Here’s the thing. Some of us are managing to make art, create funny videos to keep ourselves and our friends and families amused and hopeful, eat well, get more exercise, clean out our closets and kitchen junk drawers, launch new programs, write the great American novel, improve ourselves, and find the fire to DO SOMETHING.
And some of us are living a weird fake life.
Feeling hopeful and cheerful in the morning, getting out for a walk in the park early before there are lots of people to step off the trail to keep distance and give a hearty “good-morning-I-am-really-a-lovely-person-I-am-just-stepping-off-the-trail-because-of-this-stupid-virus-and-not-because-I-am-a-crazy-distrustful/paranoid/bigoted/awkward-person-so-I-will-say-good-morning-heartily-and-make-super-eye-contact-to-assure-you-even-though-city-folks-are-usually-more-of-a-nod-and-mumble-sort-of-crowd”.
Getting through the rest of the morning by making ourselves take an online yoga/dance/business improvement/coaching class, going through emails, filing taxes, doing what we can to keep business going when our artistic and hospitality industries are wallowing, baking all the things, and generally behaving like “normal” people.
We clean our houses and go though piles of paperwork we have ignored for months happily. We relish having our kids home from school, and also crave alone time. We are grateful for having a home that we love, shelter-in-place roomie partners that we like to hang out with and enough food to survive without venturing out more than once a week or more. We get through the morning and early afternoon just fine.
And then all of a sudden it’s 5:30 and we crumble. Maybe it doesn’t really show on the outside. Maybe it’s just because we are supposed to be on the way to rehearsal or to the theatre, for our shows that were cancelled. Maybe it’s just the old “witching hour” that used to make our babies so cranky. Maybe we are tired and really should just go lay down. Maybe it’s just the anxiety and depression and worry about what all of this means finally breaks through our card-house of the morning.
Whatever it is, around 5:30pm, some of us become fragile and tired and scared and want to curl up on the couch under our boyfriend’s ugly fly-fishing patterned fleece blanket we threatened to toss out when he moved in. Sometimes, we just want to lay down on the kitchen floor because it’s the most grounded you can feel in the house. Sometimes, that deep, dark hole sucks us down and we stay in that place for days. Despite all the good we have to be grateful for. Despite anyone telling us that everything is going to be ok. Despite the long list of creative pursuits we would do “someday, if we only had the time to do them”. Despite all the things that we could do, should do, or want to do. Despite our cheerful To Do List we carefully rewrote just this morning.
Sometimes, the crying takes over and it’s just that for the rest of the night. Sometimes we are smart enough to just fucking go to bed even though it’s only 7pm. Sometimes, we end up awake at 1am writing all the thoughts that we should have written at 5:30 but they were so tangled up in anxiety and worry and laying on the kitchen floor that we just couldn’t see the clarity of the computer keyboard.
And then, we find out that some of the friends who seem to be making “such good use” of this time spent in our homes are actually struggling too. We have forgotten what we tell ourselves over and over, that social media shows what we want the world to see, but very often not the whole picture of what is going on in our lives.
One of my dearest friends confided that their funny FB posts and video clips were done despite, or as a remedy for, fighting depression and anxiety. Their partner’s encouragement and collaboration were what got the videos made, and the fact they were so well received was a good boost to keep doing them, but the full, real, truthful story is also that my friend is struggling too. Despite being thrilled to have the kids home from college, despite having a partner that they love and feel supported by, despite having a safe, secure place to live and work that continues despite the lockdown. My friend’s funny FB videos/posts are also a way they are able to try to help raise the spirts of those who are less fortunate…those without work, alone (or worse, living with someone they are in difficulty with), lonely, ill…and my friend recognizes that putting that art out there uplifts both the viewer and the creator.
For me, I both admire and am grateful for my friends who are able to create and keep putting good vibes out in to the world. I am grateful for a good home, good love, good friends who I can’t actually see right now, but I know are out there and love me. I am grateful for my family and how we take care of each other. I am grateful that my dad is in a place that is taking very serious precautions to keep their residents safe, even though he is grumpy about being there. I am very grateful that my mom is taking this seriously and keeping her distance, even though going without hugging everyone she knows is just about killing her. I am grateful for all the people who support her and love her and help keep her going. I am grateful that my youngest is home with me and finding joy in the truncated school schedule to play endless games of Dungeons and Dragons online. I am grateful to have a partner who is not afraid of my sadness and who understands my need for space despite our close quarters. I am grateful that there is possibility that my cancelled work might just be rescheduled. I am grateful for my son who is out there working on the frontlines of the medical system, and for my brother who spends his days in a over-used PPE, in the respiratory unit of an emergency department ward in North Carolina, and still manages to stay positive, put good vibes and words out into the world. I am grateful for hot tea, candles and a cozy, ugly fleece blanket in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep.
Maybe, I won’t actually do all the things that I thought I would do “if only I had a month or two to catch up”. Maybe the book I’ve started writing won’t get any more done on it. Maybe I will only get this one blog post out, instead of the one-a-week I had planned. Maybe…maybe, I’ll forgive myself for that.
Maybe I can find the compassion to take better care of myself. Real care, with a capital C for Care. Maybe I can decide that its ok that I am up at 3am writing (finally) when I cannot seem to find the motivation to write during the daytime. Maybe I can find a way to eat the things I know will make me feel better, and leave the stress baking results for someone else. Maybe I could be ok with taking a nap around 5pm sometimes. Maybe I could let go with feeling guilty that my dad is unhappy (but safe) in the place he is living for now. Maybe I could let go of feeling guilty about the weight I have gained back, and just take care of my body. Maybe I can remember how easy it is to sit and write tonight, and try to jump back on the computer during daylight hours… or not.
My friend with the great FB videos wonders if their head and stomach aches might be symptoms of anxiety and depression. I say, absolutely. Our bodies are the megaphones of our emotional and intellectual life. The body doesn’t lie. It just expresses. It’s sort of like a newborn baby who has no wants, just needs. A baby doesn’t cry because it’s just whiny or wants to do anything.. it cries because it is wet or cold or hot or tired or scared or hungry. It wants to be held. We all need to be held right now… physically and metaphorically… energetically. Many of us cannot be held physically right now, but we can hold each other close energetically and emotionally. Our connections on social media are holding each other in this way… despite the complications of how we curate our online presence, sometimes without even consciously doing so.
I say, if you have it in you to create and put stuff out on social media and into the world, do it. Do it for all of us who are unable to for one reason or another. Do it because it makes you feel better for 10 minutes. Do it because that is who you are and what your art means. Do it to stay in practice and to remember what makes you happy. Do it for the accountability. Do it because the world needs it. Do it to encourage others to be brave and vulnerable and ridiculous and open and funny and strong. Do it to be all of those things yourself.
For now, I am going to finish my tea and go crawl back into bed. I am going to get up when I feel like it and try to keep the morning energy going as long as I can. Then, I am going to try to remember this thought… it is OK to go to bed and rest when I need to. It is OK to curl up with the ugly blanket on the couch in the middle of the night. And it is OK to just get through. To love our people and to take care of ourselves. If we can put something good out into the world and it helps lift others, all the better.