Polly Peepers / guest columnist
Stuck Without Tires
I’m no different than anyone else, Polly – this really sucks. And I’m not sure I can handle it any more … I mean my boyfriend and I are cool. At least, so far we are. We’ve only been living together since New Year’s Eve – I guess I agreed to a lot of things that night.
So what do I do? How do I keep from going crazy, you know, what if all of this stay-in-place stuff goes on until the end of the month or something? What’s your advice?
– Stuck Without Tires, Chevy Chase, Maryland
Dear Stuck Without Tires,
The first thing I can suggest to you is be prepared to put on your big-girl pants because this virus is not going away anytime soon. Life has changed for years. That’s what I would term the bigger picture.
Regarding the intermediate picture, living with your boyfriend is a very big step. If you haven’t dialed this in by now, all live-in relationships require a bevy of learn-on-the-job skills with no tried-and-true formula for success … you adapt as you go. This is even more important in a pandemic quarantine where the challenges of personal chemistry and intimacy are heightened.
Any successful relationship basically involves the exact same dance – doing your best to listen, developing the skill to be patient, not trying to change anyone, and remembering to have fun.
As for the shorter term, I think the most important thing to understand in these difficult times is the importance of organization and perspective. I’d like you to consider some basic guidelines that may be of help in place:
1. laziness – laziness can be a sign of depression – be on the lookout for not taking your clothes off for bed at night, showering in the morning with your clothes on, or eating out of cans. These are probably red flags. So is bringing the garbage container inside the house to eliminate making trips going outside.
2. indulgence – it’s so easy to lose our way or focus while we’re in-place. We are a culture that worships rewards, and when we find ourselves quarantined, it’s hard not to fall into a system where we reward ourselves for completing minimal acts, like showering … one note of concern – if you’re binge-watching the wall, pull back on the pot.
3. the scale – relocating your bathroom scale far under your bed is probably not a good idea. Remember, Hershey bars are not a source of protein and for best results, weigh yourself in the morning and not at night.
4. naps – limit naps to no more than one per hour. If you’re sleeping more in the day than you are at night, you might consider thirty-six hours straight of binge-watching Game of Thrones before trying to sleep through the night again.
5. dating – if you’re in place with a partner, try a special ‘date night’ – dress up, put on make-up, and meet in the back yard. Of course, meeting in the backyard can offer a number of role-playing opportunities … like pretending you’re meeting for the first time.
6. chores – an interesting thing about doing chores in captivity is it’s no longer the wild, wild west of freedom and endless options. What will you do with your allotted space? Will you conquer it, or will it conquer you?
(Completing chores is a definite component of good mental health. For depressed patients, clinicians commonly suggest making a list every morning and checking it off every night. Slam dunks like getting out of bed are allowed on the list. The prize is the sense of accomplishment.)
7. news – this is a tough one … do you really want to know everything? Though this may give you a sense of security and help you pass the time in place, the more likely outcome is that you become saturated, bloated, and burdened by it all. Live your own life, not the media’s.
… so, Stuck Without Tires, my advice remains simple –
first of all, in any relationship, in place or not, never go down the dead end of trying to change someone if there’s conflict. That’s a priori.
When you’re done with accepting this required premise, proceed with developing the skills of survival – once again, being patient, learning to listen, and remembering to have fun. Hopefully, your boyfriend wants to achieve these goals as well. Accept that any meaningful relationship in any circumstance is a challenge to keep open and fresh.
And while you’re at it, turn off your addiction to CNN and Me-Tube … it may be time for a cosmic timeout to reassess things on a number of levels.