Something’s Different / Week 1

This first week of shelter-in-place here in Chicago has felt mostly normal, aside from the scene at our local grocery store. My wife worked from home, which she’s done in the past from time to time. I’ve been out of school since December and awaiting what’s next for the past couple of months. Our dog still needs his morning and evening walks. We get up, we do our during-the-day things, and then we do our after-the-day things. There’s a fleeting sense of normalcy, but something has shifted and nothing is actually normal.

This week has been odd for us in the ways many are experiencing—shifts in everything from daily routines to living spaces to a sense of impending doom—but also in a can’t-quite-put-my-finger-on-it kind of way. Some things are the same as ever, while others are fundamentally different. Homebody-ness, working and otherwise: same. Virtual hangouts, not leaving the house for anything non-essential: fundamentally different. Everything is more exhausting.

We had a virtual hangout with friends on Friday night, and I talked to another friend on the phone for almost an hour on Saturday. I’ve been more active on Twitter so I can stay up-to-date and connect with friends. I am exhausted by all the interaction. This is somewhat normal for me, as an introvert but also wildly unexpected because of the whole shelter-in-place situation we’re in right now. Shouldn’t I have more energy (or at least the same) energy as before since I’m not face to face with anyone?

Then Saturday night, when I couldn’t sleep, I read a friend’s piece that was a reminder that these are not normal times*. Although the post was centered around working from home, it got me thinking about all its connections. Everything we find ourselves doing is now attached to the emotions we’re feeling in this so-not-normal time. COVID-19 adds stress of a) our associated emotions and b) the situations we find ourselves in as a result.

To put it another way, let’s say everything you’ve got in a purse or bag is the typical shit you’ve got going on in your daily life. Whether or not you use a purse or bag to tote your stuff around IRL, you probably know how they work. Some of you might have individual compartments for all your stuff. Some might have compartments but never use them. Some have just the one compartment everything goes into. Still, they know where everything goes, even if it looks chaotic to everyone else. And countless other configurations.

COVID-19 comes along and dumps everything out. Even if you know where everything goes, getting it all back in the bag is a task in and of itself. Now those emotions come along and are like molasses or milk or something else you would never want to be dumped all over your stuff. So now you’ve got your shit everywhere, molasses making everything sticky and stuck together. Not to mention, it’s all weighing you down because you’re thinking about what you had in your bag, what you need/want to put back, what you even have the mental space for anymore. And let’s not forget the physical space of the bag which may not fit everything anymore. After all, you’ve had to downsize because who can afford a fancy bag in times like these?

The bottom line is that all of this is happening. However you feel about what’s going on in your world right now, you’re right. You have a right to feel scared or tired or [insert your own feelings here]. And also, if how you’re feeling feels crushing or debilitating, you’re not alone. The thing is, there’s no one right way to sort it all out. You start with one thing you think you can deal with and you go from there. You wake up every day, start with one foot on the floor, and then keep putting one foot in front of the other until you get to wherever is next for you. (But please stay home unless it’s absolutely essential that you leave your place.)

We are all in this together. We are not alone, no matter how isolated we feel. That goes for you, that goes for me.

Be well, friends. Love and Light to you all.

* Ed Synnott’s article, This Ain’t Normal: Life in Lockdown is Not Working From Home