It's the End of the World As We Know It---and I Feel Fine (ish)
That’s great it starts with an earthquake, birds, and snakes, and airplanes…
…and lists---oh so many lists. I’m a list maker by nature because (1) I’m middle-aged and (2) it helps me to establish some kind of order when I feel out of control. Normally “out of control,” for me means I’ve said “yes” to too many things, tried to please too many people, or have too many work deadlines. But now “out of control” looks like isolation during a global pandemic—and my lists have been getting longer than the lines outside of H-E-B. I am in the eye of the hurricane listening to myself churn. And now, three weeks in, do I feel fine? Actually, yes—sort of-----as long as I don’t mis-serve my own needs.
What do I mean by that? I consider myself a relatively optimistic person. I believe that there is an answer to every problem, and I will offer you solutions, offer you alternatives. So, in the beginning of this isolation period I optimistically thought of all the things I now had time to do. My list looked like this:
· Clean the baseboards.
· Finish my youngest child’s baby book just in time for his 16th birthday.
· Knit the dog a sweater.
· Write that book I keep toying with.
· Continue daily workouts at the same pace and intensity as normal.
· Cook alllll the healthy meals and stockpile them in the freezer.
· Devour that stack of books on my nightstand.
· Facetime my friends and family once a day.
Basically, I was positioning myself to be some sort of Martha, Gwyneth, Oprah, Glennon love child, emerging from isolation as a vegetarian with glowing skin, my shit together, a best-selling novel, and a Zen-like approach to whatever the world could throw at me. Feeling pretty psyched…What could possibly go wrong? Here’s what: In an attempt to do ALL the things, I took my anxiety to a place that kept me from focusing on any ONE thing long enough to accomplish ANYTHING. I kept adding to the list rather than starting the list. And, by the end of week one, I found myself with a donut in each hand, unwashed hair in a cap (ok that’s normal), with a tangled up ball of yarn lying next to a pile of baby photos of my youngest, a couple of dumbbells, and a package of Mr. Clean Erasers (purchased to address the currently still scuffed baseboards). Two half-read books, and several “missed facetime” messages on my phone rounded it out and, as for the workouts—I probably burned more calories planning them than I did actually doing them. It felt like the end of the world as I know it—and I was feeling many things—FINE was not among them.
According to reports, this popular REM tune from the late 1980s, is experiencing a resurgence thanks to current events. If you are in my age bracket, you probably remember sitting in your favorite college dive bar, tossing back a few and trying to sing all the words correctly—which became more and more challenging the more beverages you consumed—which of course was the point. (If my parents are reading this—I only HEARD about this ritual). But outside of that environment, the song always “jacked me up” in a way I never understood until I was an adult. It’s the stream of consciousness lyrics, the cadence and tempo that make me feel a little frazzled every time I hear it. It’s the same reason I can’t listen to jazz—it’s just a little too “everywhere,” for me. The musical version of ADHD. Actually, this blog post is going a little bit that direction as well so let’s conclude…
By mis-serving my own needs I was setting myself up for an utter isolation fail. What I needed was not to overschedule every second. What I needed was to breathe—long, and deep. What I needed was to catch up on sleep—sometimes in the middle of a rainy afternoon. What I needed was not to rush through all the books on my nightstand, but to savor them. What I needed was to workout full throttle some days, and to incorporate yoga and general laziness on others. In short, what I needed was to give myself some grace and allow myself to not have all the answers and to feel my uncertainty. And while I’m still making lists—they look a little different and they are more of weekly suggestions versus daily directives.
· Move my body in whatever way feels good, whether that’s streaming a full intensity cycle class or a gentle flow yoga.
· Find a way to stimulate my brain, whether that’s writing, reading, or working a crossword puzzle.
· Find a way to be creative, whether that’s knitting the dog a sweater, creating that baby book, or just sitting and coloring.
· Check in on my peeps, whether that’s via facetime, Zoom, phone calls, or even just a simple text.
· Give my body what it wants, whether that’s my go-to salmon salad, or a sweet treat (within reason of course—maybe put one donut down).
· Stay productive, whether that’s meeting my editors' deadlines, creating workouts for friends, or getting around to those baseboards.
· Relax, whether that’s binging Netflix show in my pjs, taking a long, hot bubble bath, or taking a walk through my neighborhood.
Remember, it’s not the end of the world… it’s the end of the world AS WE KNOW IT. Those last four words are key because different doesn’t always mean worse. There’s a meme going around that asks, “Have we tried putting 2020 in rice?” Personally, I think that’s what’s being done. We are resetting, regrouping, simplifying, and tuning in. In fact, based on the kindnesses I’ve witnessed, the communities coming together, the love that's been shown, and the blessings I’m counting daily—I truly believe we will all come out of this better, wiser, stronger, more patient and appreciative. In short--I think we'll all feel fine.