Quarantine Is a Skill

We’re getting better at pandemic life every day

Ashley Abramson
Forge
Published in
6 min readNov 12, 2020

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A senior couple lie next to each other on the sofa with their legs in the air. They are holding hands.
Photo: Jessie Casson/Getty Images

“If the kids interrupt me one more time,” I hissed to my husband. I didn’t finish the sentence. I didn’t know how to. I was already at the end of my rope.

This was about a month into quarantine, and my anxiety was roaring into high gear — we hadn’t had childcare in weeks, and I was at max capacity trying to juggle my kindergartener’s distance learning, my preschooler’s constant emotional outbursts, and my own freelance writing work. Something had to give, and I had a hunch it wouldn’t be the pandemic.

The moment felt like a crossroads. I had a choice: I could keep living in frustrated denial, or I could find a workaround. With support from my husband, I scaled back on work, hired a pandemic-safe babysitter, and let my kids watch entire seasons of Paw Patrol when I was on a deadline. That wasn’t necessarily the reality I wanted to live in, but after a while, I realized that being more honest with myself about my own limits — as both a worker and a parent — made this less-desirable reality at least a tolerable one.

Months later, I look back at that point and see how far I’ve come. As much as it can feel like a Groundhog Day-esque stretch of stultifying sameness, this time isn’t static — or rather, we aren’t static as we move through it. We’re getting better at pandemic life every single day, constantly building on the mental and emotional skills we need to keep going.

As the Austin-based therapist Grace Dowd explains, accepting that things aren’t working is one of the first steps to growth. “Flipping the narrative from ‘This horrible thing is happening to me’ allows people to accept reality as it is, then audit it to change behaviors that aren’t working,” she says. “When you notice what’s straining you, you can make upgrades that improve your life both immediately and for the long haul.”

In other words, as the strain squeezed out what wasn’t working, we’ve formed new habits, routines, and behaviors that have made this strange, difficult life better — and we can carry those with us long after things return to normal, whenever that may be. Tempted to feel like 2020 was a total wash? Here are some of the most important skills quarantine is teaching us all.

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Ashley Abramson
Forge

Writer-mom hybrid. Health & psychology stories in NYT, WaPo, Allure, Real Simple, & more.