A Welcome Distraction: Breaking the Tedium of Quarantine Life by Michael Miller @My_ComicRelief #BlogPost #Blog #Quarantine #StayHome #Covid19

As I write this, I’m in my 47TH DAY of quarantine. In that time, I’ve had to figure out how to be an online teacher. I go to the grocery store once every couple of weeks. I read A LOT. Annnnnnnd that’s kinda it. So this last month I haven’t really been seeking distraction from my workload like normal. No, I’ve been looking for anything to try and make the limited, solitary life of self-isolation a little more entertaining.

So, where have I been finding welcome distractions from quarantine life?

I guess just walking can be fun…right?

Walking is invigorating and healthy and it gives you time alone in nature…or so I’ve been told. I’ve never been one to walk for fun. I walk to get places. But as recreation?? Not me scene. When I began my practice of meditation back in college I remember trying walking meditation. I even got myself “walking sneakers” as my boots, flip-flops, or Converse sneakers (so old they had holes literally worn through the soles) weren’t “right” for it. I did walking meditation for a week before I realized I wasn’t a sucker and I could just meditate sitting down.

Except now walking is a reason to leave the house and a chance to interact with other people, even if it’s just a wave and a chat from across their yard. Hannah and I have been meeting for weekly walks and some socially distant socializing for over a month now. Kalie and I have started weekly walks, too. Often I walk myself. This is what quarantine has driven me to. Walks are fun now. I dug those old walking sneakers out of deep storage, laced ‘em up, and have ventured out in increasingly larger meandering circles around my home. I’ve learned a lot about the side streets around me, too!

Quarantine 20
Soooooo…these are the “walking sneakers.” I…I’d just rather be in flip-flops or boots. These so aren’t me. They haven’t been since I was like thirteen. BUT if I’m walking 5-6 miles a day I GUESS I need to take shoes seriously. Blah.

When I first found these old sneakers over a year ago, they received rave reviews. When I put them on Kalie and Miranda laughed SO HARD I thought they were going to pass out. They said, “If you had on high-wasted khaki shorts and a light blue polo shirt with those you’d be every dad at every barbeque ever.” Still, I guess they’re better than the Converse where the soles are worn clear through? Maybe? If nothing else, I’m digging in and using them because I won’t let any sass – no matter how brilliantly played, perfectly executed, and spot on it is – sway me

Quarantine 14
In retrospect, I could’ve used a picture where you could see all of me holding it. But I thought this close-up was cooler! For reference though, when I’ve it flat on the ground, it stands to just above my shoulder.

Still, what I may lack in style with the sneakers, I make up for with MY KICKASS WALKING STICK. Oh, you read that right. Years ago I was at the beach and I found this AMAZING piece of driftwood that TOTALLY resembles some sort of wizard’s staff. I took it home, not knowing what I was going to do with it but knowing it was too cool to leave behind. A few years later, when I absurdly tried walking meditation for a week, I broke it out of the corner of the garage it was living in. The stick was cool, the walking was not, so I returned it to the corner of my parents’ garage it had been living in since high school. Well Dad was cleaning a few weeks ago, found it, and I was pleasantly surprised when he’d dropped it off in my garage! (How he gets by without seeing it every day is anyone’s guess.) So now I get to stroll around the neighborhood looking like a badass wizard…admittedly often in sweatpants…but a badass wizard could wear sweatpants!

I’ve realized when I go out walking with Hannah or Kalie, without my cool walking stick, people are always waving and talking to us. But when I go out walking by myself with my amazing walking stick people are faaaaaar less inclined to chat…or even make eye contact. What the heck people?? I guess the guy with the long hair and the walking stick is just TOO COOL to be approached.

FINAL VERDICT: Just walking around for fun – entertaining! Walking stick – even better!

Cutting my hair sounds like a good idea. This can’t go wrong.

Impulsively, a few weeks ago, I found myself sitting around and reading on a Friday night when the idea of dramatically cutting my hair popped into my head. It seemed like a fun way to liven up an evening in quarantine. . My hair falls to my shoulders but the abrupt hair change is not unusual for me. It was down to my shoulder blades when I shaved it all off, buzzcut short, years ago. Then I grew it all back until a family wedding in Dallas in June convinced me it needed to go again before a conference in New Orleans a few weeks later. In my short hair/buzzcut days, I’ve had both the Star Wars Rebel Alliance symbol and Iron Man’s face shaved into the back of my head (the girl who usually cuts my hair is soooo crazy talented). I’ve cut my hair from time to time on my own, too – whether trimming it when it’s long or buzzing it when it’s super short.

Quarantine 11
I was just pulling it up to see. I hadn’t committed to anything yet…

However, while the idea of cutting my hair seemed like a lot of fun, I was still kind of digging my long hair. Do I chop it off for fun, or don’t I?

Then I thought, I used to shave my friend Ashley’s undercut for her for years. She loved the style and always raved about it. It seemed like the perfect solution! Right? I could keep all the long hair on top and have the super short, super soft buzzed hair underneath. Granted, I shaved Ashley’s hair. So there was no trying to bend around and shave the back of my own head. Still…“How hard,” I wondered, “could it be to do that by myself?”

I did my due diligence. I setup an extra mirror in the bathroom so I could see the back of my head with both my hands free. I spent a fair amount of time tying up all the long hair on top of my head. The line wasn’t perfectly straight but it was close. Given the fact that I was doing this myself and I didn’t have one of those fancy combs with the thin, pointy end hairstylists have for this sort of thing, I thought it was an impressive parting. Then, to be safe, I texted two friends to see if this was a) a good idea or b) a delusion brought on by quarantine. Well, the Brain Trust vote was quick and unanimous and twenty minutes later my floor looked like this:

Quarantine 12
Was this a good idea or a bad idea? Wellll, it’s a little too late to contemplate that NOW.

My hair is so thick the clippers couldn’t handle it until it was shorter. So I gathered my hair in a ponytail, picked up the haircutting scissors, and started chopping through my hair. Surprisingly, it was so satisfying and so fun to hear the harsh sound of the scissors cutting through all that hair. I’ve had dramatic haircuts before but I’ve never cut all the hair off myself! The feeling of the ponytail finally pulling away from my head was great, too. I had to cut it a bit more with the scissors and then I grabbed the clippers and got to mowing! I could’ve started with a little section but I figured if I was going to do this, I was going to do it right. So I shaved my hair off up to my eye line, as I used to do for Ashley.

Haircut 6
Finished Product

The next day, one of my haircut consultants texted to ask, “How’s the new cut in the cold light of day?” It was a valid question as Friday night excitement doesn’t always translate into decisions appreciated on Saturday morning XD. But I really like it! I’ll be honest, I’m damn proud of how straight the line ended up being (the curve down from the temple was intentional!). I like the contrast of the long hair with the short and it is so cool to feel my long hair swaying like a soft curtain against the even softer buzzed hair below it when I move. Given how thick my hair is, you can’t tell I buzzed it at all when my hair’s down, either. So far all the reactions have included a) I really love it! and b) I can’t believe you didn’t screw that up! Impulsive quarantine decision or not, I’m definitely keeping my hair like this.

(As you can see from the pictures, I did have to even it out a little bit by my temple but I did that the next day. Now we’re good to go.)

FINAL VERDICT: Cutting my own hair during quarantine – success!

It’s time to take phone/FaceTime/Zoom conversations up a notch.

First, who the hell knew what Zoom was two months ago? I’d never even heard the name in connection to a conferencing app and now I use it all the time. Seriously, Zoom is saving the day. Although, poor Skype. Right? No one really talks about Skype anymore. It was just sitting around, letting us video chat for years, and then POW Zoom steps up and wins when the plague comes. I’m not complaining mind you. I have been Zooming with people all the time. I’m an extrovert by nature and living along in self-isolation has been ROUGH. I’m on the phone all the time in a non-plague times so you can bet I’ve been upping my chat time now.

Quarantine 22 (2)
Me on a particularly hilarious Zoom call. I’m reacting to something funny someone else did on the call BUT I didn’t ask everyone else if I could include their picture in this post AND I’m writing too late to text them now AND I don’t want to wait until tomorrow to finish this. So you can feel free to imagine whatever you think prompted this reaction. Also, you now know exactly what I look like when Zooming, because it’s almost always this shot.

I even got one of those li’l stands for my phone so I can be on FaceTime for long periods of time without having to hold my phone. And YES me from two months ago would HARDCORE JUDGE ME for having a li’l phone stand. Who have I become?? Past Me would lament. Have I devolved and appropriated an iGen stereotype?? But I don’t even care. It’s awesome and it makes FaceTime easier and I love it. It makes my video chat sessions for therapy easier, too.

But I quickly realized quarantine conversations need more than just new toys to make holding the phone easier. The conversation itself can do with a kick sometimes. I will happily talk to people all day long. I’m often happiest when I’m doing just that! However, conversation can start to stagnate when the response to, “What’s new?” becomes, “Well, I moved to the other side of the couch since we talked last. It’s a totally different view of the room. It was a bold move, but I think it was worth it – even considering the trial of having to move my book and my drink over there with me.”

Quarantine 18
Note, the couch I set this box of cards on for the picture is the very same couch on which I’m writing this post. Welcome to my world.

Enter Chuck Klosterman. In his book – Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs – he has a small section called, “The twenty-three questions I ask everybody I meet in order to decide if I can really love them”[1] annnnd I’ve been using them in conversation with family and friends since I first read them in ’03 or ’04. As I was ordering his newest book – Raised in Captivity: Fictional Nonfiction – from Barnes and Noble, I happened upon his HYPERtheticals: 50 Questions for INSANE Conversations. It was a box of fifty cards with questions like the ones in Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs and I HAD TO HAVE IT.

On the introductory card to this set Klosterman writes, in part, “I see no value in asking someone a friendly, nonadversarial question if neither party cares what the answer is. Instead, I prefer to ask questions where the solution is irrelevant – I pose hypothetical questions where how one answers the query matters far more than the literal conclusion. There is no ‘right’ answer to these kinds of questions. The end never matters; what matters is how you get to the end. What matters is how you think, not what you think.”

To give an example, my favorite one from Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs is #5 – “You meet your soul mate. However, there is a catch: Every three years, someone will break both of your soul mate’s collarbones with a Crescent wrench, and there is only one way you can stop that from happening: You must swallow a pill that will make every song you hear – for the rest of your life – sound as if it’s being performed by the band Alice in Chains. When you hear Creedence Clearwater Revival on the radio, it will sound (to your ears) like it’s being played by Alice in Chains. If you see Radiohead live, every one of their tunes will sound like it’s being covered by Alice in Chains. When you hear a commercial jingle on TV, it will sound like Alice in Chains; if you sing to yourself in the shower, your voice will sound like deceased Alice vocalist Layne Staley performing a capella (but it will only sound this way to you). Would you swallow the pill?[2]

Right? RIGHT??? You’re welcome. Have fun chatting and thinking about and obsessing over that for the rest of your day. Now imagine a box of cards with fifty amazing questions exactly like that. Quarantine can stretch for a year (hopefully not!!!) and I’ll still only be scratching the surface of where these can take me in conversations.

Quarantine 19
This is the back of the box so you get a bit more of a sampling of the fun inside. Note, all the questions have FAR MORE DETAIL on the actual cards, even the ones on the back. This is just a taste of the fun.

FINAL VERDICT: Chuck Klosterman’s HYPERtheticals – we all need this in our life even without quarantine!

Even if I’m stuck inside, it doesn’t mean nature’s stuck outside.

So there’s not really a story to build up to this one. The other night I was minding my own business when I turned on the light and walked down into the basement…and I found THIS.

Quarantine 17
Not cool spider, NOT FREAKING COOL.

It didn’t even have the decency to crawl under something and pretend like it was sorry I saw it or was scared I was there. It was just hanging out in the middle of the floor, like it owned the room. I put the crackers down for a size reference. The only reason I paused to do that was so I’d have proof of the true scale of the dreadfully harrowing evening I endured. When she saw the picture, Miranda, of the aforementioned sneaker-sassing fame, said, “Honestly you’re gonna have to burn the house down and start over.” But I would not be beaten! I would survive! We scuffled. It tried to run. It tried to come at me. But ultimately I was rewarded with hearing the sound of the crunchy chitinous exoskeleton of that gargantuan thing’s all-too-skitter-enabling jointed appendages when I SMUSHED THE HECK OUT OF IT.

I’ve always been the kind of person – ever since I was a kid – to let bugs live. If I had to remove one, I’d safely catch it and release it outside. I’ve also always tried to be very spider-tolerant, leaving as many webs up as I can and letting them do their thing so they can eat other annoying insects for me. Also, obvs., I’ve always loved Spider-Man so how can I not appreciate the namesake? I respect them. But I feel they’re sort of taking advantage of my policy. They…they may’ve crossed a line here.

While I haven’t seen one since, I’m not sure if the death of their advanced scout set a message and the rest are steering clear of me OR if they are lying in wait for me, building up their forces to take revenge for my act of aggression. Only time will tell. If I’m not back with another piece next month, you’ll know the spiders won.

If that’s the case, if the spiders get me, remember me as I was – someone with a spontaneous haircut, a badass walking stick, and (maybe) questionable sneakers. And remember me when you’re talking about whether or not you’d sacrifice your relationship to music to spare your soul mate’s collar bones from being crushed with a Crescent wrench.

Spider invasions aside, I hope everyone is enjoying quarantine as much as possible. Stay safe and be healthy.

– Michael Miller

cropped-ms-marvel

Michael J. Miller writes and rambles about comic books and comic book movies (not to mention Doctor Who and Star Wars and whatever else randomly pops into his head) on his blog My Comic Relief. He teaches theology at Mercyhurst Preparatory School in Erie, PA – including classes on Star Wars as modern mythology and the intersection of comic books and social justice. Should it be your thing, you can also find him on Twitter @My_ComicRelief but he tweets sporadically at best because social media can be exhausting.

 

 

_________________________________________________________

[1] Chuck Klosterman, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifest (Now With A New Middle), (New York: Scribner, 2003), 126-34.

[2] Ibid., 127-8.

15 thoughts on “A Welcome Distraction: Breaking the Tedium of Quarantine Life by Michael Miller @My_ComicRelief #BlogPost #Blog #Quarantine #StayHome #Covid19

  1. In Sweden you get told that it will rain if you kill a spider. I suspect that’s why it rains much more in Norway, they don’t teach kids that important lesson here. So if it has rained at some point after you killed that spider you now know that it is your fault 🙂

    I really liked your walking stick. I love walking, I find it a great way to get some time to think or to really discuss something. I have even been rereading Stephen Graham’s A Gentle Guide to Tramping, a hiking guide from 1926, which really makes me long for longer hikes than can be done at the moment….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It has rained!!!! In fact, we had two days straight where it poured pretty much all the time!!! So yeah, I guess that is 100% on me. I have seen many smaller spiders since my encounter with that beast and have let them go about their merry way. And we’ve had clear skies and lots of sun since, too :).

      Thank you for appreciating my walking stick! I love what you said about it being a great time “to think or to really discuss something.” I’ve found that to be the case. Whenever I go out, I never take my phone or listen to music or anything. If I’m on my own, I think and ponder and reflect and just let my mind wander where it will. If I’m with someone else, than we often have some of the best conversations of the week. I never thought I’d be “a walker,” as I allude to above. But now I couldn’t imagine stopping even after the plague has lifted.

      Also, ‘A Gentle Guide to Tramping’ has just become one of my favorite book titles ever.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Well, that makes it embarrassing to admit that I messed up the title, it should be The Gentle Art of Tramping… 🙂 I’m used to having this really nice walk to work where I can think over things, but with home office I have to remind myself that I do enjoy walking. Of course as soon as I’m out of the door I remember why. The Norwegians have the expression “dørstokkmila” (dørstokk=doorstep, mil=10 kilometers) for the effort it takes to take that first step across the doorstep…

        Liked by 2 people

      2. There’s nothing embarrassing here because ‘The Gentle Art of Tramping’ does nothing to change my enjoyment of the title. It is still fantastic! Also, thank you! I now owe a huge thank you to you and Norwegians in general for “dørstokkmila.” WHAT AN AMAZING WORD. There are definitely some mornings before work (especially when the cold, biting Erie, PA winters set in) where I can use this. I didn’t even know I needed this word in my life and now I can’t imagine how I ever lived without it. It’s brilliant and perfect and everything I’ve ever wanted in an expression! Thank you for sharing!!!

        Liked by 2 people

      3. I completely agree, it is one of my favorite Norwegian words, I’m doing my best to introduce it into Swedish. The best thing about the weird Swedish-Norwegian hybrid which is my current primary communication language is that I can choose the best words from each language 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  2. It sounds like you have been quite productive! I think it’s great you’ve started walking. I know a lot of people think it’s boring, but it’s actually one of my favorite things to do! I am seeing a lot more walkers these days, but they are not generally friendly, unfortunately. They all look suspiciously at you as if you might have the plague. Maybe I should get a giant walking stick/wizard staff and see if that improves relations.

    Also: Were you not terrified to cut off your hair??? It looks terrifying!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You should so get a giant wizard staff/walking stick! While I’ve found some who are wary, most people are at least up for a quick “hi” and smile. I did meet one woman from England who talked with me at length about the holidays of her youth and how much more creatively you can swear at people in English-English as opposed to American-English. She was amazing!

      Cutting my hair off was SO MUCH FUN! Sawing through my ponytail with those scissors myself was some of the most fun I’ve ever had. It was so freeing/exciting! I’ve completely shaved my head before (and I like the way I look with a buzz cut) so I knew, if I really messed up, I could always just cut it all off again (even though I didn’t want to). I’m proud to say I’ve reshaved the undercut three times since and I haven’t accidentally buzzed off any of my long hair! I highly recommend everyone try it at least once :D.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t know. My latest interaction was wondering why a grandmother was walking a stroller down the middle of the road. I finally realized she must have left the sidewalk entirely to avoid me–long before I had even noticed her or I could have moved aside! I’m all for social distancing, but is it better to take your baby into the middle of the road? I said “hello” and she studiously ignored me, once again making me feel like I must have the plague. 😦

        I was reading the other day, however, that people merely suspected of having the plague in Shakespeare’s day could find that their neighbors had literally boarded up their doors and windows, leaving them to starve inside their own homes. So, all things considered, I guess people refusing to speak to me means things are going comparatively well?

        I am soo afraid to cut my hair! Maybe I will just become Rapunzel. That’s a valid option, right?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. YIKES…yeah, I guess being ignored on your walks IS better than being boarded up inside your own home and left to die :8. That’s horrifying! Like, if you could see me reading your comment right now you’d see my mouth drop open and a shocked and sad expression play over my face.

        I get social distancing and being safe and I fully support all of that. But the people you’re meeting on your walks are just being crazy paranoid and needlessly rude! Who doesn’t even nod or say “hi,” ESPECIALLY when we’re all stuck living in such anxious, uncertain times?? This is the time to foster the connections we can find. I’m sorry everyone’s being such jerks. Maybe you need to get a shirt made to wear when you go walking. On the front and back it can say, “Not infected…also not a meanie jerk face so be prepared to be smiled at, waved at, and maybe even spoken to.”

        And Rapunzel is a totally valid option! However, many versions of that story have a pretty abrupt DIY haircut in them anyway so I’d be careful how you approach it. Is your hair so long it’s bugging you so you’re tempted to cut it yourself? Or is just contemplating cutting it yourself what’s so terrifying?

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: A Welcome Distraction – Breaking the Tedium of Quarantine Life – My Comic Relief

    1. And that, I think, would be a life well-lived. I will now spend a lot of time imagining you in this world attending weddings, throwing parties, doing karaoke, and things of that nature where the ENTIRE playlist would just be “Man in the Box” for hours and hours. It would be EPIC.

      Liked by 2 people

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