I Couldn’t Leave My House For 10 Weeks. This Is What I Learned.
Last year, I had knee surgery. I couldn’t walk, couldn’t leave my apartment, and was catapulted into working remotely full-time. All told, I left my home only a handful of times over 10 weeks. It was the slowest, and the fastest, and the weirdest 2ish months of my life. Barring another major surgery, I figured I would never spend that much time indoors again. You know where this is headed.
The world is full of uncertainty. That’s always true, but it feels especially true now. The greatest gift my semi-isolation gave me was the knowledge I can move forward, even when I’m crawling through quicksand. In this blog, I want to share a few tips that helped me adjust to my new reality, with the hope it can help you a bit too.
This post will be different from the ones we normally write. It’s not about how geothermal systems work or how they compare to combustion-based furnaces. In our own way, though, we’re still talking about the comforts of home, but a different kind of comfort. Let’s get started.
Make meals as simple as possible
There might be days you’ll have the desire to cook an elaborate recipe. There will probably be many more days you just want to eat food that fills you up. During my recovery period, I stocked up on Freshly meals– fresh, prepared meals that can be heated up within minutes in the microwave. They’re reasonably healthy, relatively affordable, and fed me when I had little energy to feed myself. I quickly grew tired of eating the same meals again and again, but it was the first time in my fortunate life I realized that sometimes food is nothing more than fuel. And that’s more than enough.
These days, I stock my freezer full of basics like broccoli, cauliflower, fish, and yes, a few pizzas. The most time-intensive part of mealtime is waiting for the oven to preheat.
Have something to look forward to at the end of the day
As part of my recovery, I spent 6 hours a day in a Continuous Passive Movement (CPM) machine. It basically moved my knee, over and over again, at an ever-increasing range of motion. It wasn’t painful, but because I had to lie flat on my back, it was painfully boring. My time was a utilitarian tool, divided between moving my knee and constantly icing it.
The best part of every evening– of every day– was the 1-2 scoops of ice cream I enjoyed. The flavors changed, but it was usually something with peanut butter or cookie dough. It’s hard to convey how much this sweet ritual meant to me, but when everything is hard, and stressful, and unfamiliar…it feels damn good to eat some ice cream.
Get dressed every day, even when you don’t want to
It seems kind of like a waste of time to put on “real clothes” when you won’t really see anyone except your family or housemates. I remember the first time I put on a dress, styled my hair, and applied a full face of makeup, only to realize I wouldn’t see anyone that day but my cat, Alice. I still wonder if she appreciated the effort.
In all seriousness, these silly, quintessential human traditions (Pants with buttons! Tucking in our shirts!!) make us feel, well, human. And normal. Because if you’re still wearing uncomfortable pants, life can’t be that different after all.
Make time to see friends and family (virtually!)
There’s nothing like being alone to make you feel alone. People crave social connection, and it can be harder to get when you’re not supposed to be within 6 feet of other people. Instead, connect digitally. Hold virtual movie nights, book clubs, happy hours, and lunch breaks with friends near (across town) and far (across the country).
There are a couple potential upsides to these internet-based outings:
- Your late friend cannot possibly be late (or can he?)
- You can enjoy other people’s company without the pressure or expectation of spending money
- When you’re ready to go, just close your computer, and you’re already home.
Limit social media
Social media can make you feel truly understood. It can entertain you, and amuse you, and introduce you to interesting products and brands. It can also be intensely isolating, perhaps even more so than literal isolation. After my surgery, I limited social media for a different, but related reason that I’m avoiding it now.
During my recovery, every social media post made me wildly jealous. While I was struggling to get up from the couch without toppling over, the world was savoring the first signs of fall. As I was relearning to lift my leg unaided (it took 6 weeks), the world was sunning itself in Prospect Park. These beautiful glimpses into the outside world weren’t helping my recovery, but they were hurting how I evaluated my own progress. I stopped looking, and over time, I got better. So did my knee.
Remember you’re not alone
This is a unique, unprecedented moment where the challenges you’re facing are shared across continents. I’m facing them, you’re facing them, and people neither of us have met are facing them too. Individually, we’ve tackled harder things than we thought we could, and together, we’ll get through this. We might just need another scoop of ice cream.