Stuck Home for The Holidays: A Quarantine Recap
The holidays are here, and while I love the lights and sweets and cheesy music, I know that this time of year isn’t merry for everyone. It wasn’t for me last year.
I’ve been shuttered in my house for the last two weeks, quarantining with a mild case of COVID. Being stuck in the house by myself for so long, gave me a lot of time to reflect. To soak in this time of year and to notice things. I couldn’t help drawing parallels to last Christmas.
I wasn’t sick then. But I was stuck in the house and very much alone.
I signed papers and moved into my new house on December 15, 2020. One year ago, last week. (Woo!)
When I moved in, I had one office chair, gifted to me by my sister in law, and one desk I’d picked it up on the side of the road that needed refinishing. Besides that, I had no furniture at all. I slept on an air mattress for the first three months I lived in the house. Partly because of my inability to choose a mattress from the endless options available, and partly because I was having work done in the eves of the roof that surrounded my attic-level bedroom and did not want to buy a bed until that was finished. No sense in moving a mattress twice, right?
(I DID move that mattress twice. And it was no walk in the park. If you’d like to read about my adventure in mattress moving, and I highly recommend it, click here: The Girl Who Couldn’t: Stories, Self-Worth, & Toxic Independence.)
Beyond having not a stitch of furniture, I also had not a single contact in a 100-mile radius. I had moved to a place I had spent very little time in before. I didn’t know a single Rhode Islander. I hate to admit this, but besides my handyman Tony, who I now consider a friend due to our ongoing relationship (Buy yourself a 100-year-old house and see if your handyman doesn’t turn into your friend) I still don’t have anyone here. A couple gym instructors I know by name, and a neighbor who brought me Christmas cookies the other day would be the closest I’ve come to forming meaningful relationships in my new home town.
When I moved into this house last December, it was as empty as I felt. The explosive disruption in my family that had happened in the fall, just a few months prior, left me feeling like a zombie. I was the walking dead for weeks after. And then, when I came to, started living again, sharp pains would catch me off guard and out of nowhere. The hurt was less sweeping, but it kept coming. Despite zipping up my jacket, holding myself tightly, carrying on.
I was never really alone, of course. I had my best friends. They were and continue to be a constant source of encouragement. But their support couldn’t make up for the deep loss I felt. I was grieving.
At this time last year, I felt like a ship unmoored. As much as I love the feeling of freedom, this was a different kind. The loss of land in sight, no North star to be found, I was completely disoriented. I moved about in blurred darkness—Am I heading in the right direction? Am I doing the right things? How is one to know?
The pandemic raged on through last winter and our human arrogance hadn’t reached the apex it has today. Many shops were still closed, gatherings limited. And I sat on my air mattress, watching a TV perched upon a box of books, listening for the squirrels that had moved into my attic, and wondering if I’d bitten off more than I could chew with this place.
I felt like the loneliest girl in the world.
In late January, I touched on this feeling in a blog titled “35 and Alone. Happy Birthday.”
It didn’t feel sad when I wrote it, exactly. More cathartic than anything—accepting of the still and quiet in which I found myself. Resigned in my aloneness. But it does pull at my heartstrings now when I read it. It also makes me smile.
Fast forward to today: Quarantined with a breakthrough case of COVID, during this special time of year and the anniversary of my home-buy and my heartbreak, I can’t help but chuckle.
Here we are again. Alone at Christmastime. Shut up in this house.
But, while the circumstances might appear similar, the truth is everything is different.
I have furniture, yes, but that is not what I’m talking about.
Over the past year I have taken this headache of a house and turned it into a home. I’ve furnished it, piece by piece, in a way that suits me and makes me feel cozy. Sitting in my bed, drinking coffee and writing morning pages is one of my favorite activities in the world. Hanging in my house on my days off between work trips, is joyful. Even by myself. I love being here.
I’ve taken on the task of becoming a landlord, renting out the apartment below me to a person who is responsible, kind, and quiet. Who pays on time and who is pleasant to interact with.
Thinking about it recently, near the anniversary of buying the house, I felt so grateful and so proud of myself for taking on this endeavor at all. For not being deterred by the perceived “hassle” of being a landlord or of fixing issues in a 100-year old house. (Of which there are many, to be sure.) I’m so thrilled and proud of myself for not getting bogged down in the “hows” and the complications. For just doing it. One foot in front of the other. The financial reward for this decision is immeasurable. Now I know I can buy real estate—and rent it out. New skills in my arsenal.
Air mattress in the living room, TV on a Rubbermaid, not a thread of curtain to cover the windows. They were simpler times.
Besides feeling more at home, I feel less alone. And fuck if that isn’t a relief.
My friends are more than friends. They’re my lifeline.
I have enough lifelines now to know I will never sink, no matter how rough the storm or how devastating the damage. They’ve got me.
And I’ve got them, too.
There was a time in my life where I questioned whether I had it in me to be a “good friend”. It seemed like a lot of my work and way out of my wheelhouse.
But things have changed. My friendships are precious, important, and anything but superficial. The question’s been answered. A resounding “Yes”. I can be a good friend. And I am trying my best to be one.
To read about my evolving ideas on friendship, check out this post:
I’ve even made inroads in mending deeply damaged family ties, a side effect of every one of us being sick with COVID at the same time (and by pure coincidence, too!)
Things feel together.
They feel “just right.”
I’m stuck here in the house, all by myself, as I was last winter. And yet, I don’t feel alone at all. I feel content. At peace. Delighted. Joyful. I feel certain. That I’m right where I’m supposed to be. That everything is going to be okay. That it already is.
While it was deeply painful, and I’d change things if I had a time machine and the power to control other people’s actions, I can’t help but feel on some level that the tragedy of that time helped me to find my way. I’d gotten comfortable being a nomad. I’d gotten cozy quarantining with family. Spending time with loved ones and having a clan around to have my back and socialize with. I wanted to buy a house, I’d been thinking about it and Zillow-shopping since the summer of 2020. But it was not until after the bad that I made actionable steps toward doing it.
I got pre-approved. I decided on buying a multifamily. Then on a city. Then on a realtor. I put an offer in on my house and I went through the motions, and I did it. I came out on the other side, still lonely as hell, but having accomplished an enormous goal.
I can’t help but take solace in the fact that the loneliness, the heartbreak I felt, made me just uncomfortable enough to move. To change. To grow.
If the holidays are hard, I see you. I really do.
I hope that every heartbreak you ever have is the beginning of a growth spurt.
If hope you are happy right now. But if you’re not, I hope you are on your (maybe long and winding) way there.
Happy holidays. I love you and I’m rooting for you.