Quarantine Has Taught Me Something

‘When quarantine is over, do we have to leave the boat?’ Lu asked.

She said it as we were cooking dinner last night. Nothing much going on. A bananaquit bird visited us. Another day passing into sunset. I was surprised to hear Lu’s question, since she’s usually the one with the itchiest feet. When your teenager doesn’t want to run off anymore – what’s wrong with the world?

Our transformation to psychological safety by forever staying in one place is almost complete. Ha! We imagined when we’re allowed to walk past the end of the pontoon. Will it be one-step-a-day to boost our bravery? We’ll still be asking Eg for groceries? He’ll be like, ‘Guys, come on, it’s been two months now.’

Living on a boat can do this to us anyway. I call it reverse cabin fever. When the rest of the world changes quite literally – Quest looks the same. We have woken up at times and thought, where are we again? A place can change but Quest stays the same. It can be a really comforting thing.

Still, the prefrontal cortex of our brains are undergoing a good workout right now. Living in such close quarters with each other without even being able to swim to escape, quarantine has taught me something. I’d never understood before that the conversation you have with yourself when you’re angry is an actual, physiological conversation. It only took a quick googling to realise.

I knew that anger rises in the amygdala – the older, primitive part of our brain. This sends the signals for the body to go into ‘fight or flight’, and the classic release of chemicals including adrenaline and testosterone to course through the body. However, before it sends the messages which begin this physical cascade, I hadn’t realised that the brain’s prefrontal cortex gets involved. It debates whether the anger is worth the response. It’s the area of perspective. Our voice of reason.

Whoa, I thought! I’m hearing my brain talk. Its conversation levels can vary too in us. Some people don’t have a very well-developed prefrontal cortex – it grows if you use it, see – while others have a very developed region. Lots of conversation and weighing up.

I discovered teenagers, as well as toddlers, have regions that are out of synch, due to growth spurts and temporary imbalance. Ha! And lastly, anger can be let go of very easily if you allow it too. The prefrontal cortex can switch it off with a quick flick. Think of something else, do something else, say something else – and it’s gone. I know this is the theory – but I’ve been trying it, particularly in diffusing situations. And it works!

So guys, you can untie me now. Ok? I promise I’ll behave. 🤪 Day 10.

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