getting by in isolation

Life doesn’t come with a handbook. There’s no blueprint. There’s no manual. Even when things are normal, life can throw some great challenges at you that have you feeling like a little kid on the first day of school all over again. So how are any of us supposed to feel when life throws something like this our way?

I don’t know about you, but the first 14 days in self-isolation were an enormous challenge for me emotionally, mentally, and physically. I went through the rollercoaster of panic, anger, over-thinking, boredom, restlessness, and plenty of emotions I probably couldn’t name at the time before I finally landed in acceptance. There were days with no news and days with the news on 24/7. There were days of immense productivity and days with eight hours of Animal Crossing. Days with FaceTime calls and days with solitary walks outside.

It was around day 10 or 11 that I started feeling like I was full to the brim with these chaotic feelings and craving relief. Life has taught me by now, that mindless escape is only so helpful before it causes more damage than the thing I’m trying to escape. So I turned to the one tool that has always delivered in my times of need: service work. When I stop and ask myself, How can I best be of service to my family? my friends? my community?, the all-consuming panic quickly becomes irrelevant, less than secondary to the greater need of those around me. I can jump into action.


In one of my early nights of panic, whilst in a deep Instagram and Reddit wormhole, I came across an actress’ page who was sharing on recently finding a mask pattern that would work for health care workers. Her stories showcased her working tirelessly to make as many masks as she could, from material she had in her house, with the help of her son. It touched me, and I filed it away in my mind as something I might try to do myself, but I kept on in my wormhole. 

So fast-forward to a more level-headed Mabel, considering how she might serve her community–I remembered the post and thought, This is it. You have a sewing machine, you can do this. Get to work.


I bounced ideas with a friend and landed on a few patterns I felt comfortable trying. I pulled out my old sewing machine and made my very first mask. 

It was a new flood of emotions: relief, pride, excitement. I put all of my focus on creating something that could actually help someone else in a tangible, physical way, and in my hands I held the product. It felt so wonderful, and I knew that this was what I was being called to do.

I sent my first batch to a local nursing home housing senior COVID-19 patients and when I saw the gratitude and relief they felt upon receiving them, it was all the confirmation I needed to go on. 

Soon after, I decided to start selling so that I could expand my ability to help even more people. With money from sales, I could purchase more material to make even more masks.


I share this with you for several reasons. The first, is that I wouldn’t have been moved to do this, had it not been for Hilarie Burton’s posts and stories on her endeavors. If you have a machine, you can do this too–for yourself, your loved ones, or a place you know is in need. Another reason is that I want to share another resource for you to be able to purchase masks, or request a donation batch for a place you know is in need right now. 

But perhaps the most important reason, is to remind you that now is the time we are all being asked to step up. I know from personal experience that a global pandemic isn’t exactly the best thing for someone who suffers from depression and anxiety. It’s been hard on all of us for so many different reasons. But the best thing you can do, is help someone else. Maybe you can’t sew a stitch to save your life, but you can bake a batch of cookies and bring to a friend you know is struggling. You can donate money. You can make meals and deliver to an elderly or sick person. You can create a beautiful piece of artwork and share it with the world. Find your light, and let it shine. Because we are all counting on one another.


Written by Mabel Rodriguez

Writer. Photographer. Creator.

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