Quarantine Fatigue.

Are you grappling with quarantine fatigue? You are not alone. So many of my friends and loved ones — especially those with small children who are attempting to balance a full-time job with 24-7 childcare for going on two months now — have been sending me messages of frustration and exhaustion and emotional fray over the past week or so. I think it must have to do with the dawn of summer and the realization that nothing is changing except for the season. The season on paper, that is, for in our lived experiences, it might as well be the dead of winter: splash pads, playgrounds, beaches closed. Vacations canceled. Celebrations deferred. Many of us are discovering that summer camps will not be a possibility, and most of us are beginning to fret about the probability of an in-school fall semester, which — just weeks ago — felt so far away that it wasn’t worth worrying about.

I have no answers, of course, except to say: “I’m right there with you. This is really hard.” We nearly always book-end these heart-to-hearts with: “But my God, we are so lucky in the grand scheme…” And it is true and impossible to forget and essential to reiterate because there is so much agony and hurt right now in the world–including within my own inner circle, where I have grieved layoffs and deaths and illness and myriad other impossible situations at the hands of this virus right alongside my loved ones.

But it is also true that this is hard. Hard to worry for this long, hard to be without childcare for this long, hard to stay inside for this long, hard to not have some end date in sight for this long. And it’s OK to say that to yourself, even with graver situations next door: This is hard.

It’s an odd thing, too, as I felt I’d settled into a groove for awhile there. The confusion and chaos of the first few weeks had softened into routine. There were fewer battles over tuning into online class in the mornings and afternoons; a parade of art projects lining the window sill; butterflies in their cocoons in the mesh habitat I’d bought (see #46). We’d figured out how to stock the pantry and fruit bowl and larder and were eating — frankly — high on the hog.

But then I felt the winds change, too, this past weekend, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. All I know is that my to-do list told me it was time to plan meals and coordinate groceries for the week, but something else in me — some alien version of my normally hyper-organized self — slumped against that command. Bizarrely, I found myself shirking the responsibility.

“I just can’t do it,” I told Mr. Magpie in confused disbelief at my own behavior. “What is happening?”

“Jennie,” he said, pulling me into a hug. “We need a break.”

But the next day came, and the next day after that. Six more breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. Myriad tears, stern words of discipline, wails of mild injury–and also eskimo kisses, snuggles on the living room couch, excited feet pounding down the hallway, books read in the dim nursery before bedtime or in the bright light of mini’s bedroom in the morning. The lyrics of the Frozen 2 soundtrack by day; a “Jazz Warmers” playlist we discovered on Tidal that has been in heavy rotation in the evening.

And then the next day came, and the day after that.

The 5 o’clock glass of rose, scooping the umpteenth bowl of buttered noodles, walking Tilly at 7 P.M., washing that darned high chair tray for the ten trillionth time.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

For the past few weeks, my sister and I have been texting each other, in a kind of sisterly shorthand for checking up on the emotional wellbeing of one another: “Is today a plus or minus day?”

I laughed for a long time when she responded, just earlier this week, just after the winds had turned: “A plinus.”

Just so. We’re in heavy plinus territory, most days just there, with mornings breezing by with surprising quiet and afternoons punctuated with sniffles and meltdowns*, or vice versa.

I write this to just let you know that I’m sitting with you. We’re in this together, and we’ll get through it. But let yourself acknowledge that this is hard and give yourself a little more grace than you might otherwise.

And if you have any tips on coping with quarantine fatigue, please share in the comments!

*Not all of them at the hands of my toddler, I might add.

Post-Scripts: Gifts for a Girlfriend.

I have sent a couple of girlfriends out-of-the-blue gifts during this weird and exhausting time, just to let them know I’m sitting with them. A few fun things to surprise a loved one with:

A BUZZED-ABOUT FACE MASK

AN ACTIVITY TO OCCUPY HER TODDLER

A FAVORITE BOOK IN HARD COPY — OR AUDIBLE CREDIT!!! (FULL REVIEW OF THIS ONE HERE)

AN AUDIBLE SUBSCRIPTION, FOR THAT MATTER

A CUTE FACE MASK

NEW PAJAMAS

THE HAIR TOOL SHE NEVER KNEW SHE ALWAYS NEEDED (TRUST ME)

A NOTEBOOK OR PERSONALIZED NOTEPAD (SHOUTOUT TO BRADLEY FOR THIS ONE!) FOR LISTS AND NOTES-TO-SELF…OR BULLET JOURNALING

A BEGINNER CROSS-STITCH KIT (JUST ORDERED THIS FOR MYSELF)

THE ABSOLUTE BEST TEA

REALLY FANCY BATH OIL (PRETTY ENOUGH TO DISPLAY)

HARD-TO-COME BY HAND SANITIZER

A 1,000 PIECE PUZZLE (THIS IS A REALLY GOOD BRAND)

HER TICKET TO AN EASIER AT-HOME MANICURE*

A HIGHLIGHTER WITH A LOT OF HYPE

A FRIENDSHIP BRACELET OF SORTS (SO CUTE)

FOR YOUR DOG-OWNING FRIEND: THIS CLEANSING DOG SPRITZ…WHO ELSE IS DYING TO GET THEIR DOG TO THE GROOMER?! TILLY LOOKS LIKE A MANGEY LION…

A NEW FAVORITE SNACK (CAYENNE!!)

*This wouldn’t necessarily be as fun of a gift, but if you aren’t using CND solar oil on your cuticles, I implore you to try it! I started to put it on every morning and night after my manicure/pedicure had gotten to such a state of disrepair I had to remove the polish about ten days into quarantine. I was appalled at the state of my cuticles! This has completely turned things around.

If you’re looking for more ideas (or a birthday present!), also consider these mother’s day gift ideas.

P.S. A random gift to myself: a subscription to Billie. I had to see what all the hype was about…and I kind of like that it’s one less thing to keep tabs on (how many blades are left in the linen closet??). But what really sold me was these serum-infused face wipes! How genius?! Truly one-step skincare for my laziest nights. If I like them, I might — strangely — send them to my sister. A good plinus gift.

P.P.S. Other approaches to quarantine fatigue: distraction, sale shopping, exercising, throwing an at-home picnic, or organizing.

P.P.P.S. In another life, I only wear La Double J.

15 Comments

  1. This reminds me of motherhood in general. Especially for those of us who struggled with infertility or miscarriage or just had to wait a long time for children. It is the thing you once wanted most in the whole world…but it’s so HARD. But you’re so grateful to have been blessed with a child that you feel like you can’t complain about the parts that are not so fun. In any case…I’m glad we’re all giving ourselves permission to be both/and.

  2. I’m with you – especially on those “plinus” days. I swear I’m going through all the stages of grief daily with moments of pure happiness and bliss scattered throughout.

    1. Yes – totally. It’s been a wild (read: unpleasant) emotional roller coaster.

      xx

  3. I hear you and I see you, Jen! This is hard. Yes I feel grateful and recognize my privilege for health and safety and food but heck yes this is hard. What’s hard, for me, is the significant decrease in support — (kid-free) mom dates, solo leisurely grocery outings, other forms of self-care that “refill my cup”. While I’m thankful we have the technology for FaceTime, Zoom, etc, is anybody else experiencing “Zoom fatigue”? My introverted self became more apparent as over time I found myself enjoying one-on-one FaceTime conversations than Zoom with multiple people 😉

    I was listening to a recent Splendid Table podcast and the host Francis Lam responded to the question “How are you” with the phrase “pandemic-fine”. It captures what I’ve been feeling these days. One thing that has helped me though is getting dressed every day. The first week of shelter-in-place, I totally embraced the sweats/joggers everyday mode but I got tired of it eventually, and found that my mood and outlook are better when I get dressed.

    I love Billie razors! In addition to one less thing to think about re-ordering in the grander scheme of “home admin”, I do think it gives a closer shave and I can extend the days in between the next shave. I was about to order the wipes as well – I sometimes use Arcona wipes (the one with cranberry), and while I love how soft and hydrated my skin feels after using it, I’d love to find something equivalent but less scented. Would love to know your thoughts on the Billie wipes!

    Hang in there, Jen (and all fashion magpie readers!)! We will get through this.

    1. Thank you, Mia!! Appreciate the kind words and encouragement and solidarity! Yikes, this is a rough time. I’m reminded of that quote, “A smooth sea never made for a good sailor,” but just on the heels of that, I’m like, “Who said I wanted to be a sailor? Get me back to dry land!”

      Anyway, YES — “pandemic-fine” is just the right way to express it. And I have a similar outlook re: dressing. I’ve worked remotely for years and years and have always felt it to be essential to get properly dressed, with make-up done, even if I’m not seeing anyone. I just feel better about myself.

      Will report back on the Billie wipes!! I love those Arcona ones, too.

      xx

  4. Ugh, I am so there with you. The delivery of our CSA box or the need to be on conference calls to wrap up some projects are the only things helping me keep track of what day it is.

    But yay for going down the cross-stitch hole! I find it so soothing. I have finished up so many projects at this point – now, to just get them to the finishers. I’ve thought of broadening out into needlepoint, but have a bin of patterns I probably should finish first.

    Can’t wait to hear what you think of Billie. I’ve been thinking about subscribing for awhile but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

    1. Hi Jennifer! Yes! Eager to take on a new hobby. Incidentally, my mom just mentioned that she came across my old sewing machine from when I was like 8 years old! I had taken up sewing as a hobby back then (even took classes at G Street Fabrics — if you know, you know) and I would love to go pick it up and start sewing some things at home (face masks, pillows, even simple shift dresses for mini), but I don’t know when I’ll next make it down to D.C. Sigh. I wonder if I would still remember how to thread the entire thing…(that’s what YouTube is for, though!)

      Will report back on Billie. I was confused about all the hype but it actually does seem more convenient and cost-effective than the standard Gillette option. Those blades are so expensive!

      More soon.

      xx

  5. You should try punch needle If you are going to do something like cross stitching , so fun and addicting and you can make really fun pillows or wall hangings. Totally changed my quarantine!

  6. Plinus days! I love that — rings so true (for me) during this crisis. I feel guilty even THINKING this when my family is healthy & safe, but for me, an unmistakable feeling of “blah” has settled over everything over the past few weeks.

    That said, I have been trying to look for slices of joy wherever I can — whether that’s admiring a particularly beautiful sunset, ordering special Liberty-print masks from Le Lion, or stumbling upon a few verses of Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” on our post-dinner walk (this really happened yesterday!) It’s easier said than done, though, and I’m certainly no stranger to quarantine fatigue… looking forward to everyone’s tips!

    xx

  7. Thank you for being “real.” So much of this resonated. I know many readers have encouraged you to stay upbeat and cheery, however I believe acknowledging the hard is equally important/valuable.

    1. Hi Ashleigh — Thank you for the kind note!! I’m glad (though, in a larger sense, sad) that this resonated. Sitting with you, my friend! xx

  8. Thank you for this, Jen. So well said.

    No tips other than takeout. Guilt-free takeout. Multiple dinners in a row. And ordering double so you have the leftovers for lunch the next day.

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