Last week, I experimented with isolating myself further.
We are fortunate to have ample space in our Brooklyn apartment in this time of quarantine, and I decided to take advantage of it. I hauled my computer and my personal hotspot into our back room, which has in it only a folding table, a single chair and meditation cushions I feel I should use, especially now.
To some, this might sound bleak. My sister and my daughter, for example, need a lot of stuff around them to be productive, creative, happy. I’m the opposite. I like an empty workspace. Things bother me; I like to put them away.
Well, usually. Now, the lack of clutter was nice, but the lack of company made me feel crazed. I was lonely.
My daughter, Sarah, sought me out once, and it was soul-saving. She walked in, hugged me and announced: “Hibukim.” I recognized this as Hebrew but had to ask what it meant. “Hugs,” she taught me.
In hindsight, the fierceness with which I hugged her back should have been a sign that I should end my self-imposed solitude. Yet it wasn’t until I wandered through the living room on Thursday or Friday — the days sort of blur together — that I decided I needed to work amid my family.
At first, I thought it was about them — that I needed to keep an eye on the weird habits they were sprouting. My husband, Daniel, 12-year-old Avi and Sarah, who is 10, were snacking incessantly.
The problem: Boredom, plus my husband’s (bad) example. Daniel is not a mindful eater. He does not believe in serving size; he does not believe in measuring out what you are going to eat and putting it in a bowl. He believes in The New York Times, a jar of peanut butter and a spoon.
Our kids attend the Hannah Senesh Community Day School, which provides a splendid online curriculum that includes class changes, just like at school. Avi and Sarah have taken to marking the transition between Judaic Studies and math, say, by toddling to the kitchen and grabbing something-or-other to nibble on. Even when it was fruit, I hated knowing that they were eating the day away.
So on Monday, I transplanted myself back to the living room in order to discourage the around-the-clock noshing.
I don’t think it had much impact, but I did insist that they brush their teeth a lot. They’re just so bored.
And I’m surrounded by their crap! Charging cords, baseball caps, legal pads, balled-up socks, stuffed animals, hair bands and of course the Legos that have colonized every available surface.
Still. I feel much better with them than by myself. Even isolation is relative.
During coronavirus, even isolation is relative
Helen Chernikoff is the Forward’s News Editor. She came to the Forward from The Jewish Week, where she served as the first web director and created both a blog dedicated to disability issues and a food and wine website. Before that, she covered the housing, lodging and logistics industries for Reuters, where she could sit at her desk and watch her stories move the stock market. Helen has a Master’s of Public Administration from Columbia University and a BA in History and French from Amherst College. She is also a rabbinical school dropout. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at @thesimplechild.