It’s Not Ethically Wrong to Enjoy Quarantine
A therapist’s advice for how to manage the guilt
In a handful of small ways, for many of us, life during quarantine is… kind of nice. We’re rekindling old friendships, adopting new pets, eating cake for breakfast. We don’t have commutes anymore. There are no unwanted plans to halfheartedly show up for.
If you feel a little squeamish about acknowledging that fact, I don’t blame you. Right now, for a lot of people, the dominant emotions are grief and fear. Experiencing anything else feels dissonant, almost antisocial: You worry that others might disapprove or be angry with you if they find out you’re actually feeling pretty content on your couch all day. And it’s uncomfortable when the world reveals how deeply unfair it can be.
But I’m here to tell you: It’s okay to enjoy your life right now. It’s more than okay. We’re all looking for bright spots; it’s a gift to find some that truly bring you joy. Minimizing your positive emotions doesn’t make you a more compassionate human or a resource to a world on fire.
As a therapist, I often talk with my clients about what it means to have a mature emotional response to a situation. In this case, it means accepting that not everyone will mirror your emotions, or even be pleased with them — and that you have a right to them anyway. You don’t have to shout your joy from the rooftop as ambulances pass by, or flood everyone’s Instagram feed with posts about how much fun you’re having with your new quarantine hobbies, but you can be honest about how you’re doing when people ask. You can share moments of happiness with those closest to you, and let them know that you’re at least one person they don’t have to worry about.
Let your guilt guide you
Guilt can be a useful emotion: It highlights mistakes we’ve made or opportunities to serve others. If you feel guilty that your colleague is a single parent with three kids to homeschool, then maybe that’s an opportunity for you to step up and take a few things off their plate. If you feel guilty that you’re in relatively good health, maybe you could go to the grocery store for your elderly neighbor.