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  • Lauren Loos

Isolation: Weighing up the fear

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Living in isolation is a strange thing. It's at once fear-filled and boring. We are all putting one foot in front of the other, performing our duties as humans and employees and parents in some sort of perfunctory fashion while the world falls apart around us.

Everyone is doing some version of isolation right now. And we're all coping with it differently.

I'm not in full lockdown. I'm working from home at times and in the office in part, which takes me out into the bizarrely quiet real world frequently. The previously bustling CBD is now a ghost town. People in the streets are silent, smiles are strained — if anyone is bothered with smiling at all.

It's a quiet kind of fear that grips me. It doesn't demand attention. It simply sits there, lurking, making sure I don't forget. Today, when I walk through my front door, it could be the day that I bring a deadly virus into my home, to my children. And yet, I keep going.

That lurking, niggling fear must be weighed against the desire to keep my job. Like everyone going to the grocery store, my fear needs to be weighed against risks and statistics and need.

Friends who are solely working from home tell me they feel stifled and suffocated. For me, that feels like a luxury. Going out into the real world leaves my organs squeezed by a cold fear of an unknown — did the person who touched the elevator button before me wash their hands, how many people have touched the button at the pedestrian crossing today, has my co-worker finally kicked the habit of licking their finger before turning a page? When I leave the office for the week, I breathe a sigh of relief. I get to go home and cocoon myself into a bubble with my husband and children. I feel insulated at home. We spend our days riding bikes, jumping on our trampoline and climbing trees. It takes quite a few days of being trapped within this bubble before I feel the luxury of feeling stifled, frustrated and bored of our confinement.

I do feel those things though. It's only natural. Just like it's natural for the children to be whining because they're bored. Just like it's natural for me to snap when I'm asked for the 678th time if we can go to the playground. Just like it's natural for my five year old to slam his bedroom door and yell, "I just want to be alone!” Just like it's natural for me to respond by muttering under my breath, "You want to be alone? I'm the one who needs some fucking alone time!" leading to a tangent filled with obscenities and a string of complaints about the state of our house.

Bike riding is now a daily activity at our place.

And then I head back to work, back out into the real world, back to the fear, back to wishing that I was still trapped at home with my family.

Next week, I'll begin homeschooling my eldest son. I'm concerned about how I'll entice him into engagement with school work. I'm worried that he will fall behind in his learning because I'm in no way equipped to handle his schooling and my job and my three year old and my own sanity all at once. The stress I feel about all of these things needs to be weighed. I will carefully measure his need for school against his need for a mother who isn't overtly stressed and his need for exercise and the outdoors.

My husband and I will continue to juggle. He'll continue working full time from home, while I squeeze my work into the hours that would otherwise be my only source of downtime. We'll juggle office trips, and homeschooling, and our children's incessant mess making, and keeping our children entertained and not fighting, and keeping us all sane, all while managing our own fear and anxiety about the state of the world and the future that awaits us.

It's hard.

It's really, really fucking hard.

But we are the lucky ones. We have jobs. We live in a city that hasn't had so many cases of coronavirus. We don't work in frontline jobs. We're not witnessing the virus do it's worst firsthand. We haven't lost anyone. We haven't been sick. We're not amongst the high risk or vulnerable. We really are the lucky ones.

What I'm Reading Right Now

Psychological Thriller / Domestic Noir

While it's almost impossible to find time to read right now, this is the kind of book that makes you want to make the time.

You Are Not Alone is a gripping novel about a group of women who appear to have the perfect lives, but all is not what it seems . . .

You probably know someone like Shay Miller. She wants to find love, but it eludes her. She wants to be fulfilled, but her job is a dead end. She wants to belong, but her life is becoming increasingly isolated.

You probably don't know anyone like the Moore sisters. They have an unbreakable circle of friends. They live a life of glamour and perfection. They always get what they desire.

Shay thinks she wants their life.

But what they really want is hers.

If you're looking for more books to keep you distracted in isolation, check out this list of absolute page turners.

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