By my count this is day 24. I still wake up and, for half a second, I forget. Then it all comes crashing in. Again. And it still takes my breath away for that first moment of the day. And then I just lie there for an hour or so, looking at the trees, listening to the birds, pondering it all.
This was going to be the week that I really went there with my blog posts. I was journaling and reading. COVID-19 was going to make me think more deeply than I ever thought before. This was going to be the week that I came up with something so profound that no one had ever thought to say it before.
Does this sound familiar?
Even if writing is not your thing, you probably also had big plans this week. You were finally going to get your rhythm. You were going to get on top of everything. Also you were going to knit at least 200 masks even though you do not know how to knit. And every night you were going to cook gourmet vegetarian meals out of produce you grew yourself (never mind you just started gardening last week and it’s 40 degrees outside), fertilized with compost (also something you started last week) and watered with rain harvested from your roof. Maybe you were going to garnish the meal with eggs from the chickens you also got last week. And you were going to train for a marathon. And learn to speak Finish. And do yoga every day. And you were going to do all of this while being the best homeschooler of your kids ever—soothing and healing and structuring their innocent young lives. And you were also, of course, going to check in on your parents, neighbors and other humans you are worried about every day. You were going to reconnect with at least five long-lost friends. And, you were going to Do Self Care. It was going to be a Big Week.
So, how did those Big Plans go?
Here’s what my week looked like: I cried myself to sleep more than once. I ate too much cheese. I mediated fights over peanut butter. I yelled at someone I love who I’ve never yelled at before. I cheered up a very sick friend. I woke up crying and could not stop for the better part of a day. (Maybe two?) I chatted and laughed with many of my students, super impressed by how well they were doing. I graded one whole thesis draft. I picked a few social media fights. I read two whole pages in a novel. I worried about students who are not in great home situations and did some things to make sure they are ok. I tried to hold my shit together while everyone else in the house was hollering at each other. I binged watched Tiger King. (Why?). I’m sure I’m forgetting something.
It has been busy.
This has been the hardest week yet. The novelty has worn off. I’m no longer excited about discovering new features on zoom. I’m no longer impressed with Instacart. It’s no longer amusing to have conversations with people from across the street. All of us are in a bad mood and misunderstandings abound.
None of this is surprising. We’re all still scared and sad and bored and angry and, most of all, uncertain about how or if this ever ends. And on top of it, this week, we keep telling ourselves that we should just get over ourselves and go back to normal.
I have no deep wisdom, but two things have helped me.
First, accepting that our asynchronous living is going to mess us up. My son’s choir director sent around this clip about how humans need to synchronize with each other. Singing together is one way to do that. It got me thinking about how synchronized we usually are. We synchronize when we work together, when we sit in a classroom or meeting together, when we drive or take public transport or even walk down a busy city street. We synchronize in our social events, sports events and performances. We synchronize when we are happy and when we are bored. We synchronize when we all get our taxes filed by April 15.th
We are now engaged in a great experiment in asynchronous living and it is going to mess us up for a while. Try as we might to synchronize with Netflix watch parties and live Instagram concerts, there’s really no work around. We can’t have a zoom call with the whole world. Even the virus is asynchronous. It’s effect on different parts of the country and the world is staggered by a couple of weeks.
So, I am going back to basics, which is my second revelation of the week. Screw Self Care. It’s too hard. Too much pressure. We all already know how to care for ourselves. What are our non-negotiables? I had to remember mine. They are: Walk every day. Write every day. Get enough solitude every day. (If I lived alone, or if I were an extrovert, the last one would probably be: Get enough social time every day.) My things are not your things. You cannot do it all, so what are your non-negotiables? Do them. Defend them with your life. They are your life.
And let’s see what week four has in store for us.