Sarah DeVries
Social distancing doesn't come easily. Social distancing doesn't come easily.

After more than a month of isolation, people appear to be getting antsy

Some people are deciding that being with others is what makes life meaningful, virus or no virus

So how are y’all doing in quarantine?

Are you still staying inside? Are your neighbors?

It’s been over a month now, and everyone seems to be getting antsy. I am definitely getting antsy. People who had previously sworn to stay inside until the end have begun venturing out. How do we know that? Because Google knows that. Google knows everything.

I’m finding it hard to judge anyone for going out at this point, even for visiting others. Many of those who live in my colonia are behaving as if it were summer vacation, with cook-outs, kids playing with their neighbors, and teenagers hanging out and making out on the sidewalks.

At this point, I just give a shrug and a chuckle as I pass by, trying to put a reasonable amount of space between us.

Humans were never meant to live alone: we need each other; we’re communal animals. For myself personally, I don’t feel especially scared. I’m healthy with no pre-existing conditions, young-ish, and have been pretty good at staying away from people, and certainly away from crowds, during all of this.

Add to that the fact that Mexican culture and the Mexican way of life are particularly ill-suited for social distancing. We touch each other all the time, we crowd into places, we kiss, we stand, we sit, and we walk close to each other. The lack of concern for “personal space” is reflected in the very architecture of our communities. Why create larger, more open spaces? Just squeeze in there, it’s cozier that way.

Even those who are at greater risk because of age or health conditions seem to be weighing and considering the distress of isolation against the risk of illness and death, with plenty deciding that being with others is what makes life meaningful, virus or no virus.

All that said, if you’re mentally and emotionally able to keep making as good an effort as you can (I’ve never been a purist as a matter of philosophy — something is always better than nothing), give the following strategies for keeping it together a try.

  1. Video chat with friends and family. Especially for those of us who are foreigners and might not have much family here (in a place where they’re so into family that they will literally ditch you to hang out with them), connecting with those who have known and loved us for a long time can be an important lifeline. Having your beverage or herb of choice in hand helps too! And even if you don’t have much news to give, a quick internet search for “games to play on video chats” will give you some good ideas.
  2. Get your headphones on with your favorite playlist or podcast, and take a walk. As therapists constantly remind us, exercise is one of the most under-utilized methods of treating depression. Go around your neighborhood, walk down the street … it doesn’t really matter where, as long as you avoid getting in other people’s personal space.
  3. Do the home improvement stuff you’ve been putting off (that you’ll be able to do on your own, of course)! No time like the present — chop chop! On my docket this week is starting a couple of murals in the back, painting some picture frames, and anchoring my daughter’s toy shelves to the wall in the likely event that she or another child will try to scale them at some point.
  4. Try creating, executing, and sharing some fun assignments that will get you out of your head and out of monotony for a bit. My sister and I recently created a Facebook group modeled after artist Miranda July’s conceptual crowdsourced art project called Learning to Love You More. Each day an assignment is posted, usually something a little weird like “write a haiku poem” or “record yourself singing a lullaby that you liked when you were little.” So you get to have fun doing the assignment, and then you get to have fun seeing what everyone else did! It’s community without physical community, which is the best we can do right now.
  5. Do not worry about your kids’ schooling. Just do not. If you feel like doing the assignments, or think something looks like fun, go for it, but don’t feel guilty about not completing the rest of the school year’s curriculum with them. They’ll be OK, they’re smart, they’ll catch up. I don’t know how many parents (especially mothers) I’ve talked to that are so worried about having to work from home, monitor their children’s online classes, make sure they do their homework — it’s just too much. You know what my kid has done? Mostly watched the 1997 Disney movie Hercules 50+ times. I also got her some roller skates, and we go out every day to practice. Sometimes she also helps with cooking and cleaning, but that’s about it.

These are strange, interesting times we’re living in, folks. Let’s just take care of ourselves and each other as best we can right now.

Sarah DeVries writes from her home in Xalapa, Veracruz.

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