Yesterday, I was Tired. Tuesday was fury. Wednesday was grief. Yesterday, I felt like my head was too heavy for my shoulders.
I found myself distracted, unable to settle. Stuck between tasks. Unsure why I left one room or entered another. Backtracking to try to remember. A recipe halfway completed, then abandoned for reasons I couldn’t recall. Clothes gathered to take a shower but left as bathroom floor decor with bathing forgotten. Water boiled for tea, then boiled again, then boiled again, and tea unmade.
My brain was foggy. I wasn’t surprised. I understand exhaustion is part of trauma and grief, and that, Diary, is what the world is collectively engaged in right now. So I tried to be kind to myself in the midst of the mental puzzle. I succeeded, and I failed. I was gentle with my state of distraction at times, and, at others, I felt that I could have Done More. Managed Better. Completed More Tasks. Been More With It. Had My Crap More Together.
I feel, Diary, that uncoupling ourselves from earning self-worth by Doing Things is one of our biggest American challenges. We don’t know how to be quiet. We don’t know how to wait. We don’t know how to be still inside our minds and our hearts. Yes, we’re living a collective trauma right now, so we’re anxious and stressed. But also, we’ve lived inside the trauma of hyper activity for years. Decades. And, forced to stop cold turkey, we’re realizing we’re addicts with jitters from withdrawal.
I’ve spent three days with a pressure washer, cleaning our driveway and patio and sidewalks. Are my bathrooms clean? No, Diary. Of course they’re not. The toilets could use work, and the floors are sporting muddy paw-prints, and I don’t want to work at my desk right now because it’s sticky. But I was jonesing for a job. Not little things that need to be done. Something Big I could complete that would make me feel Useful and Worthwhile. Something with discernible progress that would prove I’m not Wasting This Time. I have never — not in the 17ish years we’ve owned this house — washed the sidewalks. What does it take to get me to wash sidewalks? Apparently a global pandemic.
I don’t regret the sidewalk-washing, Diary, even though I understand it’s a symptom of a larger issue. I can envision washing sidewalks because they need to be washed rather than in a frenetic bid to Stay Busy and Distract Myself from Thinking. Washing sidewalks — washing anything — because they need to be washed sounds healthy. But I’m not going to berate myself for distraction right now. I’m going to be kind, instead. Acknowledge that my motives for sidewalk-washing might be a little wonky, but also that it Felt Good. Acknowledge that I need to practice being still, but also that bouts of maniacal productivity are a Coping Mechanism, and Coping Mechanisms are OK when they… you know… help us cope. Acknowledge that I need to be mindful not to allow the Coping Mechanisms to take over and become Everything as though a Frenzy of Activity is the Solution for feeling helpless and a little afraid… but also recognize that Agitated Action is just a part of the equation for now.
I don’t know if any of that makes sense, Diary, but it’s where I’m at. It’s what I’ve got. Well, that and clean sidewalks.
4 responses to “10 April 2020 — The COVID Diaries: Staying Sane in a Time That’s Not”
Hey Beth Woolsey, guess what, I came here because I’ve been making my family happy with your cinnamon rolls for YEARS and this morning will be no different. Thank you for providing me with one yeast recipe that I have been able to be successful at. I’ve been looking at a well loved and used printed paper, but came to your site to see if I could find a tip for making the night before and baking the next morning. And then I thought, I wonder if Beth has still been writing? Because I stopped reading much of anything beyond Facebook and one point. So here I am. I was delighted to find you keeping a diary here. I am keeping one privately. As for my coping strategy in all this. I truly wish it was productive. There is just so much I could do. But I have been choosing escape. (However, my youngest two boys barely let me have a minute to myself. This is truly the hardest time.) I swear I will not take time alone for granted anymore. Thanks for being here and being honest.
A thousand times YES!
I recall mowing the lawn with an infant strapped to a front carrier, because it was something I could do that was noticeable and stayed done for longer than 15 minutes.
It may have been unnecessary, but it was a constructive coping mechanism. You could have been drinking wine and eating chocolate, or maybe you did that while power washing (I’m not judging).
I am getting my 12yo to help more about the house in return for credits to spend on films on Amazon. Apparently vacuuming is fun when you don’t usually have to do it. Worth a try!
Yes x 100! I feel my house could always provide a cleaning activity – it’s never done. But with a project like you did – When you reach the end of the sidewalk, you’re done! It’s complete! I totally get it. Go productivity, even if some might think it’s misguided, it IS productive so hush. 🙂