Reflecting on a year of isolation

Published 6:00 am Friday, March 5, 2021

When the words “coronavirus” and “COVID” first began appearing in every day vocabulary, my husband and I were visiting relatives on a beach in Florida.

This month marks the anniversary of our arrival back in Farmville and the beginning of a year spent mostly in isolation. Living in relative seclusion has offered opportunities for self-assessment and reflection. I’ve learned a lot.

For starters, I was surprised to discover that my ears are too small. I wear glasses, and my ears tend to buckle when the elastic required to secure a mask adds a second layer of paraphernalia. Some people struggle to keep masks pulled up over their noses, but my challenge is to keep it from coming loose from my ears. So, if you see me and it looks like I’m trying to pinch my ears into the Vulcan or elven variety (pointed), please understand that I’m just trying to keep my mask in place.

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Other than that anatomical deficiency, I learned that I actually like wearing a mask. When I walk outside on cold days, the layer of protection keeps my face warm and prevents frosty winds from chapping my cheeks. Breathing through the mask creates a tropical-like environment, and if I wear lip balm, I get to enjoy a variety of fresh scents. The best boon of all, however, is that with the mask covering my mouth, I no longer have to worry about whether I’ve got spinach stuck between my teeth.

I used to think I was willing to embrace challenges, but real-life experience has revealed that I do not welcome uphill struggles. I mean this literally. Part of my COVID-related exercise plan involves a daily walk. My typical path includes a steep hill. When I first began, I thought my circuit would seem easy within a few weeks. I expected to laugh about how hard I used to think it was. Wrong. A year later, I can assure you that when I stand at the bottom of that incline and look up, I’m not laughing. A neighbor’s mailbox at the top of the hill stands as my victory flag, but even upon reaching it, I still don’t laugh. I’m usually trying to catch my breath.

I’ve been forced to acknowledge that housework is not my forte. The reason my windows aren’t washed has nothing to do with insufficient time, which has always been my excuse. I have to run to this meeting or go do that thing. There aren’t enough hours in the day to wash the silly widows. Reality has shown me otherwise. I’ve been able to find time to do all sorts of things, including a sufficient number of hours to watch 21 of the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Infinity Saga. And, my windows remain unwashed.

It’s not exactly that I’m lazy. I have taken on all sorts of other jobs. For example, for most of my adult life I have focused on making meals that could go from fridge to table in 20 minutes. Apparently, I’ve been foiling my inner chef. The process of preparing meals that begin with fresh ingredients and take hours to reach the dining room enables me to express creativity in a way I find enjoyable and rewarding. That is, as long as someone else volunteers to do the dishes. I’m quite grateful that my husband doesn’t seem to mind dishpan hands.

I’ve also developed a tendency to lose track of the calendar. A few weeks ago, I opened my Farmville Herald and was surprised to see the Life section, which appears on Fridays. I said to myself, “What’s this doing in here on a Wednesday?” I checked my phone. It was Friday.

When the routine ebb and flow of life’s events restores a sense of normalcy, I’ll probably still follow a simple rubric for sorting out how to spend my time. Is a task necessary? Meaningful? Enjoyable? If not, it won’t earn a spot on my priority list. I suppose someday I’ll need to deem window washing necessary. Until then, I’m sure something else must be done first. Perhaps my husband needs fresh cookies before we start the next movie.

KAREN BELLENIR has been writing for The Farmville Herald since 2009. Her book, Happy to Be Here: A Transplant Takes Root in Farmville, Virginia features a compilation of her columns. It is available from You can contact Karen at kbellenir@