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  • Colleen Markley

I Lost My Filter During Quarantine and I Don't Even Care Anymore


I’ve lost my filter. Especially when it comes to how I talk to my husband and my kids. I used to be a diplomatic, thoughtful, mindful human. Now I just say whatever is in my head. This is my not my usual modus operandi, but somewhere around Day 45, when I realized our lockdown order had lasted way past the “15 days to flatten the curve” and we were now past even the forty days of Lenten tribulations, I just stopped trying to couch anything. Yes, I will stay home. But I’m gonna need a coping mechanism. Reality is different now, and so am I.


As a writer, I used to think of my word choices as gospel. When I’m writing words, this is easier. I have the time to sit and ruminate while my cursor blinks. But when I’m speaking? And parenting? And need to choose my words carefully amidst a viral pandemic crisis and I’m doing my best not to wonder if real life will have the same plot twist as the novel I wrote about a virus that threatens mankind? I remind myself that just because I wrote a book about a pandemic doesn’t mean I’m going to rock the actual thing. It’s like assuming someone who wrote a sci-fi about space invasion would actually be able to communicate with aliens if they arrived in real life. I am communicating differently during quarantine, maybe now forever. The filtered and unfiltered versions of some things I say when:


Living with People Who Are News Junkies and They Keep Coming in the Room to Announce Breaking News and I Keep Having a Heart Attack with Every Update Because the World is Chaos

Filtered: Hey, so one of the things I love most about you is how interested you are in current events. I love that you read so much about world affairs and you’re so in touch with international events. And I also love that you are reflective and insightful and so empathetic to the problems of others. You might want to consider that mental health experts are recommending that people limit their news intake right now. I, for one, am only reading the news in the morning and evening and would really appreciate it if we could keep our current events conversations limited to those times. I’m happy to talk about other things anytime, you know I’m always here for you.

Unfiltered: Oh my god what is wrong with you can you please stop announcing death tolls and I don’t want to hear jack shit about giant murder hornets and all I keep thinking about is that meme from Star Trek where the captain demands a “damage report” because that is how I feel every time I hear anything in the news. And don’t even tell me anything else not one word oh my god what do you mean North Korea is testing weapons and their leader might be a body double and wait what the government released UFO videos? I can’t even talk to you anymore and I should have considered my quarantine roommates better when all this started.


Parenting Kids Who Suddenly Start Liking Math During Distance Learning

Filtered: I can see why you might like math right now. It offers right answers and wrong answers and it’s logical and objective. That sounds like a much easier subject than something that requires more open-ended questions like English or History. And history must be especially strange to study right now since we are living through a historical moment. How do you think the books will write this up? How do you think your kids or grandkids will ask questions about this?

Unfiltered: Who even are you? How do we have the same genes? I think remote learning is crap and we should just cancel school and start summer vacation now and work on finishing Netflix. Or maybe, at most, read some vampire books. Have you tried any new game apps lately? Have you seen that meme about kids studying history in 2052 and its an essay prompt to discuss memes as a coping mechanism during 2020? Don’t time travel to 2020. These are important things to remember.


Exercise is Important for Mental and Physical Health — Outdoor Fresh Air is Important too

Filtered: Let’s take a walk around the neighborhood and enjoy looking at the changing trees and blooming flowers and the quiet now that there isn’t much traffic or activity. I think there are more birds than usual. Do you think that’s because there are fewer airplanes and cars and pollution or something else? I love your opinions and ideas and so appreciate when you share.

Unfiltered: Dude obviously we should be friends with these people. Look at their freaking recycling cans. Four of them in a week! Full of excellent liquor! This is great. I’m gonna send them a note that we should hang out and have a post apocalypse party and get hammered together, assuming our livers haven’t given out by then. Good thing I brought a roadie –I’m toasting them from the curb. Also you better keep yourself in shape for the zombie apocalypse, because obviously after viral pandemic and murder hornets that’s what’s next.


The house is messy and there’s dirty dishes exploding out of the sink

Filtered: With all of us at home for three meals a day, there’s going to be a lot more mess in the kitchen. What’s important is how we feel on the inside, not what our house looks like. A little mess is okay. We are all grateful that we have this house to be messy in, there are so many people who are less fortunate. Why don’t we talk about what else you miss from Before Corona (BC) while we clean up these dishes together? You can choose if you’d like to wash or dry, you are really good at both of those skills.

Unfiltered: I’m wondering who is going to finally pick up that pebble that we’ve all been kicking around the kitchen for three days. I know one of you must have had it stuck in the sole of your sneaker, and when you came into the kitchen for your four thousandth snack (and you should feel lucky that we have chips, I’m sorry you don’t like the flavored baked version, you have food and aren’t starving so get over yourself) that you left that pebble in front of the fridge because fridge gazing is your new hobby and now we’ve all kicked the pebble around at least four times each so that is like a bazillion dozen interactions with the pebble and yet none of us have bent over to pick it up because that would take too much energy and we are too damn tired and anyway who cares. Maybe one of you might just invent a game to see how far you can kick this damn pebble across the house like a soccer game because you miss sports so damn much except there’s no sports fans in the kitchen, so maybe you should do this on Instagram Live and I bet you could make a whole new game up in no time. Kicking shit around until someone cracks and cleans it up. I don’t even want to talk to you unless you’ve done something helpful around the house. Just shut up and do a chore and then come back here.


Same People. Same Space. All. The Time.

Filtered: We’re getting really comfortable with each other and getting to know more of the details and nuances that sometimes get missed when we are so busy from the day-to-day bustle. I really appreciate this quality time with all of you.

Unfiltered: I just let out a belch that was so loud my husband looked at me from across the room and said “Wow. That sounds like something you’d hear on a safari.” My kids laughed. I flipped them all off with both hands and told them to F off. They cheered, as if they had spotted a cheetah cub. “Why are you so happy?” I ask them. The kids shrug. “We’re just glad you’re talking about something other than how we all have to be safe and healthy because…” “We cannot go to the ER,” I finish for them.


In my opinion? My lack of filter makes life better because laughing is excellent medicine. There’s something to be said for authenticity and honesty. You were thinking it all — I just said it out loud. You’re welcome.


Have you also lost your filter? Comment and let me know!


Colleen Markley is a novelist, speaker, and freelance writer living in New Jersey. Her latest novel, Lilith Land, is a story about a pandemic virus and end of the world, where only the women survive. (It’s a novel, not an action plan). Find her at www.ColleenMarkley.com or sign up here for her newsletter and updates.

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