The past week knocked me over. I didn't see it coming, then feared it was barreling our way, hoped it would not hit us, and then felt the full force of having the spiritual wind knocked out of me when it finally did. Headlines looked like they were from a disaster movie and everywhere I turned, I felt completely awash in doom and gloom. Overwhelmed and overstimulated. Sad and anxious and angry. I still feel these things.
Everywhere I look, I see people mobilizing and organizing and planning virtual performances, storytimes, happy hours. Social media has been plastered with inspirational qutes about using this time to write, invent, paint, create all kinds of things, chase down those dreams you've always dreamed. These notions are so thoughtful and lovely and hopeful.
And? These things, too, make me feel overwhelmed and overstimulated and frankly, exhausted. During the first few days of adjusting to working from home last week, I was struggling with what felt like the basics. I was having a hard time cooking a meal, getting used to Zoom work meetings, and on some mornings, I had to muster every ounce of energy I had to raise my head above the fog of depression that had descended over my being to simply get out of bed and start the day. Putting more pressure on myself to keep hustling and innovating and creating felt like trying to run a marathon with a broken leg. It still does.
Now, I'm not saying that if you are finally starting to write that screenplay you always dreamed about writing that you are doing anything wrong. If you feel like it, go with that flow. I'm simply saying that if, like me, you don't feel up to anything but simply adjusting to this new for now normal, you aren't alone and you aren't doing anything wrong. You are simply a human being who is wound up in a million different ways and you deserve compassion and patience and time to adjust. You don't need to hustle or monetize a quarantine routine or "take advantage" of this time for anything other than taking care of your precious self and not apologizing for it.
Up until now, I haven't been ready to get working on anything super social or creative. It's been a privilege to hunker down in my apartment and work from home, safe and warm, and I know that. I do. But as someone with anxiety, a history of depression, and ongoing OCD, it's been an incredible challenge in its own right. Staying to myself a lot this past week has felt selfish, AND it's what I've needed to do each day, faithfully, in order to get through the day. I've needed to stop putting pressure on myself to start a big social media movement or a new podcast or produce some kind of online theatre performance. I haven't been ready to do so. I've begun to limit news, checking only a handful of times per day, and largely stay away from social media, as I feel just as overwhelmed by the positive suggestions as I do the dark and gloomy commentary. It's all been too loud for me. Funny how an overload of hope can be just as noisy as fear mongering. Does anyone know what I mean?
As it turns out, today I did participate in something creative, an online performance of a new play, performed via Zoom, and to be perfectly honest, even up until the performance itself, I still didn't feel ready to do something that required that much energy. Once the performance began, the momentum of making something with other people washed over me and lifted my heart. I got to meet some wonderful artists from all around the country and act for the first time in over a year, and via a completely new-to-me medium nonetheless. I was able to muster enough energy to do a reading of a new play, but I also didn't have to write the play, produce it, or act as stage manager of sorts, which I'm not in the state of mind to do at the moment. All I needed to do was show up for a rehearsal and then almost immediately following, the performance, all from a script that didn't need to be memorized. Along with the reading, this blog post is all I have for today. I might not have anything sharable in me tomorrow or next week and that has to be ok.
I'm so grateful for and have incredible respect for people who do have the energy for that kind of organizing and creative work right now, but I also am trying to respect the fact that I'm not there yet. For me, I'm just trying to get through the day, taking as good of care of my physical and mental health as I can.
All this is to say that if you aren't yet feeling the peace or the joy or the freedom of this new normal yet, you aren't alone.
The shape of things is changing, and even if and when we get back to what we think of as "business as usual", this new routine is here for awhile and any new routine takes time to adjust to.
There's no right way to respond and there is no wrong way to feel.
We are all just figuring this out together for the first time.
If you're organizing a big project, I admire you.
If you are picking up a forgotten hobby after a long hiatus, I hope you find bits of joy in the uncertainly.
If you are unable to get dressed most days and are not showering and staving off one panic attack after another, please know that I respect you, too. We are all just doing the best we can.
I'm trying to treat myself like my seven year old self this week and let her do what she needs to do to get through. Binging old episodes of Outlander and eating chocolate cake for dinner? Yes. Wearing the same outfit three days in a row? Go for it. Signing offline to purposefully turn down the noise of it all and walking outside to spy the new spring blooms? Do it.
Take care during these days, and give yourself permission to feel whatever it is you feel. Let yourself not be ready yet. Readiness cannot be rushed.