The quarantine is depressing the hell out of me

Not the most felicitous or inviting headline, I’ll grant you, but that’s how I’m feeling right now.

Since this self-quarantine—house arrest, social distancing, or whatever you want to call it—began, when? 21 days ago?, I’ve tried really hard to convince myself that our situation here at a small ranch in Mexico could be worse.

Yea, much worse, I keep repeating to myself. Still, I’m running out of positive thoughts.

I could be living alone, like many people I know, instead of with a wonderful companion and human being. That’s a big gratitude for me, and I hope for Stew also.

Or we could be stuck in a fourth-floor walkup in Chicago, where, for Chrissake, it’s supposed to snow tonight. Or in New York, Covid-19 Central.

Yes, if given a choice, we’d rather be in Mexico than in any place in the U.S. There’s always a “safe” place north of the border, such as WTF, Montana, but at the pace the virus is spreading, I’m not sure anyone is immune anymore. And life at WTF, I hear, is really depressing, even without an epidemic.

Our finances could be precarious, too, as in the case of business owners, and people laid off—by the millions—in the U.S., who don’t know how they are going to feed their families or pay next month’s rent or mortgage.

Then we read of all anonymous tragedies in the U.S., where, each day, people are dying by the thousands, and turning up infected with Covid virus by the tens of thousands. So far, Stew and I are healthy. We know people here with chronic pulmonary or other serious health issues who are, understandably, terrified to step outside their homes.

And the number of infected people in San Miguel stands at three, all of them showing only mild symptoms and being treated at home.

And yet I’m getting increasingly depressed, almost despondent about the present confinement. From reading newspaper columns and commentaries, it sounds as if I’m hardly alone. Or as a blogger from Louisiana, who lives alone, put it in a recent post, “Staying home sucks.”


One is, naturally, the physical isolation from other people. Stew and I always felt we were pretty much loners. Turns out those dinner or movie dates with friends, or meeting other people at a church service on Sunday, are small joys we didn’t quite appreciate.

A “service” on the Zoom app, with tinny audio and jigsaw puzzle of faces juggling on a laptop monitor, doesn’t count as a spiritual encounter. Likewise, the face of a minister—even Pope Francis!—talking into a camera or preaching to a handful of people in an otherwise empty basilica, doesn’t bring comfort to my soul.

Praise be, though, to all those church volunteers who wrestle with Facebook or Zoom software every week, to keep in touch, at least. But I still long for the real thing.

I’d never thought I was one of those “people who need people.” I’ve realized of late I’m in fact one of them, though I’m not feeling very lucky right now. Sorry, Barbra.

The second issue sapping my spirit is the uncertainty. Epidemics are by nature unpredictable. One can’t predict where they start or end up, and how many dead bodies they’ll leave along the way.

The quarantine in San Miguel could end at the end of April or, continue almost indefinitely, until July or August. When will we know, or who will tell us? Can we stand to be cooped up inside our homes for another six weeks, as if waiting for a hurricane to arrive?

And friends keep telling me we’ve barely just begun to serve our house arrest sentence.

Wars or comparable catastrophes too, often bring out leaders who through their honesty, trustworthiness, and empathy bring people together to face the crisis, to lift their spirits.

I’m crazy as hell!

But instead of a Churchill or an FDR, America today has someone that reminds me of the red-faced Howard Beale in the movie “Network,” a TV character becoming more unhinged before our eyes, in this case threatening to close Congress one day, promising to “open up” the country by Easter or who knows when, and who claims to rely more in his intuitive “genius” rather than expert opinion about whether his schemes are legal or medically advisable. 

That type of daily reality show is not anything to calm my nerves or improve my mood. I’m going to try ignoring it.

Living in Mexico, a thousand miles away from the barrage of news, about the political mayhem that envelops the U.S. right now, offers some relief, but we can’t completely escape it. Online news reports, and our own curiosity, won’t allow it, as much as we try to direct our attention to non-news articles, about a lost city in Colombia, and every “B” movie Netflix flings at us.

Tonight, “Madama Butterfly” is on tap, thanks to the Metropolitan Opera in New York, though Stew says he’s damn tired of Pinkerton and all those geishas demurely shuffling around. I think Stew is getting impatient too, living in this state of suspended animation.

Tomorrow we will tell the housekeeper not to come to work until the beginning of May. She travels here in a crowded bus that, in these contagion-obsessed days, seems like a Petri dish on wheels.

So it will be my turn to clean the house and do the laundry, which, from previous experience, I expect is going to be a  real pain. I’ll have something to do alright.

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