Culture

A Dallas Writer’s To-Do List — Finding Structure in Self-Isolation Solitude

From a Bad News Diet to Treating Yourself with Tiger King, This is One Man's Game Plan for Mental Health

BY // 03.30.20

Like most, I barely know what day it is anymore. They all seem to blend together — and time as well. I find myself going to sleep later and getting out of bed way past when I normally would. Is this Week Two or perhaps Week Three of the pandemic? Do we base it on when our own personal lives went to shelter-in-place? I know some friends who actually began self-isolation weeks ago, due to their age or existing health conditions. They had been watching the news and the global spread and  knew it was only a matter of time before it arrived on our doorsteps.

My self-isolation began on March 17. That was over 11 days ago, and currently my only real contact has been with my dog. As a single, it’s been hard to shelter in place in isolation. I’ve resolved to create structure again in my life. Days melting together and time having no meaning must stop. I hope you’ve seen my #papercitychic fashion series on Instagram, where I’ve been getting dressed every day and documenting my outfits. It really has helped me stay motivated and feel like a professional, particularly since the role I play is the culture and style editor.

Yours truly enjoying the scene. (Photo by Bruno at Snap The Picture)
Yours truly enjoying the scene pre-self-isolation. (Photo by Bruno at Snap The Picture)

As a writer, I’ve rarely kept banker’s hours. Yes, I would go into the office pretty much Monday through Friday to have strategy meetings, discuss story ideas, and mentor our interns. However, many of my pieces were written late in the evening or on a Sunday morning, whenever inspiration struck and I could type out a few paragraphs. With that in mind, it’s fine for me to continue to write sporadically; however, I need to create structure again in my overall schedule.

It’s healthy to have a work life and personal life balance, and if you have lost sight of that of late (like me), then put together a plan. In an attempt to create more structure this week, I’m compiling a to-do list that will give me measurable goals and a timeline. I need to get back to a normal alarm bell in the morning. I must continue to get dressed and document those outfits for Instagram (please join me in that crusade to keep fashion alive). I need to also have other things to prevent me from spending the entire day on my couch.

to-do list self isolation quarantine coronavirus

Some of the other items on my to-do list this week? Hopefully, you’ll find some ideas and inspiration in these:

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1. I will go on a Bad News Diet. Last week, while running errands, I caught a snippet of an interview on NPR with an author who advised that Americans should do this. He pointed out that mass media achieves high ratings when they deliver news that creates fear and tension, and that during the pandemic, you likely won’t find many positive stories or even human interest ones. Starting this week, I will only allow myself an hour of bad news on television; I will watch Meredith Land on NBC5 to stay informed on what’s happening with coronavirus in our community (and follow along with her thoughtfully curated Instagram stories). Then perhaps I’ll spend another 30 or 45 minutes with CNN at some point during the day, to hear national and international news. I will also only read one article a day, in either the Dallas Morning News or The New York Times. 

2. To fill the time I’d allotted to TV news, I will watch some critically acclaimed films and documentaries in its place. While scrolling Amazon Prime, Time-Warner OnDemand, and Netflix, I found At Eternity’s Gate (available on Showtime), artist and director Julian Schnabel‘s take on the final years of Vincent van Gogh’s life. The film’s star, Willem Dafoe, was nominated for numerous awards including the Academy’s Best Actor, and he won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama. Also on my list are Netflix’s Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold and What Happened Miss Simone?  I must admit, I don’t know much about these two women who made such a mark on 20th-century culture. I’ll call these my adult continuing education classes.

3. This is the week when I will begin a regimented fitness plan. Since I can no longer go to the gym, I fear gaining the “Quarantine 15.” I have reached out to trainer Jon McDowell, owner of VIVE Fitness, who will create a personalized plan with me that will include private live virtual workout sessions. I’ll provide you with a play-by-play of how that’s going, but please don’t expect any before and after pictures, since I shudder at having pictures taken of myself with the start of a spare tire.

4. I will order takeout at least once this week. Perhaps like many out there, one thing that has greatly contributed to my stress is the current state of the economy, which sent me into a financial lockdown. I went to the grocery store and stocked up my shelves, but other than that, I haven’t spent any money the past few weeks. I’ve been trying to conserve energy by keeping my windows open and my air conditioning off. But  need to embrace that the economy is cyclical, and I need to do my little part to support local businesses. With that in mind, I will get takeout from one of my favorite local restaurants, almost all of which now offer pick-up and delivery. That meal will also be eaten at my dinner table (not on my couch in the living room), and perhaps I will have it via FaceTime with my dad in Florida.

5. It’s time for some retail therapy. In the vein of item No. 4, I need to do my part in supporting the economy. Also, if I need to continue documenting my ensemble each day, it might take some tiny purchases. I will give myself a budget of $100 on a clothing item (knowing me, it won’t likely be plural). Unfortunately, some of my online retailers are now temporarily suspending online sales, most notably Mr Porter. However, my dear friend Christopher Wood, a sales associate in ladies’ shoes at Neiman Marcus NorthPark Center, shared that he and his colleagues were still reaching out to clients and selling shoes remotely. Keep in mind that your favorite sales associate (who likely relies on commissions) would love to hear from you right now. For girls out there, if you want my advice on some retail therapy under the $100 mark, I suggest adopting the lingerie and loungewear trends. Purchase a slip or lace bodysuit or even a fabulous bra to wear under a blazer. Items like these come in at every conceivable price point and can be found at Target and Stanley Korshak alike. If you need to wear a face mask and gloves, might as well sex it up a bit.

6. Ponder dating. Really, not much I can say on that topic. I plan on researching how others are attempting to date in this quarantined environment. Do we simply text and chat and perhaps meet one day in the hopefully not too distant future? Will life begin to slightly mirror the Love Is Blind phenom?

7. As my reward for getting all accomplished on my list. I will allow myself to binge and finish Netflix’s Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness and season three of Ozark. I have been hearing again and again this past week that Tiger King is wonderfully deranged and perfect escapism. I was a devout follower of all things Ozark seasons one and two. I adore Wendy Byrd and equally feared and wanted to spend time with  the ruthless and mercurial Darlene Snell.

Beyond that, I’ll also hopefully keep a clean house and perhaps finally embark on arranging my garage (which has lots of piles of … I don’t know exactly what). Also on the docket will be writing features for PaperCity online and for our upcoming May issue. A friend passed along an interesting Vanity Fair article recently, titled “This … Invisible Sense of Danger: Doing Journalism In The Coronavirus War, Italian Front.” It shared the story of Washington Post Rome bureau chief Chico Harlan, who has moved from mostly covering Vatican news and Italian politics to being boots on the ground and documenting the disease, death, and fear brought on by the pandemic.

I’m not moving from my lifestyle features to writing more news-related pieces on what’s going on in our region due to the spread of the coronavirus. However, I’ve taken a moment to reflect on my content so I don’t seem tone-deaf. It’s so important to provide the community with what PaperCity has long been known for: the beauty of art, fashion, and interiors, delivered with great passion and wit.

If you’re eager to read anything in particular, please let me know.

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