Once Upon a Pandemic

M / L

How I Coped with Corona After a Move Cross-Country

Featured Post by Danielle Cortier

Last fall, I announced my fiance Jonathan and I were moving to Austin, Texas. Soon after, friends that had visited or lived in the area told us stories of springtime in Austin. They told me about the perfect weather, the beautiful hiking trails, the refreshing swimming holes, the delicious restaurants with outdoor seating and live music. Who doesn’t enjoy fun outings in perfect weather? Spring in my new home sounded like a fairy tale. 

In early November, eager to start our new lives, and with visions of a springtime Austin fairytale in mind, we said our goodbyes to our family and friends in NYC. After packing, unpacking, and repacking our 20’ uhaul a few times, we had a simple cross-country drive from NYC to Texas. Leaving my beloved NYC during the fall was difficult, as it is one of my favorite times in the city. To my surprise, when we arrived in Texas, we had the pleasure of watching fall happen all over again. The leaves here were just starting to change color, and the gorgeous fall transformation lasted through December. That’s right. I got autumn twice, suckers. 

Second autumn was a blur of work, unpacking, and scouring online deals to replace all the furniture we had sold or given away. Once our first mild southern winter began, Jonathan and I were able to do more exploring of our new city by visiting a few parks, scoping out some great restaurants and bars, and finding several places with incredible outdoor spaces that we were so eager to try come spring.

Besides some exploration, most of my “winter” in Austin was spent preparing for SxSW, as Mustard Lane had several events on the calendar. In my professional life, I was excited to get to know our Austin Laners better by working with them face to face at all the fun Mustard Lane SxSW activations we had scheduled. Personally, I was pumped to go to my very first SxSW. It was the official kickoff of my first long-awaited and highly anticipated spring in Austin!

I only knew a couple of people in Austin, and I hadn’t been in close touch with them in a long time. That was a big adjustment after living near some of my family, and working alongside so many friends and coworkers at my various jobs. Working from home was also a big change for me, as a large part of my days in NYC were spent riding the subway back and forth to different jobs and dance rehearsals. My feelings are mixed, as there are countless things I miss and do not miss about living and working in NYC.  

I can’t say I miss the rush hour commute on a crowded subway car, standing next to someone who feels such a dire need to trim their finger or toe nails that they will do it right there next to countless bystanders, one of whom will undoubtedly smell strongly of corn chips. Or changing out of my pajamas when it is time to go to work. I don’t really miss that either. I do, however, miss my friends. My co-workers. My bodega guy who knew exactly how to make my lunch order, and always gave me extra avocado. (Hi, Santos!)  My favorite ballet classes. Rehearsals with my fellow dancers. Game nights with my crew. All the fun events going on around NYC. THOSE things I miss. Keeping busy with work, finding time to do some exploring of my new city, and anticipating this Austin spring I had heard so much about helped me cope with missing all those things. 

Now we skip ahead to that Austin springtime fairy tale. The time had come! I was going to try that rooftop bar that was recommended. The reservations I made to hike and swim in the famous and gorgeous-looking Hamilton Pool Preserve were fast approaching. It was finally almost warm enough to swim in my rooftop pool. Jonathan and I were planning to have some of his friends over for the first time for a cookout on our gorgeous rooftop. My soon to be sister-in-law was about to visit, and I had tickets for us to go to a lilac and bluebonnet festival with live music and food trucks galore. My older sister and nephews were coming for a long overdue reunion, and I was going to take them to all my favorite places. The fairy tale was starting!

Once upon a time... Wait. What was that fine print on the title page of my springtime fairy tale?

**This fairy tale spring in your new home is based upon the stylings of the Brothers Grimm. Did you expect Disney? Chump..

That’s strange. I’ll keep reading. *flips page*

Once upon a time, there was a global pandemic. People became ill, sometimes fatally. 

Yikes. This sh*% is dark..

No one could visit family or friends who didn’t live with them in their homes. Doctors and scientists were struggling to find treatments and vaccines. Everyone had to quarantine themselves at home for an unknown amount of time. Schools closed, and all children had to start attending digital school at home. Many lost their jobs. Businesses suffered. Humanity suffered.

All social and public functions were cancelled, including SxSW. Anyone starting to plan a wedding had to stop, because no one knew when activities would resume, and people couldn’t be within 6 ft of each other ever again. All the parks were temporarily closed, so no one could hike or visit magical swimming holes. Anyone that was excited to swim in their apartment’s rooftop pool for the first time had their hopes dashed. 

Huh. That last bit seemed very specific. Well, I’d share more of the tale with you, but you are all familiar. Painfully familiar. This story is really heavy, and still being written. 

Overall, I am luckier than many in this scenario. I am incredibly thankful I have Jonathan (my real-life comfort blanket), a lovely apartment, and my health. While grateful for everything I have, quarantine still finds ways to weigh me down emotionally some days. These are stressful times for everyone, causing us to worry about our health, and the health of our loved ones. We worry about finances. We worry about getting groceries. We worry about small things like pushing elevator buttons, or touching...well... anything. Through all this, I have found some positives that make me feel better about life. Here are a few that have emerged from this horrible global pandemic:

  • I am quarantined with my real-life Prince Charming. Truly. Is he more scruffy-looking, sporting an unruly quaran-beard, and always in pajama pants? Yes. Yes, he is. But these are the times. I don’t mind at all. I am certainly not looking like Aurora at her ‘Coming Out of Coma’ ball, or Belle as she dances with the Beast in her yellow dress. Come to think of it, Jonathan’s quaran-beard does have some Beast-like qualities… but I digress. He has nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide. Thank goodness for that, because Jonathan is my rock. Having him work from home has been truly wonderful and reassuring. When times are scary and stressful, sometimes you just need a hug. So we do. We literally take hug breaks a few times a day. We both completely stop what we are doing and give each other a long, full-on standing hug. It helps. I usually request one after reading the news. If you live with sanitary family or friends, I recommend hugging them from time to time. On a different note, regarding wedding plans, we both agreed to take time just being engaged. We didn’t feel pressured to start planning our wedding right away, especially with moving to a new place and starting so many new things professionally. Who knew we would have soooo long to enjoy our engagement? Still, I am very thankful we didn’t rush and plan anything we would have been forced to cancel. 
  • Digitally connecting with family, friends, or groups that allow you to vent, offer support, and just forget the state of the world for a while. Remember how much I miss my game night crew? It turns out I have been able to see their faces weekly for Game Night: Zoom Edition. We begin with a brief recap of any personal happenings of the week, followed by quickly discussing the current events, then play different dice games. It is almost equal parts therapy, and fun. This has been a huge blessing in all this madness. I am incredibly thankful for them, and the sanity they bring. 

You know those friends you don’t see that often, but when you do, it is like no time has passed? Another weekly video chat session includes one such friend from high school, and my best friend since childhood. My friend from high school had a baby in this madness. A loud, fussy, colicky baby boy that refuses to sleep. I am delighted to have digitally met her son, and I am happy to be one of her cheerleaders in a time where cheer is hard to muster. You might not think you are the cheerleader that others deserve, but it’s time to put on your pep pants, and wave those emotional support pom-poms as high as you can. Everyone needs someone to vent to, and if possible, help them crack a smile.

Two friends from my hometown and I started a regular Zoom hangout last week as well. They are dance friends: one from high school, the other from college. I always make sure to meet up with these two when I go visit my parents, but I am not sure when that will happen next due to Corona Cancels Everything 2020. I am so happy to see their faces more regularly than I have been able to the last few years. I spent about 96% of the conversation with these two just laughing, which was so healing. Reach out to your friends you always get weird with. It helps.

Another friend started a Facebook group called the “Socially Distant Craft Club,” which has a page on Instagram as well. People share what they do to pass the time, some of which isn’t necessarily that crafty, although much of it is downright impressive. People share recipes, ideas of things to knit or paint, gardening tips, etc. It is a fantastic group to join for ideas of things to do, share projects you are working on, or ask for advice on a project. It is an incredibly supportive group, and I recommend looking it up. I am sure there are also lots of other groups like it! 

  • You can easily find workouts to do online, if you feel like it. I used to get this mouthwatering cookie as a treat to myself, that I would buy at a store right next to the ballet school where I taught in NYC. Did I recently stress-buy a pack of 20 of these cookies directly from the bakery, because I found their website during a work project at home and quarantine made me? Maybe. Have Jonathan and I split one almost daily since they arrived? Prove it. This is why it is also wonderful that my sister Valerie is offering daily Pilates classes online. They help keep me honest after stress binges. I definitely don’t make it to class daily, with work and other things that pop up, but it does force me to squeeze a couple of muscles a few times a week. I also end up getting chat time with my sister after class, which brings me back to the previous bullet point of connecting with people. So many people are offering digital classes. It is a great way to exercise, while supporting the teachers who are trying to get by. From what I have found, most are donation-based, and understand if you don’t have money to spare. If you do, it’s always appreciated, but no pressure. Now, I am not one of those people in the best shape of my life doing 4 classes per day. Not by a long shot. Kudos to those people. My pilates classes, and an occasional ballet barre holding my kitchen counter feel good. I do recommend getting a little exercise from time to time. It definitely helps your mood..

Obviously, there are countless personal negatives to this virus for everyone that don’t include the major health and economical ones we are all experiencing. I have shared some of mine above. I could go on. And on. There are, however, opportunities that have arisen from this unprecedented situation. I have been able to connect more with family and friends than I was before when life was more hectic, albeit in a digital manner. I have found time to try some new recipes, plant an urban garden filled with herbs and vegetables. I get to see my Prince Charming every day, even if he is sporting his doomsday beard, and almost always on a work call. After a night of crazy quarantine-induced nightmares, it’s sometimes too hard for me to get out of bed in the morning. Guess what? Now, I don’t have to most days. If I want to lay in bed for an extra hour and look at puppy and cat videos, or read about how the sea turtles have had a more successful time nesting this year due to the empty beaches, then I can. It’s ok. You can do whatever you need to get by. 

Although our current tale is dark, there are some positives that can help us through it. Grasp onto those. Call a friend if you need someone to listen while you vent, or check on your people to see how they are doing. Send your family that video of the cat that jumps in a too-small box that tips over if it will make them smile. Wash your hands. Frequently. Wear a mask or face covering. Stay 6’ away from people that you don’t live with. Take a hug break and hug someone that you do live with. If you live alone, know that I am giving you a digital hug right now. We will come out of this with a new appreciation of everything and everyone we have. 

Feel free to reach out to me at danielle@mustardlane.com. I am here to share a fun recipe, give some online fitness class recommendations, or just listen and chat. Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay sane.