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Today: A woman who’s trying to prioritize self-care while navigating social distancing and the anxiety that comes with the COVID-19 pandemic. She escapes New York to quarantine with her family.
Location: New York NY
Location: New York NY
Editor's Note: This diary was recorded before cities mandated social distancing and shelter-in-place rules.
7:30 am — I roll over and check the news for the latest NYC coronavirus count — It’s March 13 and more than a hundred cases are already confirmed. Typically, I give myself 30 minutes “sans technology” when I wake up, but since the virus hit, I’ve been checking every update. I pour myself a homemade cold brew and head down to the free gym in my building for a 45-minute elliptical sweat session. It’s still open through all the COVID-19 madness, thank God! I injured my IT band several weeks after a half-marathon in December, so strength training and cycling seem to be the only ways I can still get my heart-rate up without running.
I fit in 15 minutes of arm and ab exercises, then head upstairs for a shower, a banana, and a big spoonful of almond butter, which I already have on-hand from my last Trader Joe’s trip.
Now it’s time to reserve my place on the couch with my other two roommates who are also working from home. Today is my first day working out of the office, and I’m trying to decide if I prefer getting things done from my couch or at the kitchen table. My roommates and I turned our bedrooms into conference rooms to take calls. It gets the job done.
I decide I need a walk and food — so I’ll walk to food. I pick up Sweetgreen’s Kale Caesar, my standard order. In my book, paying $16 dollars for a bowl of lettuce is a crime, but it’s just so satisfying.
Then it’s back to the couch to focus on meeting my 5 p.m. deadline. I work in editorial at a magazine, and find writing to be oddly calming and motivating, despite the current insanity of the outside world. I’m getting into a groove when my roommate runs in from her room and tells us to turn on the news for Trump’s press conference. She said there was talk of grounding domestic flights. Terrifying, considering I’m scrambling to fly back home to Atlanta to quarantine there as soon as possible. Thank God she was wrong. Time for more coffee.
7 p.m. — I’ve struggled with anxiety for many years, but recently stopped taking medication. However, the current global health climate definitely isn’t helping. I’m feeling a little anxious, so I do a 10-minute guided meditation on Headspace to ease my mind. I was gifted a free year-long membership at an event I attended for work, and I use it as often as possible when I need to wind-down.
Now, it’s back to real life. As luck would have it, college spring break and COVID-19 hit right at the same time. My brother-in-law’s sister is in town for hers. Terrible timing, but I do my best to greet her and show her a good (and as sanitized as possible) time, despite my heightened anxiety.
I invite her and her friend over for pre-dinner drinks. We polish off a bottle of pinot noir ($16) and catch up on family drama before heading to the West Village so she can try the world’s best vodka pizza at Rubirosa (the ‘za and a bottle of wine split three ways comes to $13.33 for me). The girls desperately want to go to another bar after dinner, so I bring them to my favorite spot for a round of martinis ($30) before I head home for a hot, soapy shower and bed.
Daily Total: $63.33
10 a.m. — I am a firm believer in sleeping in on the weekends. It’s Saturday, so I give myself some time to stretch and journal before rising and pouring today’s first cup of coffee. I fix myself a cold brew and hot water with lemon, then catch up on today’s coronavirus count and the current state of the stock market. There’s so much uncertainty. I need to stop thinking about the virus, so I watch an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm while I scan Kayak for flights back to Atlanta. Please make me feel better, Latte Larry! I find a flight for $55 dollars at 5 p.m. tonight. Unreal. I book it right away and feel instantly relieved. I’ll be home in time for dinner!
1:30 p.m. — My anxiety is at an all-time high. I’m packing in a frenzy. I need to go to the pharmacy, take out the trash, clean the apartment — and, really, just calm the fuck down.
I’m so nervous they’re going to cancel my flight and I’m certain that I’m packing all the wrong things. How long will I be home for anyway? Weeks? Months? Forever? I throw a year’s supply of underwear, leggings, and sports bras into my suitcase — along with all the products in my skincare routine, of course. I’m a pretty expressive person, and I have lots of smile lines and crow’s feet already as a result — I like to stay on top of those. My favorite product at the moment is Skinceuticals C E Ferulic ($166). I’ve spent way too much time in the sun and suffered countless damaging sunburns, so I’m religious now about applying this to reduce fine lines and brighten my face. Plus, I’m all about Vitamin C. I also love the Powerful-Strength Dark Circle Reducing Vitamin C Eye Serum from Kiehls ($50). I see instant results when I use it in the morning.
My roommates are fleeing the city too, and since I don't know when we’ll return, I make an omelette to use up the last of my eggs and veggies and, as much as it pains me, toss the rest of the perishable items in my fridge in the trash. I know I need to hydrate before heading to the airport, so I fill up my 36-ounce Yeti ($50) with ice water and lemon. Water makes everything better.
3:30 p.m. — One of my roommates and I were able to get on the same flight, so we split an Uber to LaGuardia (my share is $19). We arrive and get through security almost immediately, then go on to our gate. Late lunch: a Clif bar ($1.79). My roommate’s dad is a doctor and supplied us with all of the top sanitary essentials for our journey back to Georgia — wipes, gloves, masks, and saran wrap for our suitcase handles. On board, I watch The Notebook for the 6o0th time and pass out. Next thing I know, I’m back in my parents living room.
The first thing I do — even before giving my parents a hug hello or digging into the homemade spaghetti Bolognese I smell in the kitchen — is unload my suitcase in the laundry room to wash the New York germs out of my clothes, and take a shower. My mom had been begging me to come home for a while, sending me flights at all hours of the day before we decided to finally pull the trigger. I plan on following the current CDC guidelines, which are to monitor my symptoms and start self-quarantining — in my parents basement, which is set up like a separate apartment — at the first hint of anything iffy. I hope I'm being cautious enough.
10 p.m. — I like to leave my phone in another room while I sleep so I don’t stay up scrolling. I plug it in in my bathroom, and get in bed to attempt another stab at The Stand by Stephen King. Maybe now that I’m home I’ll finally finish it after all these years…
Daily Total: $381.79
9:30 a.m. — I wake up to the sound of birds singing outside my window and need a minute to remember where I am. I head downstairs to find my mom making a breakfast feast: stone-ground grits, eggs, bacon, a fruit bowl, and fresh coffee — so beautiful it doesn’t seem real. Southern cooking is going to be my kryptonite again, I can already tell. I head out to the garden to eat my breakfast, close my eyes, and just sit in the silence — I can’t remember the last time I’ve heard the swooshing of trees blowing in the wind. I make a plan for the day. A long walk by the river and a meditation in the backyard should help me set my intention for the foreseeable future at home.
3 p.m. — After taking our mini golden retriever for a long walk/jog along the Chattahoochee river, I’m back on the couch trying to devise a plan for how to center and get back to the healthiest version of myself these next few weeks. I’ve been drinking far too much lately — a glass of wine with dinner is fine, but now I have the chance to drastically scale back on margaritas and espresso martinis — let’s see how it goes.
4 p.m. — I’ve signed up for the Peloton app’s free 90-day free trail, which I absolutely love. I do a 25-minute HIIT class and a 15-minute arm workout with 10-pound dumbbells I ordered from Rogue Fitness ($25). Then, I head inside for a long, much-needed jacuzzi in my parents bathtub, topped off with a charcoal face-mask from Beauty Counter ($49) and a pedicure — is this my new “Sunday scary” treatment?
6 p.m. — I’m obsessed with the outdoors, and my parents have a beautiful garden in our backyard. I decide that every chance I have, I want to be out in it. So, I sit in the hammock to write down my intentions for quarantine: Take daily morning walks, drink all the water I can, eat as many plant-based meals as possible, allow my IT band to finally heal, and focus on stretching. More than anything, I want to write more, read more, and spend time with my parents. I don’t know when else I’ll get a chance to visit with them for an extended trip like this again. I help my Dad prep steak and vegetable kebabs for the grill, start a fire in the fire pit, and have that aforementioned glass of pinot noir. All free, because being home with your parents has its perks.
Daily Total: $74
9 a.m. — First day working from home in Atlanta. It weirdly feels like I’m back in high school on summer break. As soon as I open my eyes, I’m craving coffee. I go downstairs and ask my parents if I can commandeer my Dad’s old office for work over the next few weeks — or maybe months. I take my breakfast (a quarter of a cantaloupe, lemon water, and coffee) in the garden and get set up reading emails. I decide I can do my job just as well from here, so I bring an extension cord out to work in the sunlight for the next few hours with a giant glass of iced lemon water. So far, so good.
1 p.m. — For my mom’s birthday last year, I sent her a Bluicer (a juicer and a blender combined into one). To no surprise, she hasn’t opened the box, so I set it up for her and show her how to combine the aging bananas in the fruit bowl, peanut butter, ice, protein powder, almond milk, and honey into an actually enjoyable protein smoothie. We have it for lunch along with some raw broccoli and red pepper hummus.
My sweet neighbor across the street is going through chemo, so during my lunch break my mom and I call him up and offer to make a grocery run for him. We head out to snag some essentials for ourselves (Tylenol, eggs, paper towels, chicken, and soap), plus the groceries my neighbor needed. Luckily, my mom pays — one of those moments it's really great to be home.
Once we get back to the house, I get on a call with my coworkers — they’re guessing it may be months before we get back to the office… Time to get comfortable.
6 p.m. — I leash up our mini-golden yet again and take her out for what I’ve decided is going to be our nightly walk along the river. The sky is so clear, and the air is so strong — you can smell the fresh-cut grass and the spring flowers just beginning to bloom. It’s a feeling you can’t get in Central Park, and I’ve missed it. We walk three miles along the water and I notice my leg feels a little stronger (though it might just be in my head). I get home in time to meet my Dad to light another fire in the pit. Tonight, we make pork chops and mushrooms on the grill. My mom and I make brown rice and asparagus and toss the dish in the oven for a few minutes to get crispy. Thankfully, my Dad stocked up on wine ahead of the pandemic, so we open a bottle of Freakshow, my favorite, and have dinner on the back porch. Not bad for a Monday.
Daily Total: $0
8:00 a.m. — I realize there’s no point in waking up early to work out, given how much excess time I have these days. So, I decide to instead cherish the stillness and silence of the morning before my parents get up. I read The Stand for 30 minutes, and realize that maybe now is not the time for apocalyptic fiction. My parents are still asleep, so I decide to surprise them with breakfast in bed. I listen to The Daily from The New York Times as I make an egg frittata with sausage, tomato, onion, some basil from the garden, spinach, Monterrey jack and sriracha on top. And of course, coffee. I spend an hour watching the stock market plummet, then set up once again in the garden for the day’s work.
1 p.m. — I know I’m getting too much sun, but I missed the feeling of it so much, so I stay outside for another hour before heading in for another large glass of water with orange slices. My parents and extended family grow their own vegetables and pickle them, so for lunch it’s green beans and grilled pimento cheese sandwiches. Not the healthiest, but I couldn’t care less.
5 p.m. — My parents aren’t home so I head upstairs and pick up one of my guitars. Growing up, music was always my greatest passion. I remember the movements, but with no calluses left on my fingers, I’m sad to realize how long it’s been since I sat down to sing.
I feel so at home and strong when I’m playing music — it’s like I’m a different person. The “musical me” is confident, joyful, and endlessly creative. I used to stay up all night in high school writing lyrics and Googling chords to make songs. The guitar is the most cathartic instrument, and I feel at peace when it’s in my hands.
7 p.m. — I realize I haven’t picked up my prescriptions, so I head out to Walgreens to get my birth control ($14 copay), along with the antidepressant I’ve been putting off starting up again after being off for the last few months ($12 copay).
8 p.m. — My friend’s personal trainer has offered to give us “three on one” classes for the next few weeks at a super-discounted price ($30 per person). I set up Zoom in my basement for a bodyweight workout, which includes lots of burpees, planks, tricep dips, and bicep curls. Afterwards, I take a shower and cozy up in my robe on the couch. I convince my parents to watch The Outsider with me. We decide it’s too dark and settle on the movie A Quiet Place instead, which is actually just three times worse. Why am I craving end-of-the-world content right now?
10 p.m. — My mom collects antique books, so I decide I’ll try and read a few classics while I’m home. One chapter in to Out of Africa, and I’m asleep with the lights on.
Daily Total: $56
8:30 a.m. — I realize that my favorite yoga studio, CorePower Yoga, is offering online classes for free, so I’m up for a 9 a.m. for sculpt class with one of my favorite instructors. It’s raining, so I can’t do it outside, and instead set up my laptop and cushiony Lululemon mat in the carport for an hour-long class. I’m surprisingly sweaty afterwards, so I take a hot shower and fix a plate of scrambled eggs with olive oil and Everything But The Bagel seasoning. Heaven.
7 p.m. — I leash up the dog again and head out for another long walk along the river. I realize my mom doesn’t have a plan for dinner, which is unlike her, so I offer to pick something up on my way home. She’s nervous about ordering takeout, but I assure her I will wipe down the boxes. I win the argument and pick up Thai food. Pad see ew and edamame for me and pork gyoza and pad Thai for my mom and dad. I pay, and the total comes to $48.
Daily Total: $48
8:30 a.m. — I make a mixed berry, kale and spinach smoothie and set back to work trying to figure out what deadlines I have yet to meet.
12:00 p.m. — My mom enters my not-so-private office to tell me that my aunt and uncle are out of town, and they’ve offered to let us self-quarantine at their beach house in South Carolina. I feel reluctant to leave and put ourselves at risk, but she assures me we’ll stay in the house, bring our own groceries, and have a private stretch of beach to ourselves while we are there. Sounds like a dream, so I’m in, especially given the guarantee that we won’t be interacting with anyone else the whole time.
8:30 p.m. — My college friends and I set a time for a Zoom conference happy hour when we were all miraculously free. Now is the time! We spend nearly two hours catching up on careers, families, boys, and cities, each with our own glass of wine. I can’t believe it took a global pandemic to get us all back together again, but it’s so comforting to laugh with them.
Daily Total: $0
Weekly Total: $623.12
Reflection: If there was ever a time for gratitude, it’s now. In the midst of this pandemic, I acknowledge how incredibly lucky I am to have so much to fall back on: Parents who are able and willing to take me in, a regular paycheck, a healthy immune system, the list goes on. Weirdly, the time at my parents house and the general feeling of uncertainty in the air has made me more disciplined in my wellness routine.
On a larger scale, I’m hopeful that we can rise out of this downfall stronger than before. We’re all small pieces in the solution to this worldwide puzzle, and every piece in every region is crucial. I want to be able to say I fought on the right side of history in helping to flatten the curve, but with more information and new recommendations coming every day, I hope I’ve made the right choices so far. I feel I need to do everything I can to play a part in helping — even if it’s just donating to the food bank, getting groceries for a neighbor, or FaceTiming my grandfather.