Maps of Our Worlds

This past week, I read a piece on submariner’s vision.  It described the change in your eyesight based on viewing nothing more than 20-30 feet away.  Apparently, so says the article, sailors coming off of submarine duty are barred from driving for a few days until their vision adjusts. [I’ve lost the link, my own fault. Really, though, the article said this.]

Last weekend, I broke my social distancing fast with a few friends when we met to forage for morels and ramps. (Don’t worry: we stayed appropriate distances apart.)  But I noticed my eyesight was blurry and strange on the drive out to their farm. The submariner’s vision phenomenon explains why.  It might explain a few other things, too.

Our worlds have become very small.  Not only has our physical world shrunk to the size of our apartments or houses, but we’ve also lost touch with humanity.  I miss one-on-one connections, then kind you can’t get over Zoom happy hour calls. I miss conversations, and hearing people talk around me, and human interaction.  I also miss an expanded world — new restaurants to try, new people to meet, and new places to see.

CityLab had a great article last week about maps of our lives under lockdown.  It started me thinking about new routines — and old ones — and what new habits we’ve all developed, especially as our worlds have become so small.  So, at their encouragement, I created a map of my lockdown world.  Note the difference between “The Inside” and “The Outside.”  I’ve been trying to better take advantage of the space I have — and use it differently. I never used to sit at the dining room table to eat a meal on my own, but I’ve found that lunch involves a break from work and a true sit down meal, something I never did before.  I also found I never really used the sunny space in my big window very well until lockdown had me seeking a place to journal every morning before commuting to my office — up the stairs.

We seek routines for comfort and I find I’m not missing any sort of commute or meetings.  (I am missing getting dressed a little and wearing cute shoes.)  I find that I’m not missing the wasted time sitting in traffic or the 2-3 trips to the grocery store I used to take. However, I do find I take some comfort in my morning rituals. Skin care. Coffee. Journaling.

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I wish I had (made?) more time to read, but if this lockdown has taught us anything about the size of our worlds, it’s that we have more direct control over them. We have control over our time, our space, and our lives. I keep feeling like my world has become very small, but during this lockdown, I’ve discovered some other ways to connect, too.  We’ve had cocktails with Zoom.  Reunions and re-connections with college friends and others distant. I’ve written letters and cards — and better yet, heard back from people!  And all the time, feeling that my world is expanded beyond what I’d thought.

When things go back to whatever normal will be, at the least, I hope I find it easier to identify useless ways I waste time. And that I’m better about reclaiming those moments and new habits I’ve found that help me find bring some peace to the chaos.  My desk will still be where I plan world domination — and pay my bills — but I hope I can also remember to find time to sit down for lunch as much as possible.

As I begin to venture out, and wait for my submariner’s vision to adjust, I will take heart in my maps of my own small world and how I view things differently.

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