Surviving the Pan-decade: Seclusion

TL;DR / Summary at the end of the post. As I’ve said before, I hope that all of you who read this - and all those you care for - live long, fulfilling lives. I fear that many will not live to see 2030, and those who do are increasingly likely to endure a painful, limited existence as a result of the mistakes we have made.

Recapping what we’ve learned so far

Both SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that lead to the global COVID-19 pandemic) and Monkeypox are spread via airborne particles. Moreover, monkeypox is also known to spread easily through the skin - and can be transmitted via infected surfaces for up to fifteen days. One doctor in Israel contracted monkeypox after treating patients wearing full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Knowing all of this - and seeing how dangerously misinformed the public has become as a result of media and governmental agencies attempting to “shape the narrative” - we can readily conclude that the only way to secure health and safety for ourselves and those we love is through limiting potential for exposure. The only guaranteed way to do that is through seclusion.

I use the word “seclusion” here instead of “isolation” purposefully, as the etymology of ”seclusion” aligns more closely with the etymology of the word “security” - which is our goal. To secure health and well-being for ourselves and those who are important to us.

Seclusion - Safe and “Easy”; Hard to Live With

Humans are naturally social creatures. What’s more, we pick up on social queues through facial expressions, vocal intonation, and body language. Because of this, seclusion is an incredibly challenging prospect for us to endure over long periods of time. That being said, some form of seclusion in small groups or communities is completely normal when we look back over human history

And while it is the surest way to safeguard our own health and well-being, seclusion can be psychologically taxing. There are methods for making this experience easier, and hopefully the ideas I share below will help you endure whatever periods of seclusion you are able to implement. Although you might be physically alone, thanks to the Internet, you are never psychologically alone.

A few words on Loneliness & Depression

I suffered through depression for roughly seven years as a young adult; I know that kind of pain, and I empathize deeply with those who experience it. I was fortunate to work with a therapist who helped me build an understanding of my own experience, which led me to find a profound sense of inner peace in being myself.

My advice to those who suffer from depression - especially as a result of seclusion - would be to seek out a remote therapist. I honestly believe that everyone could benefit from therapy in some fashion - so even if you just feel a bit down, disorganized, or otherwise “lost”, they can still do a lot of good in your life

As for anti-depressant medication, that is a conversation worth having with a therapist in collaboration with a primary care physician. During my period of depression as a young adult I was prescribed a selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI), which helped smooth out the range of my emotions - but also had some side temporary side effects on my mental capacity and motivation. All that being said, I’m not a doctor - and while I studied Psychology at university, I’m not a therapist.

If you feel like your life is stagnant (or downright awful) and you could use a boost to get into a better state of mind, I would recommend seeking out professionals who can help you navigate these challenges. Life is too short as-it-is to without all this pandemic 💩 to not be happy with who you are.

Safe Socialization

Early in the pandemic my wife and our close friends started playing Dungeons and Dragons together online each weekend. This allowed us all to vent pent-up stresses from the prior week, and afforded a safe space for us to stretch our creative muscles. It was a good way for us to feel like we were doing something fun together without compromising each-other’s well being; win-win! This even sparked some creative writing for my wife, who has since written a book based on ideas she generated as part of the campaign.

Meanwhile, I know many others who started virtual game nights with friends both old and new. I’ve read stories of groups of friends in their 30-somethings reconnecting via Xbox and Playstation games they mutually enjoyed, rekindling relationships once thought to be lost. Each of these folks now had families to take care of and lived in different states - but now they were all secluded at home. What better way to pass the time than virtually catching up with people who matter in your life?

There are countless other ways people connected with friends and loved ones safely throughout the pandemic. Unfortunately, with the rapid increase of unmitigated monkeypox cases in school settings and amongst children, I fully expect people will need to reacquaint themselves with this means of socializing.

Making a Living

I’ll start by saying that I am extremely privileged to work in a field that allows me to make a living from working remotely. Many people don’t have the skills, knowledge, and/or experience to pull this off. Moreover, for some this mode of working can be challenging because it requires a lot of discipline. Having the right amenities at home to do this successfully makes things easier - but again, is often not available to most people due to cost.

That being said, working remotely affords a much safer means of making a living as world governments and the media push the “personal responsibility” narrative around public health, washing their hands of any responsibility to safeguard the public.

Meanwhile governments and the media push this “personal responsibility” narrative for the benefit of corporations, all while large-scale studies have shown that no one is spared from the long-term effects of COVID-19. I can only imagine what will happen with monkeypox when schools re-open - we’re already seeing tenfold increases in cases over a four week period.

In short, if you can work from home successfully, now would be a great time to do that if you aren’t already.

A picture of Pam from the Office, where she is asked by Corporate to distinguish between High Risk and Low Risk guidelines for the spread of Monkeypox published by the New York Times. She responds that these are the same picture.

Acquiring Food

One benefit grocery stores in my area started offering at the onset of the pandemic was curbside pickup, which remains a great way to acquire groceries without too much additional cost. Likewise, grocery delivery services such as InstaCart have become more widely available (at least in the United States); these services significantly diminish potential for exposure from walking around in public settings that disregard pandemic health and safety practices.

Either way, taking additional steps to sanitize groceries before they enter your home is becoming increasingly necessary with the exponential increase in monkeypox cases. My friend Kim Crawley recently published a guide on how to mitigate exposure risk, and I encourage you to read it if you are looking for guidance. In addition to her article, investing in a UV-C sanitizing wand (and a UV-C test card to verify you didn’t purchase a knock-off) is something I strongly recommend.

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Finding Entertainment

We’re fortunate to live during a time where Internet connectivity is broadly available, as the opportunities it provides for entertainment are practically infinite. Whether you’re into listening to podcasts or audiobooks, watching videos on YouTube to learn a new skill (or just to enjoy cats being silly), consuming television shows or movies on streaming services, or playing video games on either a console or personal computer - you can almost always find some means of being entertained.

Likewise, thanks to the Internet you can order products that arrive in fairly short timeframes in most places. That means you can acquire print media books, a Gundam assembly kit, a 3D printer, board games for your family, materials for that home renovation project you’ve been putting off (paired with that one YouTube video you watched), and even toys for your pets.

Honestly, if you want to be entertained while you’re in seclusion, there are endless opportunities available for most people around the globe. That being said - if you find that you can’t identify a single thing that brings you joy from all of these available options, then it’s possible you might be experiencing some form of depression. Be mindful of this as you explore options for entertainment, and take steps to address it if you feel like you’re stuck in an emotional rut.

Creating Novelty

The most significant memories we make as human beings are often associated with creating novelty. This is especially hard to accomplish when living in seclusion, and requires acting purposefully to create novelty in order to keep the days from bleeding together.

Some suggestions for creating novelty might include trying to cook a new form of cuisine, or re-creating the nostalgia of enjoying cuisine from past novel experiences. Likewise, learning new skills like how to play an instrument, speak (or read) a new language, gardening, or growing herbs / fruits / vegetables can lead to a feeling of accomplishment that accompanies novel experiences.

What’s important here is to experiment with new things that you might not otherwise have pursued in the before-times. Again, acting purposefully to create novelty is important when secluding because it helps stave off feelings of loneliness and depression that come from limited human contact. Creating novelty will help mark the passage of time in ways that feel at-least modestly productive, and more importantly - fulfilling.

TL;DR / Summary

Human beings are social creatures that pick up on queues from others largely via facial expression, vocal intonation, and to some degree body languages. Part of the reason seclusion can be so psychologically taxing over long periods of time is because it significantly reduces the stimulating experience of socializing with others in order to maintain one’s physical health and well being.

Without finding ways to safely socialize with other human beings, people often experience feelings of significant loneliness and depression - which in turn can lead to harmful behaviors such as excessive sleep, withdrawing from one’s livelihood, or succumbing to the peer pressure of going out in public without pandemic protective measures. My only advice here is to work with professionals to improve your mental well-being; life is too short (even without an unmitigated pandemic) to be unhappy with who you are.

Finding ways to socialize safely can help mitigate against feelings of loneliness and depression, There are any number of online activities one can participate in these days with friends virtually - whether that’s using Amazon Prime’s “watch party” feature, starting up a virtual game of Dungeons and Dragons, or finding a video game (preferably with cross-play capabilities) that friends can mutually enjoy. Either way, with the unmitigated, exponential spread of monkeypox now happening, I’d recommend looking into options you can enjoy with others safely.

Likewise, if you have the ability to successfully work remotely - now is absolutely the time to start doing that. I know that this is an extremely privileged position to take, and I am very fortunate to work in a field where I have access to such opportunities. In my next post in this series I’ll be covering ways that people can mitigate risks when they go out in public, which will hopefully be useful to those of us who cannot work remotely.

That being said, everyone needs to eat - and acquiring food is an essential practice when secluding. Thankfully grocery stores in some areas have started offering curbside pickup for orders placed in advance. Likewise, food delivery services such as InstaCart further reduce potential for exposure by delivering groceries to your home. While you’ll still have to sanitize everything after you’ve received it (thanks monkeypox!), you can at-least reduce the range of exposure by having food delivered. All that being said - and I cannot stress this enough - tip generously. These people are putting their lives at risk so you can eat. Thank them accordingly.

Another element of seclusion that is extremely important for staving off mental health challenges is to find means of entertainment that help you feel fulfilled while passing the time. Again, thanks to the Internet we have an endless supply of ways to be entertained - from streaming services to podcasts, ordering books or craft materials, or learning new skills and languages (spoken, written, and/or programmatic).

There’s literally something for everyone on the internet. If you can’t find anything whatsoever to bring you some small sense of joy and fulfillment, then you might wish to reflect on how you’re feeling mentally and emotionally. Lethargy is a major sign of depression, and should be treated if you just can’t seem to shake it.

Finally, the milestones with which we demarcate important moments in our lives are often created through experiencing novelty. These experiences create significant memories that we reflect on as meaningful in our lives - and are sometimes challenging to create when secluding. The key here is to be purposeful in how you go about creating novelty for yourself and those you live with - like trying new cuisine, learning a new language or skill, working on a project, or creating a meaningful piece that reflects the passing of time in a gentle way.

Seclusion is safe and “easy”; living with it is hard. I worry that the runaway climate catastrophe will only lead to new and more dangerous diseases making their way into our lives. Learning to find new ways of experiencing joy and fulfillment will help you and those you care about survive in this new world we find ourselves in.

As always, thanks again for stopping by to read my pseudo-random musing 😊 While I work on the next blog post, you can git checkout other (usually off-topic) content I’m reading over at Instapaper.

Until next time, remember to git commit && stay classy!


Keith // securingdev

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