The first thing I learned during quarantine was not to have expectations. I did not write a book, nor read many of the dozens that were waiting for me. After a month, I took the piles off the coffee table, where their presence was supposed to prompt me to open them, but only succeeded in making me feel guilty about NOT reading them.
So perhaps I learned to be a little gentler with myself.
I became really good at making masks. The first ones were made from a pillowcase, three layers thick, kept sterile and washed after each use, the design researched as to what made the closest match to an N95. The second set was made with scrounged elastic because even though there were now stores open, they were sold out of mask-making supplies. But these masks were brightly coloured and patterned, announcing their presence much more than the drab first set.
By the third session, I was going for lighter masks that would prevent an asymptomatic wearer from spreading the virus if they carried it. The last set, this week, experimented with different designs and fabrics, now that the goal is a cooler, more comfortable mask that can be worn more often and for longer times. These most recent masks are the ones I (and my family and friends) will wear the most, I think, but when I get on a plane again it will be with one of the first masks, with an actual N95 tucked into the built in pocket between the layers.
I found out how fast my toenails grow.
I didn’t learn a new language, but I made substantial improvements to my Spanish and had a lot of fun picking up new vocabulary and reviewing Finnish. There were more than a few times that I did NOT want to spend that 15 minutes on Duolingo, but my progress reinforced the power of habit.
I learned the power of boredom. A couple of games of Candy Crush can be a distraction from thinking, but when there is no outside constraint on how long I can play it becomes a self-soothing routine where my mind can wander. My walks became the same thing; no longer purposeful accumulations of the day’s steps, complete with headphones and podcasts, but peregrinations where I admire flowers and the feel of the wind on my face. My imagination soars free and my thoughts go deep, deep, deep.
Without the distraction of travel, I have made my journeys internal, but that’s a story for another day.
That’s something else I have learned, these last months. There’s no need to rush; there is time.