My Quarantine Family
I’m very fortunate to have two loved ones around during this pandemic: Nova and my partner Alex.
Alex and I live a five-minute walk from each other. We’ve created a sort of pseudo-household where we only see each other and occasionally run errands, usually together. Neither of us lives with other humans (I have Nova), so we’re not endangering housemates or parents.
Why not just stay in one of our apartments instead of moving between the two? That’s a fair question, and something I’ve been thinking about how to approach if we decide it’s too dangerous to continue as a pseudo-household.
I’m still feeling out this new job that’s so different from my old one, so during these first few weeks it’s been important to be able to work and sleep separately.
I’m also still learning the subtle ways my last relationship fucked me up.
then I remind myself: you don't end up with that much baggage from a 7-month relationship without there being abuse at some level— Shelby Spees (she/her) (@shelbyspees) April 6, 2020
The short version: it’s very important for me to have space and alone time. This affects all my relationships, but most noticeably it affects my relationship with Alex.
Bottom line: I’m trying to come out of this crisis with my job, relationship, and sanity mostly intact.
Am I in perfect quarantine? There's no such thing for most of us. I need to get groceries. Ordering delivery puts people at risk.— Shelby Spees (she/her) (@shelbyspees) April 5, 2020
It's a complex situation, but there are ways get necessary things done that reduce the likelihood and/or impact of negative outcomes.
Am I one of those assholes who thinks I’m the exception, putting everyone else in danger while others make necessary sacrifices? Or am I balancing pandemic safety measures with my own mental health safety measures?
There is no perfect quarantine.
Another question that’s fair to ask: Why not just isolate properly in each of our apartments and stop seeing each other? What makes us different from the people going out for booty calls?
Well, Alex and I do a lot to support each other, and neither of us would be coping well in isolation.
Both of us struggle with depression and executive dysfunction. He’s dealing with severe burnout at work and I have ADHD. We both have RSD, although his is much more debilitating than mine. All of this makes it challenging to balance work productivity with non-work responsibilities (“adulting”).
Alex has also struggled with chronic insomnia, and in general he’s much more sensitive to a bad night of sleep than I am. My bed and dog mean that if he stays at my place, odds are he’ll have a rough night and be woken up prematurely, unable to get back to sleep. When he’s already struggling to focus at work, a small setback like this can derail not just the one day but following days as well.
Sleeping at Alex’s apartment isn’t really an option either. While his bed is much better, his building doesn’t allow dogs. It’s not fair to Nova if I sleep at his place and leave her alone in my apartment all night.
Another challenge for both of us is getting healthy meals. We both have histories of disordered eating, plus with my ADHD I’m much more likely to either skip meals (especially while medicated) or binge (especially when not). Never in my life have I been able to keep myself fed and not malnourished without support from loved ones or a ton of money spent on takeout.
Thankfully, our skills and tendencies complement each other well. Alex is great with routines, timeliness, creating and maintaining structure. I’ve spent nearly ten years in therapy learning reframing techniques, communication strategies, and healthy coping mechanisms. So I can help him pull himself out of a rumination spiral, and he goes out of his way to make sure I’m fed and caffeinated.
Before the shelter-in-place, he would come to my place to spend time with Nova, and I would go to his place to do laundry. We’d share weeknight dinners and weekend meals at one apartment or the other. Increasingly, we’ve been eating at his place, since he really enjoys cooking in his gorgeous kitchen.
Still, it’s annoying to shuttle back and forth between our apartments for meals, laundry, and sleep. It was annoying before the pandemic, costing precious willpower every time we realized it was getting late and one of us had to trek back home in the cold. Thankfully it’s less cold now and we’re getting better about planning, but we talk often about how much easier it would be if we lived together.
Now that we don’t work together (we literally sat five desks apart), we can seriously consider living together. Unfortunately, timing is a problem even without the pandemic.
Last fall, Alex and I were both moving out of our old places around the same time. We discussed finding a place together before deciding on separate apartments.
It was a tough decision to make. It’s significantly more expensive for each of us to have a one-bedroom than it would be if we split rent on a much nicer two-bedroom. I felt like I wasn’t in the financial position to spend extra money on the luxury of living alone, but I also knew how much my mental health depended on having my own space.
So now it’s six months later. We’re both about halfway through our leases, and after the stress of this last move I’m not sure I’m ready to do it again, especially not during a pandemic. Alex is just now feeling at home in his new place after eight years of living in his old one. I still have boxes to unpack from three moves ago. And it’s hard for both of us to switch gears from work mode into housekeeping mode. Low-priority tasks like organizing my boxes of craft supplies get delayed indefinitely.
I’m still getting a handle on this job, too. I want more wins as a devrel before I upend the rest of my life. As understanding and communicative as my new team is, it’s important for me to demonstrate that I’m capable and reliable.
So we’re stuck in this limbo, making the walk back and forth for meals and laundry. I’m so glad we have each other, but I regularly have to convince myself that the risks are worth it.