No, You’re Not Failing Quarantine


I am sick of feeling pressure to be productive in isolation.

This scenario that we have been living in for over a month has been a mixed bag. There were some weeks where I was calm and feeling grounded by the fact that I had nowhere to be and no work to do. I had a big project that was halted in its tracks and there were moments where I asked myself, “Ok. Now what?”

I told myself that I was going to surrender to what was happening. As the weeks passed I had less and less control over my life, as the rules got tighter.

I reminded myself that it is OK to feel disappointed. And bored. And relaxed. And happy. And anxious. 

Whatever I was feeling was just fine and I was choosing not to judge myself. 

But then time passed. When days turned into nights and schedules turned upside down and clocks were reminders that time was going to keep going even if nothing happened at all. 

Lately feeling the passing of time, I’ve been feeling so much pressure. I’ve been hearing so much noise about “taking advantage of the time we’ve been given” and “silver linings” and “what are you going to accomplish during quarantine?” 

I keep thinking about all the people that are alone and sick and scared and feeling like every last drop of positivity is being sucked out of their lives. I know for sure that toxic positivity is not the answer. 

Trust me, my type-A/perfectionist personality wants to make use of this time. I want to write and work and help people get through this. I want to be there for my kids and my family and teach them everything they need to know in a language I don’t fully understand. I want to make full home-cooked meals three times a day that are healthful and nutrient-rich. I want I want I want.

Sometimes I make it happen. 

Sometimes I don’t.

Isolation isn’t a vacation. I have literally heard the term “Coronacation” and I just roll my eyes. This is not the time to accomplish all your goals. Or maybe it is — if you have the focus, time, and resources. You don’t have to finally start your new art project, or book project, or learn a new instrument, language, or skill. Or maybe it’s the perfect time for you to do those things and doing so will be healthy and nourishing for you.

The problem is when the pressure to be productive is overwhelming and external. If the internal motivation comes from inside you, then it can be a wonderful thing and can be something that can help someone get through this crisis. But if you are feeling like you need to “be productive” because outside sources are making you feel like getting through a pandemic “isn’t enough”– that’s when those voices need to get blocked out. 

From here on out, I’m giving myself a break. From the pressure. From the outside noise. And most of all, from feeling like I am failing in quarantine.

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Shira Lankin Sheps grew up in New Jersey and went to Stern College for women. After graduating from Hunter College School of Social Work with her MSW in clinical social work, she worked in the clinical field, in marketing and photojournalism.

She decided to start The Layers Project to help break down stigma and promote healing within our Jewish community.

She feels strongly about presenting women, who are so often shown as shallow characters or fully removed from Jewish media spaces, as three-dimensional individuals whose lives are full and rich with resilience.

Shira made aliyah with her family two years ago to Jerusalem.

Headshot taken by Tzipora Lifchitz.