Is this real life? Tracy Muller asks herself these days.
Staying at home for weeks at a time with no in-person public contact seems a little unreal, she said. But she’s found a way to make it tolerable, even fun.
That happened since joining an online exercise group, she said Wednesday in a phone interview.
Until recently, Muller remained active on the Arkansas City Arts Council and as a member of Soroptimist International.
But two weeks before the Kansas governor declared that everyone except those performing essential functions should stay at home, Muller changed her lifestyle.
“I started on Sunday, March 15, because of underlying health problems to cloister myself,” Muller said. “I have an auto-immune condition that caused damage to my lungs and am on supplemental oxygen.”
Muller remains cloistered even from her husband, Ty Voss. In his work as a scientist, Voss travels to Maryland periodically. He was called back there for lab work in February.
Around that time, the World Health Organization proposed a new name for the coronavirus, Covid-19, an acronym that stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The virus had spread beyond China and Voss decided to stay in Maryland to prevent spreading the disease to family and friends in Kansas.
Exercising in costume
In early February, Muller joined “My Peak Challenge,” an exercise group founded by Scottish actor Sam Heughan. It is a support group with its own website (mypeakchallenge.com) and a Facebook page for members.
Before isolating herself at home, she had watched the Starz series “Outlander” starring Heughan on Netflix, she said.
Later, Muller learned of Heughan’s exercise group. It’s an interactive group whose members regularly post physical exercise challenges, as well as creative challenges such as writing a book or changing one’s diet.
The challenge Muller took up was posted the day she decided to isolate herself at home.
“Sam Heughan is turning 40 at the end of April and somebody posted a challenge to do 40 reps of an exercise of your choosing, for 40 days leading up to the actor’s birthday,” she said.
“I upped the ante — I said I would do 40 reps for 40 days and in 40 different costumes.”
She started the exercise routine on March 16, dressed that first day as a “social distance runner.” The second day, St. Patrick’s Day, she dressed as the prolific Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde.
Dressing in costume has a special connotation for Mueller.
“I really like Halloween,” she said. “In 2008, I was diagnosed with cancer, on Halloween. I told myself, ‘This really sucks. I don’t want to associate this day with the awful disease.’
“So I decided to celebrate, by dressing in costume.”
Muller’s relatives supported her aim to make Halloween a special time by giving her costumes for the annual celebration. She has accumulated costumes and material to make costumes over the years.
“I utilize what’s around the house,” she said. “I raided Ty’s collection of hats.”
Wednesday was Day 17 of Muller’s exercise routine. So far she’s met the challenge.
Adapting to a new reality
Muller reflected on steps she took to adapt to her new normal of self-isolation. She also offered advice to all of us engaged in a stay-at-home regimen and social distancing.
A few days before she cloistered herself in her home, Muller performed a final volunteer task at the Burford Theatre, she said. She helped set up for the theater’s pre-St. Patrick’s Day event, the Dublin Pub Crawl.
That same week she shopped for supplies she would need, particularly non-perishable food items and food she could store in the freezer.
To keep from experiencing loneliness at home, she has scheduled several virtual happy hours with old friends who live at a distance. “I don’t usually see them that often,” she said.
“That’s a nice aspect of this — people are more aware of relationships that before they found it tough to keep up because of work and other activities,” Muller said.
• Stay at home like someone’s life depends on it, because it does.
• Things may seem scary but you are still entitled to have fun. That’s the only way to get through this.
• Find a way to connect with somebody — online, by phone.
Her predictions for the future:
“That’s the kind of thing that makes me concerned: Am I going to have to live with this until there’s a vaccine? I don’t know.”