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My Shelter Diary

Thoughts and feelings during the first days of my ordered “sheltering in place."

US Park Service, Public Domain
Source: US Park Service, Public Domain

California's governor has ordered everyone to “shelter in place.” That means I’m pretty much home-bound except for essential shopping and walking my dog—and for God knows how long!

In that this is Psychology Today, I thought I’d share my feelings and thoughts during my first few days of near-quarantining.

First, if I’m to be honest, I'm liberally interpreting the edict. It allows people to exercise, specifying that walking and hiking are okay. I’ve interpreted that as it being okay to practice pickleball against a wall.

Amid the existential warnings, for example, the governor’s prediction that 56% of Californians could get the virus within eight weeks, I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve found sheltering-in-place to have silver linings:

Since we’re all working from home, when I drove to get food today, there was no traffic and parking was easy. I live near a freeway and the constant drone has been replaced by virtual silence... aah.

My work as a career counselor has eased. Everyone is working with me by Skype or phone, so I don’t need to clean the house as often. My most difficult clients, the long-term unemployed, have postponed sessions, knowing that most hiring now is of well-employed stars in mission-critical positions—That doesn’t necessarily describe my long-term unemployed clients. I have a bit fewer clients now, which allows me to slow down and enjoy life a bit more: I’ll allow myself a few extra minutes in the shower, play on Amazon for longer than I normally would, andI talk with my neighbors for longer than the usual “Hi, how are you?" "Fine. How are you?" "Fine." We’re all in this unprecedented horror movie except that it’s not a movie.

Through the years, as I got overwhelmed with work, life, and the ever-growing pile of books in our bedroom, I almost wished I had been imprisoned so I had time to read some of that stuff. Well, beware of what you wish for, you might get it: Now, I'm essentially under house arrest.

Such a (pick your fave) devastating, cataclysmic, end-of-days event, provides perspective. Yesterday, I spilled half a cup of coffee. Normally, I’d reflexively yell, “Sh*t!” Yet I said nothing and just cleaned it up—calmly, which is rare for me.

I’m eating less—with restaurants closed, maybe I’ll finally lose the 20 pounds I’ve been wanting to lose. Well, maybe not 20—I am allowing myself extra treats, like indulging my love of carbs.

I’m married but wonder what dating must be like in the coronavirus era: six-foot distance?

Even though I’m pretty stocked-up (except for hand sanitizer), I find myself conserving. For example, when I need to blow my nose (no, I don’t have coronavirus), I just tear off a part of a tissue.

Additionally buoying me is the talk of vaccines and treatments in the works. I have faith in few things but I do in the ability of the best and brightest. And that’s who is, worldwide, working tirelessly on this. Already they're providing realistic reason for hope.

Amid all my light tone, you might deem me a Pollyanna. Well, there is at least one nasty thought marinating in my brain: I’m wondering whether the cure will end up worse than the disease. All the restrictions are likely to cause hordes of people to lose their jobs, perhaps long-term, businesses to go out of business, life savings lost to stock market declines atop trillions of dollars of extra taxpayer spending. People are already starting to go stir-crazy confined to their homes, likely for weeks if not months, with recurrent waves of disease and possible restrictions likely to occur for 18 months. Is it at all possible if that we would have been, net, better if government just supported vaccine development and left the rest to the private sector? But what do I know? I’m just a career counselor.


Take advantage of the extra time you now have to do things you long wished you had time for. Here’s a list of possibilities.

It may help to reduce coronavirus catastrophizing by observing its silver linings.

Oh yeah, and do wash your hands more and keep six feet away from me.

I read this aloud on YouTube.