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Quarantine - Day 12: positives in solitary



Two more days until parole.  I do not want to overstate the challenges of being in a single hotel room without a view of the outside for 14 days, but the desire to step out into the world becomes overwhelming.  It’s an odd sensation knowing that the world is just a frosted window pane away, yet you are prohibited from venturing out into that familiar life outside. Instead, you are forced to create a new surreal norm within the confines of a room, where days and nights feel indistinct yet time is magnified.

I am by no means Bear Grylls, but in the past I have enjoyed undertaking endurance events with friends to see whether we can push the limits of our bodies and minds. In all of these events, it has been vital that training was undertaken to mitigate some of the demands that undertaking endurance events naturally throw at you. However, this is not a traditional endurance event and there is no real training for isolation and confinement within one room.  Unfortunately, training happens concurrently and it has been interesting to understand how people might cope in these circumstances. I have found that mentally it can be draining and, despite knowing there is an end, irrational thoughts and feelings can arise.  Your mind feels reckless, restless and melancholy – it is an odd sensation and difficult to put into words. It is clear that humans are not designed to be alone. However, sadistically, I have enjoyed elements of the loneliness. They may not necessarily outweigh the negatives, but they certainly help. The following are some of the observations I have on living life in solitary.

Simplicity

When you cannot leave your room, all you can rely on is whatever is contained within that one space. Food and drink become rationed, luxuries are few and that room and its contents have to entirely occupy your mind and body. This means that life becomes relatively simple.  I have one cup, one set of plastic cutlery, a pair of disposable hotel slippers and one set of clothes I wear (pants excepted) and in each case I use and wash these as and when needed. Life is simple - work, eat, enjoy an activity of some sort and sleep. There is no need for Gucci flip-flops, foie gras, technical running trainers, Apple watches or other such extravagance, because here it makes no difference. And, sometimes, that is not a bad thing.

Focus

Owing largely to the simplicity of life referred to above, living this way means that you focus on everything. The best example I can think of which illustrates this is food choice. For meals, I can only order online takeaways and the programmed habit of breakfast, lunch and dinner is too much in solitary confinement. So, the decision not to eat in this fixed routine is something I have consciously decided. You become acutely aware of the impact of every decision you make.  In “normal” life, this is theoretically the case too, but when you are locked in a room you are also sharply aware of things like the physical inactivity and the ease of slipping into bad habits. At home, you are distracted, rushed and (in reality) excusatory. Also, sometimes choices don’t feel like choices, but just combinations of routine and habit. Whereas, living in one room, every action is thought through and deliberate, whether it is eating one of the few biscuits I have left to hand-washing the growing pile of pants in the corner of the room. Whilst ordinarily you are 100% accountable for everything you do or do not do, this becomes much more apparent when you are alone in a room, because quite frankly who else is accountable? It’s a worthy reminder to take control of, and take full responsibility for, the few decisions you have.

Perspective

Life is generally hectic and can be stressful and difficult at times.  Naturally, the majority of us are consumed by our own worries and issues, which is perfectly natural and acceptable. This is no different in quarantine. In many respects, it could be all-consuming, but strangely being in quarantine also makes you appreciate that others have it worse than you. For every biscuit that I eat that reduces that amount I have left, there are people with no biscuits at all. For every feeling of confinement preventing any real mobility, there are people with no home to feel confined in. For every day that counts down to freedom, there are others who are stuck in a rut with no foreseeable end date.  There are always others in a worse position and an occasional slice of perspective is important – whether welcome or not. 

So, it is not all bad. If you look beyond the pain, there is actually quite a lot that can be learnt from the situation. It is easy to take things for granted and, unfortunately, it sometimes takes an amount of deprivation to appreciate the things you have lost in the first place. With that, I will try and make the most out of the two days remaining, but I will not lie - I am very much looking forward to being freed. _________________________________________________________________________

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