House Arrest Hacks

In the lockdown, there have been some great (re)discoveries which should continue post-pandemic.

Make no mistake, I have been plain ‘ol bored, lonelier, and more adrift than ever before—and I’m not the only one. A study cited by the BBC (August 2020) stated that the rate of depression in the UK went from 1 in 10 to 1 in 5!

Here in Belgium, I’ve concocted an analog-digital mix to get me through this de facto house arrest. Compare it to your own. The following is guaranteed to be 100% banana bread baking-free.

***TL/DR—feel free to scan the headlines to pick and choose.

1) Reading. How I lost this practice, I’ll never understand. Reading is a mental holiday and literary fiction helps build empathy, which is even more vital since we are human-deprived. We can only hope that books have proven to be a permanent life-affirming alternative to the computer screen. I delved into pandemic fiction: Mary Shelley’s The Last Man and Camus’ The Plague.

2) Podcasts. While doing the dishes or the millions of other dull-dull-dull chores that come with being homebound, rediscovering Tim Ferriss and the tinny voices in the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast has made living better.  Modern Love, Masters of Scale with Reid Hoffman, Invisibilia, Hidden Brain and This American Life are the mainstays. By the way, Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies quiz  is useful whether you listen to her podcast or not.

3) I tested my poop. Viome.com lets you know what’s happening in your gut biome and gives you personalized recommendations for food and supplementation to improve it. Learned great for me: watermelon 🍉. Bad for me: all kinds of rice 🍚.

My viome

4) Apartment gardening. Taking care of something has given me life. Literally. Luscious green plants not only let me channel my inner Prince Charles, but freshen up the apartment. Sander helped with my first propagation, and now my precious Tradescantia pallida is not one but two.

5) Audible. No fan of the Amazon empire (Jeff Bezos gained $13 billion in just one day), but right now there’s no viable alternative for spoken books. Audiobooks have been excellent teachers, especially the Great Courses series. One particular great work of fiction, Anne Patchett’s The Dutch House, was narrated by Tom Hanks. Thought it would be like listening to a Toy Story character for hours, but wow, Hanks was sublime.

6) Embracing meat/dairy free. After watching Gamechangers on Netflix, discovered I feel significantly better without animal products. This experiment was easier to try without business lunches and dinners. Now, I don’t want meat/dairy just because I don’t want to feel like I did before the pandemic.

7) Netflix around the world. Outlander took me to Scotland and reacquainted me with Celtic pride and history. The normally loopy fantasty storyline was eclipsed by the stellar acting (and body) of Sam Heughan. Now I’m currently in my Korean drama stage. After an India and Turkey drama kick–for the first time since Corona–I feel like I’m traveling.

Television sparked offline changes, too. Below Deck got me into both ironing and polishing the way cruise staff must clean 24/7, and I signed up for boating classes in September. When I couldn’t pick a DuoLingo class, Crash Landing on You led me to Korean (let’s be honest, Hyun Bin, below, is the true reason behind this decision). In terms of learning Korean, just matching the phonetic sound to the alphabet could be a part of an Alzheimer’s prevention program.


8) Organized my expenses. As I once explained to the tax authorities, “I’m a creative. A word person. It’s cruel that word people are expected to do numbers under penalty or fine. What if all the number people were forced to write bestsellers, make beautiful paintings or perfect musical compositions?” My tax examiner laughed. In the meantime, I got Accountable. If I have to be physically locked up and punished, might as kill two proverbial birds with one stone. Accountable helps minimize the torture.

9) Meditation. I went with Balance and I enjoy but I’ll probably add Waking Up with Sam Harris.

10) De-clutter class. I’m not mentally able to ask ten gazillion objects if they bring me joy à la Marie Kondo. Instead, I opted for the online class ($24 on Patreon) by Corinne Loperido:  Minimalism for Maximalists. Corinne is wild, bohemian, creative, adventurous, colorful and beautifully militant. Just what hum-drum shuffling through papers needs. Also she is a Zero Waste priestess.

11) Did all sorts of video adventures: 5Rhythms class, a spiritual reading, a Parisian dance party (bonus: included naked men!), umpteen webinars, networking events and even went on a date! For instance, you can take amazing art classes through Zoom with Studio Arts Dallas.

12) Re-subscribed to magazines like Feeling (Belgian women’s lifestyle), Better Homes & Gardens, and Texas Monthly for the excellent reporting, layouts and inspiration. Hopefully the value of the printed media (especially those with sustainable paper and inks) will not be overlooked. These are important industries that offer great me-time and are portable sources of information that are non-phone based. Best discovery: The New York Times for €2 a month.

13) Switched up my Instagram feed. I followed more plant people, ballet dancers, bohemian interior designers, body positive advocates, African NGOs, Texas modern architecture aficiandos, radical feminists, illustrators, zero waste and people with distinctly different backgrounds. Hallelujah! Was an Insta-fix.

14) Figured out how to vote. Let’s face it, all of us, Americans or not, need to reconnect with our civic duty. Not only do we need to vote, but we need to encourage more talent to run for office. Maybe that’s you?