Dear Therapist: Quarantine Envy

Quarantine Envy

Dear Therapist:

Hate to admit it, but after reading an article this week on something called “Quarantine Envy,” I think I’ve got a case of it. Everyone around me seems like they are having an easier time with staying in with whomever they are staying in with. They are either off at their summer home or don’t have any kids to have to worry about with school or just seem happier than me. How do I put it aside and be happy with just how I am quarantining?

Sincerely, Quarantine Green Eye

You must be referring to this article in the New York Times this week discussing Quarantine Envy. It was a new term for me too. I mean I would never think that people would find quarantine to be a time to envy another person. However, we are such a competitive and comparative society, I suppose it makes sense that people are looking around and seeing who has quarantine easier or more enjoyable or less complicated or something else.

Envy is wanting what someone else has, but the truth of the matter is “the grass is always greener on the other side.” We really don’t know what it is like to be in someone else’s quarantine situation. Perhaps your friends are hunkered down in their beach home with one another. From the outside, the home, the setting, and all looks like something to be envied. Yet, the truth of the matter is it may be just a bunch of miserable people inside the fabulous beach home rather than their regular old home.

Same when you look at people without children. Perhaps their lives are less complicated not having to deal with school openings, but it can also be far lonelier than those with families of kids. I think this is why many single people and childless couples have been adopting pets like crazy during this time. People are lonely. Perhaps there is freedom and quiet without kids, but there are other truths that then must be faced.

Everyone is trying to paint on a sunny, happy face for themselves and their loved ones. If someone is trying hard to sell you on their quarantine being amazing and spectacular, take it with a grain of salt. We just don’t know. My guess is the person has her share of ups and downs like all of us.

Now, step out of your own mind for a second and peer into your life. Yes, the one you are living right now. See! There is so much to envy!

Dear Therapist: Opening Envy

Opening Envy of People at Stores

Dear Therapist;
I live in a State that remains in lockdown. A few things are reopening, but the “shelter in place” order is still active and we are pretty much housebound in our community over 60 days at this point. I have family in other parts of the country that are enjoying dinner out with their friends, getting their hair and nails done, and living life somewhat back to the way it was just a few months ago. I am happy for them, but it also sort of ticks me off to not be able to have my freedom to move. It’s hard for me to be happy for them when I feel stuck. I guess I am envious. How do I keep it together?

Sincerely, Sick of It

I hear you. I think it’s wonderful you can admit to feeling envy for people in other areas gaining their freedom to move and get back to their lives. However, many people feel the risks they are undertaking is not worth it for their health or the health of others. Yet, it also is getting old to simply be indoors with take away, cooking, and watching movies and shows with the same people for months on end.

This pandemic is all about the other and the collective health of society and much less about ourselves as individuals. The problem in America is we are all about the individual and take very little care of the other. And this bears out in so many aspects of American life, but is now in full political mode as people exert their rights over the good of public health. So, continuing to shelter in place for the good of others as many Americans are given the freedom to live as we believe as Americans — for ourselves — makes it even more difficult.

Socialized nations, like Australia and New Zealand and countries in Europe, suffered with not being able to move as well, but believe that society and community comes first over themselves as individuals. In this way, it is easier to shelter in place because the entire nation has the ethos and is in it together.

There is not much we are in together as Americans anymore. The divide between the good of all v. our own personal good is on the line in a way that it has never been before. I hear in your question the desire to care for your community, and, at the same time, your envy of those who can move as we all believe we should. Being envious of this movement after months cooped up is completely understandable.

However, given you have acknowledged your envy, perhaps now frame it for yourself in a new way. Each day you maintain shelter in place you seek to protect and care for your fellow members in society. Something sorely lacking in America today. The notion of kindness is extended in this way. Although difficult, it may make it a little more bearable to remain sheltered in place even as you see your friends and family move with freedom right now.

I feel your envy, your stagnation, and frustration. It’s becoming a lot, but keeping the bigger picture in perspective will hopefully help you hold the breath a little longer. I hope your friends and family in other parts of our nation remain healthy and safe too.

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