Tuesday, March 24, 2020


Since the total and complete upheaval of the human race (privileged exaggeration), some things have changed.  The structure of lives has changed, routines, schedules, plans. Work, school, travel.  Everything at what feels like a complete standstill.  But other things too-- previously held concepts of time have changed, our views of the world, of humanity, has changed.  Our perception of our own existence, perhaps. How we find a sense of purpose, our identities, perhaps, have changed.  The passing of time.  How we anticipate things. Our sense of being able to predict is all skewampus, to put it in technical terms. So many huge changes with closures and cancellations and constantly changing statistics and news were taking place at such a crazy rapid rate, it behooved us to stop being so surprised, to try to roll with whatever madness befell us, so that after a bit, nothing felt normal, or stable, or predictable.  Going through my phone and deleting things off my calendar felt equal parts weird and also awesome.  But lately I'm finding I need to have something to plan for.  Things to schedule so that one day looks different from the next.  So I've started scheduling silly things in my calendar.  For example, tonight is "nerf battle."  Been looking forward to it all day.

All of it is so disorienting, it feels like an enormous, extremely weird re-start.  Someone hit the re-start button and instead of being as it was, we're living a strange alternative existence.  How many times did I say or hear the phrase, "It's so weird" through the course of these past couple of weeks, or during one week, one day??  And are we really only one week two of this quarantine?  Feels like a million years ago. It's so weird.

For a while there, I was pretty stressed. Anxious. Trying to grapple.  Losing my gee dee mind, you might say.  And then with the earthquake where I read WAY too may things, was involved in way too many group texts with all the panic, it really sent me into quite a tailspin which sent me right over to the frigging gas station to fill up our car "just in case"(??) and there were LINES of other crazy, panicky people doing the same.   It can feel like too much. So mentally, we have to take breaks. Check out, stop reading things, stop thinking about it, watch silly movies, read fluffy books.  Every time it's a nice day and I can go out and even chat with people, it all feels so much weirder because I forget for a minute that it's real.  But I cannot shake the looming feeling that something is coming and all I can do is sit home and wait for it.  Being that Lord of the Rings applies to every aspect of my life, this scene has popped into my head on more than one occasion, feeling particularly apropos:

But we are adapting and are extremely fortunate in our situation. Sean continues to work from home as he's been doing, so that was a non-thing.  We have access to supplies and medicine and basically everything.  Julian still has an ugly cough so we're being extra cautious for his compromised lungs.  But this new way of being is very doable for us.  Doing school at home is going well and once again I am grateful for my one child.  We are figuring out the new system and I'm already seeing some real benefits to it.  We've got a schedule and though I've never really been a big scheduler, I'm seeing Julian take to it extremely well.  He's a good little self-starter and having some structure is a good thing, turns out. It's a good distraction from that pesky fear of the unknown always loitering on the doorstep of my psyche.

One of my favorite things to think about in all of this is what people "stress-do."   The things we do to cope with high amounts of stress.  That first little while was pretty stressful and though it's waned a bit, it's not totally gone, of course.  I stress about things but then I have to decide not to because stress = bad. But it'll show up again, as is normal, of course, in life pre-virus and now.  So, one might stress-eat to cope.  Or stress-clean.  I do both of those things.  Food has taken on a whole new identity/hit a new level in my life, even more than before I mean, which I didn't think possible.  Often I will say, "I just want to eat food."  And Sean will agree.  It's got a big presence.  For Pi Day, I stress-baked a pie and we all stress-ate it.  I really stress-ate it though, days later, when I finished it right out of the pan because who even cares anymore.  I don't regret it. 

As mentioned, I also stress-bake.  During those first few days of ultimate panic and meltdown, I stress-baked some cookies and then basically flung them at my neighbors and shouted, "Hey! I stress-baked some cookies! Don't worry, I have no symptoms..YET..  enjoy! Blahh!! BYE!" 

I also stress-clean.  I'm not a deep-cleaner. Like I'm not cleaning things I normally wouldn't (yet) but I definitely start cleaning something when I'm feeling the stress. It gives me a sense of control which, isn't that what it's all about?

I also stress-write.  I knew this already, always having fled to my journal whenever something big or difficult or emotional or really, anything was happening in my life.  But I was struck this time around, how helpful it was for me.  Nothing was helping me feel better except writing.  It was a way for me to process, cope, deal, and get out ALL the stuff so I didn't have to carry so much of it anymore. Plus I just feel this constant compulsion to document.  I stress-journal and I also stress-write letters.  I have pulled out my non-electric typewriter so I have to pound those keys and it's strangely therapeutic.  I love it.  I'm sending out the weirdest letters to people.  Thanks for being part of my therapy, everyone.

My friend says she stress-talks.  On the Marco Polo, an app saving all our lives right now,  she mentioned this and I laughed.  She also mentioned stress-organizing or stress-project-planning.  This is Sean.  He stress-builds.  He and I ran to IKEA and bought tons of stuff for Julian's room, which needed a makeover.  And then in one night he literally hack-sawed the metal legs off Julian's loft bed so it was shorter because he wasn't using the space below for anything other than storing his junk. He also removed an old shelf, built the new one, put books in it, then we moved up a big desk that wasn't being used, and we set Julian up for school with laptop, desk lamp, jar of pencils, a pencil sharpener, aaaall the good desk things.  Organizing and building, taking care of projects, is Sean's coping mechanism and I concede it felt good to do that.   One day though, I had to declare, "I'm NOT a busy body! I do not need to be busy all the time!!"  because it was one thing right after another and I needed to jump off that crazy train.  That was last Saturday, when the blessed sun was shining, and I made Sean stop doing five million things at once and come out and sit in the sun with me.

So what do you stress-do?  Please share, and good luck to you, whoever you are, wherever you are. To be continued, of course, because obviously I also stress-blog.


Joel said...

So many thoughts here. I certainly don't think I do anything productive as a result of stress, but I do think I try to hold onto my daily/weekly routines. Which is hard working from home for an indefinite period. I'm still trying to process things, and we don't even have any diagnosed cases in our county yet.

)en said...

The daily routine/schedule has never been more real to me than right now. /vital to survival. And now I'm adding "stress-exercise" to my list. It's a way to balance out the stress-eating but also just makes me feel better/healthier/in control. But honestly I've never exercised more in my life. (not that that's saying much)