Passing the Quarentime

Courtesy Wini Bettenburg
Senior Wini Bettenburg and her family dress up for their own diy social distanced prom

Mary Burke, Staff Writer

Adjusting to life in isolation, many of us encounter new mental, physical, and emotional obstacles. I had the honor of interviewing two perseverant, positive students who have found innovative ways to find optimism and normalism amidst the uncertainty. 

Many of us have found a few new hobbies, so I inquired about new activities or projects Vis junior Claire Aamodt and senior Wini Bettenburg have taken up. Claire has been mastering knitting, trying out three new stitches, and photo embroidery. The junior also has found more time to devote to baking; she has made a plethora of goods – including focaccia bread, cinnamon rolls, sandwich bread, and pizza dough. Not only does she love the delicious outcomes, but she has enjoyed having the time to cook and enjoy the homemade meals with her family. Similarly, Wini has taken advantage of the time she has been given to spend with her family. The Bettenburg’s have taken up a group project each week; so far, they have recreated renaissance paintings, competed with family friends in a British bake off video challenge, held a prom, and made candles. The senior has also been working on her printmaking, embroidery, poetry, personal essays. When asked about her outlook on the extra time, she reflected, “Overall, I’ve been making time for the activities and spaces that give me energy and I am allowing myself to return to the hobbies I love that I so often forgot to prioritize in my daily life.” 

With many struggling with heightened stress and anxiety levels and decreased motivation to workout, I asked the two how they have been prioritizing their mental and physical health. Claire said she has taken it one day at a time, trying to implement a few more hours of sleep, more family time, and walks and runs outside. Wini has been adamantly caring for herself and her loved ones; she has reached out to friends to remind them of her love, journaled to process and heal, reflected to connect with her spirituality, and written to remind herself that she is part of a community, whether that community is currently within six feet or not. As for her physical health, she stressed the necessity of fresh air, movement, and routine. She has woken up at 6:30 everyday, dressed in a new outfit, done her hair and makeup, eaten a full breakfast, journaled and set daily intentions, and taken a three-mile minimum walk by the Mississippi. She emphasized, “This practice of routine and solitude centers me before my day fully starts and has made it easier for me to get motivated and feel healthy. Routine is comforting and centering yourself before you interact helps you to stay grounded and find purpose.”

Though physically separated from their loved ones, the students have found ways to stay connected. Claire has Facetimed friends and family and written letters to start an exchange. Just like Claire, Wini has taken advantage of Facetime and letters; she has even started a mail tag, which she described as a mix of pen pals and scavenger hunts. Additionally, she has shared some of her favorite podcasts, movies, shows, and books. *Side note: She has great recommendations! 

While stuck in isolation, purpose and motivation have often seemed difficult to find. However, both women have found avenues to make an impact on their communities. Making meals and spending quality time with her family, Claire has impacted her loved ones with her attention and affection. Wini has come up with a few innovative ways to have a positive impact on her community too. She has started trash pickup walks and deep house cleans. Other than checking in on her friends especially struggling with isolation, she has been working diligently on introspection; journaling, meeting with her therapist, meditating, and establishing a routine have been grounding and nurturing for her. 

As I look up to both of these wonderful women, my final question asked for their advice for someone trying to cope with our current circumstances. Claire recommended beginning a project, no matter the size, for the feeling of productivity and writing some letters for the feeling of interconnectivity. Wini strongly suggested establishing a routine to create normalcy. Healthy implementations of her routine include waking up naturally and stretching to reset her body for the new day, making her bed to take care for one of her sacred spaces, doing a full skincare routine, eating a substantial breakfast, writing for pure enjoyment, hydrating, making to-do lists to introduce purpose and satisfaction, helping make dinner to find intention in her meals, watching something with her family while eating a baked goods to uphold a love-filled atmosphere, getting ready for bed, cleaning her room to create a clean space for a good headspace, and reading before bed. The senior shared immense amounts of wisdom with me; I have integrated multiple of her suggestions and cannot emphasize how beneficial their impacts were. Luckily for us, she shared an excerpt from one of her quarantine letters: 

“I also wanted to take a moment to remind you that while you may be alone right now, being alone is not inherently bad. As instinctively social creatures, humans have long stigmatized solitude. We consider it a punishment, something to be avoided at all costs, the realm of outcasts and loners. Our hyper-connected society has forgotten the value to be seen in isolation. In fact, in a recent study at the University of Virginia, a quarter of female and two-thirds of male participants chose to be electrically shocked than to be alone with their thoughts. We literally prefer physical pain to looking inwards. Our generation is afraid of missing out and terrified of ourselves, and perhaps this season of social-distancing is the time we need to conquer that fear. So often I see people defining themselves through the lens of comparison, facilitated through the constant connection to others in social media. It seems to be always about what everyone else is doing, wearing, or hanging out with- people’s perception of self relies upon their perception of others. Our identities are filled out by means of other people, instead of something internal, something from within. In these strange days when we are confined to our homes, each as isolated as the other, we are able to finally let go of this constant question of what everyone else is doing- they are in relative solitude just like you are. It is finally time to have time. Time to allow ourselves the introspection we so desperately need. Time to ask the hard questions and dig deep for the answers. Time to let go of the fear of truly seeing ourselves and creating an identity far from the perspective of others. Time to breathe. In a way, we are lucky. We are being reminded that we have the capacity to be alone with ourselves, the ability to know that we will survive, and come out stronger when we are not being supported by the group, that it is possible to have a richer sense of self when we embrace the introspection of isolation. 

I think the Universe and the Earth Mother are trying to send us a message. They are asking us to slow down, to pause, to breathe. Our society is so desperately moving non-stop, always worried about what comes next, rarely taking time to simply exist in the present moment. I think that the higher powers, whatever you believe them to be, finally decided that we were not going to pause without help. Because of this quarantine, the earth has begun to show signs of healing. Venice canals are crystal clear, dolphins are returning to the Italian coast for the first time in decades, the stars can be seen in China. We also suddenly have the time to pause and allow ourselves to be filled with wonder at the beauty of the earth around us. To see the little miracles happening every day instead of simply rushing past them, as we so often find ourselves doing. The Earth Mother is reminding us to give her space to heal and for us to open our eyes and see. I think the Universe wants that for us too, in its own way. It wants to give us the space to seek healing and to see how loved and lucky we are. Now is the time to fall in love with your own soul, to shine light into the dark corners and become acquainted with them, to see yourself as you are- and know that it is perfect. March 20th was the Spring Equinox, the beginning of the season of rebirth. Perhaps it is time for us to be reborn with the season. I hope you can take this time of reflection to begin to plant the seeds in your heart that will become a beautiful garden within. Give yourself permission to grow in this spring season. As the new buds bloom, as should you. Spring clean your mind, work through the clutter, and come out of this isolation bursting with life. I think the Universe is also asking us to realize and appreciate all the things in our lives that we are lucky to have. Our homes, our health, the people who surround us with light and love. Look to your life and realize all these little things that make up your beautiful mosaic, the things that persist despite the chaos happening around you. Be grateful for what you are given each day, take nothing for granted. Slow down, pause, breathe, and remember you are loved.”