Today is the 60th day of my quarantine and, obviously, the 60th day of this sparkling isolation blog. I checked online to find out what the traditional anniversary gift is for a 60th anniversary. Turns out it is diamond.
In a metaphorical sense, we often use the image of a diamond in the phrase “diamond in the rough.” That’s the concept of something that looks like a hunk of worthless rock, but given some time and attention can be cleaned and shaped into something beautiful and valuable.
That set me to thinking. What are my personal “diamonds in the rough” right now? Here’s a short list:
- Quarantining alone: This solitude sometimes gets lonely. On the other hand, I have lived alone for most of my adult life. For me, solitude is actually a good thing. The negative side to this one is that I feel like I don’t have a choice. That’s the issue. But talking to other friends, I can say that they are also struggling with being quarantined with family members. I suppose the grass is always greener, right? The diamond here is that I have time to stop and focus on things that are important to me – meditation, relaxation, reading, writing, etc. The lack of distraction and not having to worry about what I wear, what I listen to, what I cook, etc. is actually quite nice.
- No restaurants open for sit-down service: This is a hard one. As most people know, I have a side gig as a restaurant reviewer and a huge part of my life has become the exploration of bars and restaurants in the Chicago area. The idea that I cannot decide to go out for a relaxing cocktail and a meal is very hard for me to take. The upside of this is that I am becoming so much more creative in the kitchen. I have discovered a hidden passion for baking. I never knew I would like it. And I have also now become so much more creative about how to use the food and pantry staples available to me. I am loving this new-found creativity!
- Working remotely: Initially, I found this rough but largely due to all the technical issues related to accessing files and dealing with software. Also, the fact that we were not allowed back to work to check for mail meant that I had some stressful moments of knowing that physical pieces of mail were waiting for me with time-sensitive issues and I had no ability to deal with them. Other than that, I have found that the remote work thing is hugely liberating. First, I don’t spend 90 minutes a day (or more) in my car. I have only gone to a gas station twice in 60 days. Also, I can walk away from “work” and deal with personal things instantly. I have learned how to create both physical and psychic distance between “work” and “personal life.” Overall, I think I will miss this sense of liberation when we are forced to return to a more “normal” work schedule again.
- No open barbershops: I used to go to the barber about once every three weeks. Years ago, I decided to just have them shave off my hair, so I have kept it cropped close for years. Early into this quarantine I realized that either I had to grow it out (yuck – too gray and I have awful male pattern baldness), or I could shave it myself. To my surprise and joy, I discovered just how easy it is to shave your own head. I never had to go back to a barber again!
- The cancellation of all performances through December: This is one of the hardest things to transform from stone to diamond. I recently got word that I have to cancel all public performances at my theater through December. This is rather like dealing with a death. There are all sorts of stages of grief involved. There are, however, some silver linings. First, we have time to do all sorts of projects that have been on the “B” list for a long time. Second, there are some changes to how we want to sell tickets and deal with patrons that are now able to be implemented because we have so much time – and a kind of tacit societal permission – to change things up. Finally, I am feeling intensely creative about alternative methods of delivering content. I have so many amazing ideas. If my current employer is too short-sighted to embrace the innovative ideas I am working on, then I will just have to find someone who appreciates creativity and innovation. But there are some amazing potentials out there.
- Uncertainty about my continued employment: Well, it’s hard to find a diamond here, but I will try. With all shows canceled through December, there’s always a chance they will just tell me to cancel the entire season. At that point, I become irrelevant at my workplace. No theater – no reason for a director. This is the one potential diamond that is still elusive for me. I am pondering options and thinking about what I will do if I suddenly find myself unemployed with no health insurance. Hard things to contemplate, but this is my next task – to truly spend time on a “what if” exercise so that if it happens, I am not entirely blindsided. So the diamond in the rough here will be me finding new levels of creativity (as mentioned in the earlier bullet point) and finding ways to leverage those into a career. I have dealt with harder things in my life, so I have faith that I will be just fine if I have to deal with this one.
It’s really not as cliché as “making lemonade out of lemons.” Truly, all of these things that appear to be negative are actually negative in some way. The trick is to find ways to use them as a catalyst to then create something positive. It’s not like I am taking each thing and transforming it. Rather, I am taking each situation and asking myself, “If I can’t change this, then how can I use it to inspire my creativity?”
Things may be rough on some levels, but I am determined to find a way to hone those rough edges to find the hidden diamonds.
It’s only Quarantine if it comes from the Quarante province of France. Otherwise, it’s just Sparkling Isolation