A lesson in restraint

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Lucia Rivera

Restraint comes in many forms, but this pandemic has brought a new kind into our day-to-day lives. It may seem overwhelming now, but safety should continue to lead our decision-making.

I’ve always been the kind of person who could not resist snacking on a bowl of food placed before me. In elementary school, my mom would attempt to prevent my overeating tendencies, and as I began preparing my own food I not only learned about portion control and mindful eating, but also about restraint.

There’s nothing simple about it! It takes so much effort to achieve and maintain. Yet, the immediate results are often disappointing. However, restraint has become key for me during distance learning and the COVID-19 pandemic as a whole. 

The bowl of snacks placed in front of me as a little kid transformed into the entire kitchen that lies only a couple seconds away from me while I attend my classes. Every time I walk past the refrigerator the anxious teenager in me calls out for something to stress eat or something to munch on when I’m tired of homework (which I admit is often).

Similarly, I practice another kind of restraint as I go on my regular walk in circles around our cul de sac. On this walk, which follows a small circular path, our red front door calls for me to come back indoors every time I circle past. I find myself encouraging one more lap, knowing that by the next song on my playlist I will likely be too distracted to give in.

But these day-to-day pandemic dynamics pale in comparison to COVID-19’s biggest lesson in restraint—one most of us have experienced by now. 

As I see friends unite indoors and unmasked through social media, or nostalgically recall annual family events, the most rational and cautious part of me draws back. As much as I am plain tired of all the restrictions and precautions, more than 11 months in, I know COVID-19 is just as potentially lethal now as it was six months ago. 

Ten years in the future, could I justify a loved one’s death by explaining my past quarantine frustrations? Never. This is what we should remember before giving in to the lack of social interaction and in-person activities.

Restraint is not pleasant, nor always beneficial. Right now, however, is a time to keep it up. Yes, more and more people are receiving vaccines, but definitely not everyone. And luckily, unlike my circling walks, this tumultuous and harrowing journey has a destination at the end of the pandemic.

Ten years in the future, could I justify a loved one’s death by explaining my past quarantine frustrations? Never.”

— Lucia Rivera

To reach that destination, we need to keep making the safe, albeit disheartening, decisions led by our improved ability to restrain ourselves. I’ve learned that it’s always better to have the option to resist temptations than to have no options at all. My current option to continue practicing social distancing is a privilege.

And perhaps, in the end, giving in to small things, like an extra snack or additional minutes of TV, is needed right now in order to save our efforts for maintaining a safe quarantine. Perhaps our practice in restraint will now come in handy for something bigger than all of us.