It’s taken some time to adjust to life under quarantine. After almost five weeks I think I’m finally getting the hang of it. For the first week or 10 days I spent countless hours scrolling through news feeds in order to try to wrap my head around what was happening. I quickly realized this was the opposite of what I should be doing. Even a small amount of stressful information ties my stomach into knots, so the level that was coming at me in mid-March would have rendered me nonfunctional had I kept it up. Since then I’ve made a conscious effort to focus on what’s in front of me (sometimes what’s literally in my line of vision) and on what I can actually control. Slowly I’ve moved mostly beyond my fears of getting sick (or of loved ones falling ill) and have become more comfortable with Harlan’s grocery runs. But without the compulsive scrolling and projecting I find myself somewhat at a loss.
The abrupt and dramatic changes to daily life have blurred my clarity of purpose. I’m sure I’m not the only one a bit unmoored at the moment. Sometimes I catch myself feeling oddly envious of my stretched-too-thin friends: those suddenly working from home while simultaneously monitoring their children’s schoolwork (or literally teaching those too young to manage distance learning on their own) and sharing unusually close quarters with spouses normally separated by miles instead of walls. Some of my friends barely get a moment to themselves and feel like they’re drowning under the weight of all they have to juggle. While I certainly don’t envy their stress levels I do sometimes covet the structure of their days and, in particular, their professional obligations. I imagine that at times work might provide a welcome respite from an otherwise endless focus on family. I don’t have a “job” job, which means I haven’t been beholden to something that requires me to separate myself (for at least a few hours a day) from the needs of my family and home.
For a few weeks it felt good to direct most of my energy toward my family. I was grateful to have the bandwidth to keep our little compound running: making meals and snacks for the kids, checking in on their schoolwork and offering them emotional support when the stress and sadness of the situation started to overwhelm them, snuggling the cats and playing with the dog, and keeping the house relatively organized and clean so that Harlan could focus on work.
But this new normal is not going to end anytime soon, and I can’t spend all of my time shepherding my family through this crisis and waiting for it to end. That’s a recipe for insanity. I need to get back to pursuing my own goals: composing more blog posts, getting back to work on a memoir I’ve begun, and creating an outline for a book about the hidden world of chronic illness. And now that we’ve survived a homebound spring break (hallelujah!), it’s time to recommit to myself. And time to treat writing like it’s my job.