Is it a challenge? Sometimes! Whether government-sanctioned or self-imposed, the realities that surface from being quarantined with family have been revealing. If introspection and self-awareness were part of Covid19’s pandemic plan for some of us, then kudos to the virus. It’s done its job.
It Could Have Been Worse
First, I really can’t complain about being quarantined because, overall, it hasn’t been bad. It certainly could have been worse than being sequestered, at home, with my mother and Greg. I know of one woman who was at her ex’s house when this all happened and, subsequently, she’s spent the past two months living with someone with whom she clearly no longer wanted to live. There were people stuck on cruise ships. College students were stranded with no funds to get home as campuses were closing. And let’s not forgot the troupes stationed aboard the USS Roosevelt as the coronavirus spread throughout the ship. Yes, these are scenarios that were far more trying than mine.
My quarantine experience hit full bloom at the same time I was adjusting to a multitude of other life changes. Selling a home in Illinois while moving into one in California was just one significant adjustment. I went from living alone to living with my mother and my guy, Greg. For two years prior, my mother and I had planned for her to move in with me in Chicagoland after her anticipated second retirement. Then, last year happened. My mother introduced me to Greg. Needless to say, it was a good match. Now, the three of us live together in Southern California in a home we purchased a little over five months ago. Adjustments have been happening on all levels, in different areas, and from the varied perspectives of three people. We’ve dealt with major renovations, minor repairs, three relocations to a city neither of us had ever heard of, and all while working to build and maintain healthy relationships. Our situation was not for the faint of heart, even without a quarantine inducing pandemic.
The Blessings of Time and Trust
We didn’t have a lot of time. We were making decisions and moving fast to bring them to fruition. Now, before you start thinking we made all of this happen without a hitch or hesitation, let me go there. There were days when I wondered, “What the heck are you doing?” Moving to a state where I never saw myself living and doing it for a new relationship. This could easily have been a recipe for disaster. Mainly because my relationship history has left just enough residue that I can still find my way back to questioning my choices. Which I did. I questioned myself. I questioned Greg. I think I might have even questioned my mother for going along with this whole idea. Maybe we were all nuts! I wish I could tell you that making substantial life decisions comes without any angst. I wish I could say that I was making wise, calculated decisions based on some acceptable amount of time invested, but that wasn’t necessarily the case. What I did was make what I thought and felt to be the right decisions for me. I left it up to Greg, and my mother to make what they determined to be the best decisions for them. Then, I simply trusted that I could handle whatever outcome resulted. Fortunately, when all decisions were in, we were on the path to living together and believing everything was going to work out.
The Blessings of Space and Privacy
Fortunately, we found a home that provides us opportunities to spend time together and enough space that we can have privacy without either of us feeling slighted. That’s because each of us has a space designed for our needs. My mother has living quarters that give her privacy when she’s alone and entertaining space when she has company. I have my home office, and Greg has a studio. Greg and I have the main living room and an upstairs master suite. The three of us share the kitchen, laundry and dining rooms, and an outdoor space that is nothing short of a tropical oasis. The key to this working has been designing designated areas and respecting boundaries.
Revelations and Lessons
Being quarantined, even with people we love and respect, can present some exciting revelations and lessons. For instance, I have idiosyncrasies that could be interpreted as rules. Don’t judge me! So, there have been days when I’ve driven both of my housemates crazy. Well, perhaps not crazy, but to the point of synchronized eye-rolling, as they try to remember my particulars of how to load the dishwasher. I repeat, don’t judge me.
I have lived alone for the better part of the past nine years, so I’ve also come to terms with the fact that I love and need accessible space. I absolutely require the flexibility of leaving my office and meandering into the quiet of a nearby empty room. In this case, it’s our living room. Whether it’s to relocate to continue working or just to sit and gather my thoughts, it’s one of those designated areas we’ve created that helps everything work. I don’t want to speak for either my Mom or Greg, but they’ve also spent the past several years living alone. This may be why each of them seems to have acclimated to spending time in their designated areas as well. We still pop-in on one another, and we’ve also learned to identify the look that says, “Not now” or, “I’ll be available in a minute.” I’m woefully transparent when I admit, giving that look to my mother, comes with awkward trepidation even at the age of 57. Still, it’s all part of giving and taking cues that help us respect and appreciate each other’s boundaries.
I haven’t lived with my mother for nearly 20-years. She and I are getting used to that dynamic, as Greg and I navigate the dynamics of our relationship. Throw in the unique mother/son-in-law-like relationship being established between her and Greg, and you can but imagine. We’re each learning to operate with sensitivities that must exist if we’re to create a healthy home life where each of us feels whole.
I’ve learned that there is beauty in being intentional about the time we spend together and the space we give one another. When we’re all home, we eat most of our meals together. The three of us have had walks near the beach and taken drives around this new area we now call home. Occasionally, we catch a few tv shows together and even plan group movie nights. All of this makes it easier for us to self-isolate when we’re at home without anyone feeling neglected or annoyed … most of the time!
There is no perfect scenario for such a time as this. No blueprint, or instruction manual. We’re each, in our own homes and in our own ways, living through an experience for which none of us could have prepared. If you are fortunate enough to be able to do it in your home with the people you love – that’s a blessing. I encourage you to empower yourself to find ways to create memories that will allow you to look back on this time spent in your home fondly. Make this a goal, even if you are living through this experience at home alone. Will this be your, I just tried to survive the quarantine, or will this be the period when you learned to love yourself and others more profoundly? As people protest about losing their freedom as a result of being quarantined, remember that you always have the right to make the best and healthiest choices for yourself and your family. What does that look like for you, right now, today? Will this experience give you stories of shame and regret, or testimonies of celebration and growth? What are the blessings and lessons you will take away from your time in quarantine?
Dr. Lisa Summerour is a speaker, coach, workshop facilitator, DIY enthusiast, and author of the What Went Well? Journal. The journal designed to empower individuals by engaging them, each day, to write down what has gone well, and identify what caused the good to occur. The adult version also includes 12 months of engagement enhancing activities.