Isolation: Four weeks later

 

Four weeks ago, when we all were ordered to stay home and not socialize, I decided to see this as a unique chance. I was going to intensify my meditation practice and meditate twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon. I have been able to stick to that.

 

That took care of two hours but the days seemed very long in spite of that. No meeting friends in cafés, no visits to the National Gallery, no outing with friends for dinner. How was I going to fill the rest of the sixteen hours we spend awake every day? I felt lost without my weekly routine, trying to kill time without a sense of purpose. It was easy to fall into lethargy, a state of underarousal also called boredom.

 

Then I remembered a concept which was drilled into me while I was studying art therapy: Freedom within a structure. Applied to art therapy it meant to find a middle way between offering the client a white piece of paper to draw on (too much freedom) and a paint by number drawing (no freedom, you just fill in the colours). In between would be to set a task such as painting a flower (the structure) but the flower could be drawn whichever way the patient wanted to (the freedom).

 

How did this apply to this situation? How could I create a routine which would give my days a sense of purpose and stop me from drifting aimlessly through

them? Slowly I developed a daily routine; this is what it looks like:

 

There is the familiar morning routine of getting up, having a shower and making my bed, getting dressed, having breakfast. After that comes the first meditating session followed by a daily phone call to a friend. Our conversation gives me a sense of connection to the outside world. Reading my emails and catching up on the latest news is followed by another call to a dear friend. Time for another meditation.

 

By now it is close to noon and I prepare and eat lunch. When lunch is over I go for a walk on sunny days or lie on my balcony for at least half an hour to get fresh air and do a vigorous walk throughout my apartment.

 

Refreshed by the exercise  I lie down for another meditation session. Lately I sometimes drift into an incredible sense of well-being as I have never experienced before. After that I read for a while, or write or do some household chores until it is time for the highlight of the day: three episodes on Netflix. I don’t have cable television because I can’t stand the commercials. Why do I chose to watch Netflix at this point? Between three and five is the lowest point of my day when I am most likely to be bored. It is a relief to just sink back and watch “Ann of Green Gables”.

 

This is something entirely new in my life. Up to now I have never permitted myself to watch television during the day for fear of turning into one of those housewives watching soap operas and popping Valium. I have changed my mind. Who says I can not watch three episodes of a delightful series at a time during the day when my energy is at its lowest and when I don’t feel like reading or even playing my wordscape game on my tablet? When I can get absorbed into other lives and forget everything around me? Delightful escapism.

 

The rest of the day I meditate once more, have supper, read  and watch German television on my laptop. Before I know it, it is time to go to bed. All this is flexible; it does not matter whether I meditate at 7 a.m. or 8.a.m. It varies when I have lunch  or when I go for a walk. That’s the freedom I have within the daily framework which I have created for myself.

 

Many writers who have no structure from the outside, no nine to five jobs to go to, have all developed a daily routine. Alice Munro starts writing every morning at 8 a.m. and finishes at 11 a.m. and even sets herself a quota of pages per morning. John Updike writes every weekday morning but gives himself a break on the weekend.

 

Will I be able to maintain my daily routine after the pandemic is over? I hope so.

Even though I will be busier again there is no reason not to continue my meditation routine. I enjoy it, I feel calmer and my mind, which likes repetition  and routine will not resist it but will happily go along with it.

 

Maria von Finckenstein

Ottawa

April 19, 2020