Rediscovering the Small Things: An Isolation Story

Rediscovering the Small Things: An Isolation Story

This is not a story about how I’ve mastered social isolation. (I haven’t.) It’s not even a story about how I’ve been letting myself go. (Hey, I haven’t!) I don’t know that I can really assess how I’m doing right now, but I can assess what I’m doing, which is this: taking comfort in my things.

I mean, yes: like you, I’m baking. I’m doing those peer pressured push-ups, of course. Naturally, I’m a quarter of the way to completing the next King Lear. (I’ll get back to you on that one.) But let me be honest here: in my stretching waking hours, I’m also doing a lot of wandering around my home, picking up and putting down objects that I’d sort of forgotten I had—or ones that elicit an, “If not now, when? If not me, who?” kind of response.

For instance, I don’t even know how I came to own a shirt that can be described in its entirety as “long-sleeved,” “cropped,” and “tight.” I mean, I know how, but when I inherited it (too recently) from a cousin nine years younger than me (normal!), I didn’t ever expect to actually pluck it from the dark corners of my closet. Frankly, it’s an absurd piece of clothing. Who has the kind of homeostasis to comfortably encase herself from wrist to ribcage, leaving her belly exposed as a sort of ventilation system? Well, two mornings into working from home, I convinced myself that I do. With an almost impish “Do I dare?” (posed to no one but myself), I donned the shirt for my daily Zoom meeting. Sure, whenever I gave a heavy sigh a little chill would run over my stomach, but my out-of-frame bare midriff imbued me with the pluck of “...Baby One More Time”-era Britney Spears.

When I’m out in the world, my wardrobe is rooted in weather-dependent and desk-relegated pragmatism, sprinkled with “let’s not draw attention to ourselves” flair. It’s most true for headwear—toques are things I dabble in for warmth. But there’s something brazenly deliberate about wearing a hat for fun rather than function. Inside my own home, there’s no attention to draw, there’s little pragmatism, and there is no weather. What I still have, though, is choice. And I am choosing, for reasons not yet clear, to become a Hat Person by way of an unearthed Colorado tourism trucker cap; a brown five-panel number; and a piece embroidered with Hayao Miyazaki’s smiling face.

Then there’s my modest amber spray bottle of ambiguous rose “aroma tonic.” It has sat on my dresser for months, its faded white lettering suggesting that it refreshes and energizes my senses. I, for one, appreciate the vague non-promise of it all, but always found it hard to believe that I had earned this private luxury of being refreshed and energized, knowing I’d soon sweat it off on my trek to or from work. These days, though, I cap off my minimal makeup with a simulated “stop and smell the roses” spritz—heck, I often come back for more by midday.

Lastly, I must talk about my Snuggie. This cocoon—in the most unabashedly primary shade of blue—had been tucked into a bag where I’ve been amassing parts for a Liz Lemon Halloween costume, mostly forgotten. But the instant I pulled it out and slipped my arms through its polyester sleeves once again, well, I wondered why I’d ever left. The comfort of being swaddled combined with the functionality of having free arms? I’ll say it: undeniable brilliance. You wish you’d thought of it! Maybe you did when you wore your American Apparel hoodie backwards in the ninth grade, but I’m here to tell you it’s just not the same. I mean, it’s not totally dissimilar, but isn’t it sort of beautiful that someone thought, “Here, let me make your dream a reality”?

In every sense, these are small things. But finding pleasure in what I have lying around, and rediscovering these funny indulgences, opens up my world—just a little.