unfold. I buckled in for the ride, opening my eyes for a peek when I felt capable, and doing what I could to support those near to me. The news feeds an uncertainty that sometimes feels extremely taxing, but it’s also a way to keep tabs on how we can best play our part to get through this. Most mornings now kick off with a news briefing.
I Have a Greater Attention Span for Entertainment
I’ve never been a TV person, but movies and streaming shows are suddenly engrossing like never before. Seven Worlds, One Planet has been simultaneously exhilarating and calming, Keanu Reeves throwbacks like Speed or Point Break provide thrills from the couch, and Tiger King’s aptly timed release has made it a zeitgeist unto its own. Margaret and I had never done a single puzzle (since childhood at least), but now we’re on our third. Our dog, Lou Boy, is getting lots of practice with tricks new and old, and he no longer feels abandoned when we leave for work—or maybe he’s sick of us.
See the full story on Dwell.com: 15 Things I’ve Learned After Weeks of Working From Home
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