Now several weeks into coronavirus quarantine and social distancing, I’d like to think I’ve settled into a semi-regular routine…or at least, I’ve gotten used to this new ‘normal’, however temporary it may be. Being confined to my new home has certainly been challenging, as it has more or less delayed the process of starting my life in NYC and putting down roots – I can’t go out and meet people, or cultivate the friendships I started to make, I can’t participate in my church’s kids ministry or worship band, I can’t see my voice teacher, I can’t meet with my small group, I can’t look for jobs, I can’t date. I can’t do a lot of things.
But lucky for me, I’m a writer! I can write to my heart’s content and continue posting content and maintaining my blog! And I have all the time in the world to do it!!!
Well, logically, yes. But emotionally, not so much.
I love writing. It is a cathartic expression of my story. Yet, being confined by the new parameters of social distancing have actually had the opposite effect: I have felt significantly less inspired, with a nearly non-existent desire to write anything. I feel a sort of listlessness, a lack of desire to even open my computer and start anything new.
Not that I need to write anything – I know that full well. But I have noticed many conflicting messages on what people ‘should’ or ‘should not’ be doing while we’re all in quarantine.
Some people believe that this is the time to pick up those projects we’ve been eyeing but have been too busy to attend to. I saw one post that went so far as to suggest (based on my paraphrased memory) that those who have all this free time and still choose to sit on their butts were never ‘too busy’ to work on anything, they were just too lazy.
That’s brutal and unnecessary.
Some people (and these are the posts I’ve seen much more often) actively counter the aforementioned argument, affirming that none of us are required to produce something or finish our long to-do list of projects or become the next Shakespeare; we don’t need to do anything other than exist.
I respect and appreciate wherever anyone finds themself on this spectrum – for some, this time might be a breath of fresh air, providing space to undertake passion projects or learn new skills, and for others, it might be space for rest and rejuvenation. I’m still trying to figure out where I am on that scale.
Before moving on, I would also like to acknowledge that not everyone finds themself in the boat of being stuck at home with lots of free time – some people have gone from full time work to a full-time job in a different way, especially parents who find themselves thrust into the role of homeschool teacher. Some people are working their full-time job from home while parenting or running a household. Some people are still working as essential employees, facing news kinds of stress altogether. I fully acknowledge and respect everyone’s differing situations, and every single person on this planet is a rock star for forging ahead in spite of the uncertainty and chaos. Because I am unemployed and find myself confined to my home without much to do, I can only speak to my experience, and am therefore focusing on the dilemma of the ‘finish-all-the-projects’ mentality versus ‘take-the-extended-staycation’ mentality.
I’ve always had a fast-paced, perfectionist, achievement-oriented mindset. I love doing things, I love being busy. Having nothing to often causes me anxiety, and it takes so much effort for me to let myself do nothing that sometimes, I don’t end up getting much rest and peace, which is typically the very point of giving myself nothing to do.
I could let my logical mind launch into how this comes from a capitalist economy and I need to teach myself not to be product-oriented and I’m just succumbing to the effects of our messed-up world. I’m not going to, though, because I’ve learned that beating myself up like that doesn’t do a damn thing except make me feel bad about myself. And I don’t need to feel bad about myself – I love who I am.
I could let my logical mind move into the assertion that my sense of self is tied to my work, so I need to find myself apart from being a writer and move inwards. But my identity is not exclusively tied to my role as a writer, and I also know that I am still a writer even if I’m not writing all the time. I don’t feel lesser right now because I don’t feel like writing every day, and I am still generating ideas, even if I’m not sitting down to flesh them out. I still know and love who I am, and I know that my writing will pick back up once the quarantine begins to lift.
So, I don’t think this is about what I’m doing or not doing, or who I am or not, or how fast or slow my life is moving right now. I think it’s more about the impact that this quarantine is having on me emotionally.
This is an experience unlike anything any of us have ever gone through before. I know I certainly never could have imagined living through something such as this. It’s new, and it’s impacting me in ways I’ve never experienced. It’s all I can do to get up and make it through the day without breaking down sobbing, or lying in bed cuddling the weight of my depression. I have been journaling for hours a day, just attempting to piece together my thoughts and words, letting out the raw emotions of my experience every day.
Wait a minute…
That right there, is why I haven’t been writing.
I don’t even have the words to describe my own internal experience right now – how could I possibly find the words to put together an authentic blog post? How could I find the words to finish writing my musical? How could I find the words to even put together a simple post on Facebook?
Words fail me right now. Even as I write this, I wonder if the words on the page convey the confusion and frustration I feel right now, the apathy I feel towards my writing work.
I don’t have much to say right now, but I’m saying something because I had the tiniest nugget of inspiration to write. And that’s okay.
It’s okay that we don’t have something profound to say all the time. I don’t feel like this particular post necessarily measures up to some of my previous posts (not that I want to compare my posts anyways because they’re all different), but at the same time, it feels timely and appropriate. We’re all struggling right now; we’re all trying to put words to our experience and get by while holding onto some shred of a sense of normalcy. We’re all dealing with disappointments and reckoning with broken plans and loss of control.
We don’t need to be perfect right now.
We don’t need to put pressure on ourselves to produce right now.
We don’t need to be the next Lin-Manuel Miranda right now (although he is admittedly a role model of mine…for obvious reasons).
All we need to do is stay present with ourselves and keep doing the best we can. We’re all in this together.
Be kind to yourself. You are wonderfully perfect just the way you are. Right now.
With love and gratitude,
(Cover image photo credit: Notebook and Fountain Pen from Wix)