Surrounded

I’ve been cooped up at home long enough that I stopped counting the days1. I’m not complaining – I mean I am, but I shouldn’t be. Considering the plight of the world right now, I am extraordinarily lucky.

I’ve been working remotely full time since 2015 and have workspaces and workflows that support how I like to work. Because almost all of my job is digital, I like to change my posture every hour or two, otherwise I’d spend the whole day hunched over a laptop. Sometimes I sit at my desk, sometimes I sprawl on the couch, and sometimes I work standing up. I say “work”, but when you’re standing for a long while, there’s a lot of dancing involved. If I have to read a long document I’ll switch from my laptop to my tablet, returning to the laptop for more interactive tasks.

I’m lucky enough to be at the beginning of a relationship that was going quite well when the government called for people to stay home. Before the quarantine, my girlfriend was staying over most days, and so moving in together was the logical step for us. It’s been wonderful to have someone to share this experience with. Not to mention to play board games together. And to be silly. Silliness is really important.

My flat is small and I wouldn’t have chosen to live with another person here. But despite our cramped quarters, cohabitation has been more of a balm than a bother. We share the work of shopping, cooking, and coax each other to take care of ourselves: to eat well, to get some exercise, and to avoid looking at screens all day. One of our strange behaviors, though by no means unique to us, is that we reward ourselves for healthy choices by eating a pile of junk food. So that evens out in the end. Doesn’t it always?

Despite all this good fortune, I’ve found it hard to settle into a routine. I’m comfortable working from home, but pre-virus I used to spend the evenings out and about, having drinks or food with friends, taking improv classes, hosting a creative writing group, or just walking by the Thessaloniki waterfront. I miss all this, this motion and people and light.

When people ask me how I am, I tell them am well and mean it. A couple weeks ago I admitted to a friend I’m downright happy. I’m well-suited to a homebound life and living with my girlfriend has been a blessing. But there’s a dark undercurrent as well.

I don’t feel stressed out, but there are hints. When I shop for our weekly groceries I come out of the supermarket feeling nauseous. The local market is well-stocked, but it’s a cramped, downtown building and there always too many people in there. I’ve started using diluted bleach to clean the packaging of the stuff I buy. I called up my dad, whose opinion I trust in such matters, and asked him if he bothers to do the same. He said he probably should, but doesn’t.

I’ve been working reasonably well, and have even managed to mostly stick to a five-day workweek. But I’ve hard time sticking to my plans for writing, meditation and other personal matters. I generally sleep like a rock, but last night I didn’t sleep at all. I wasn’t sad or upset. I was just restless.

I must be stressed out. How could I fail to be? I worry about the local shop running out of tofu sausages. I worry about the people still going to work each day – they’re all exceptional heroes. I worry about my parents who are in their late 60s and early 70s. I worry about my brother and his wife who brought a baby girl into this world two weeks ago. I worry.

I’m reminded of the song “Surrounded” by Michael W. Smith:

This is how I fight my battles:
It may look like I’m surrounded
But I’m surrounded by You

I don’t have the faith to support a belief in an ever-present, benevolent God, but I can imagine what that might feel like.

On many mornings, I have a call with a friend so that we can sit and meditate together. I ran a virtual creative writing group where every couple days a bunch of us get together and write together for an hour. My colleagues are all supportive and patient. I’ve had more calls with people I love and miss, and received more messages from people near and far in this last month than I did all of last year.

In this time of ostensible isolation, we reach out and find each other. We offer reassurance and we offer ourselves. I feel surrounded by an invisible threat. But also by so much kindness and goodness.

I wasn’t going to blog today because I felt I was in a foul mood, but one of the members of the writing group suggested I give it a shot.

Well, here it is. What do you think?

I think I’ll sleep tonight.


  1. I checked after finishing the blog post. I’ve been at home since the 14th of March: 18 days. ↩︎

Image credits.
  • Photo by Paweł Czerwiński [CC0]

Did you enjoy this post? Tell me on Twitter or by email.