Creating, or Not, in New Territory
It all feels a bit weird, doesn’t it?
Good morning, readers!
I am writing to you from isolation. Well, I say isolation. I share this house with a flatmate and two cats, so I’m not really all that isolated. I am, however, not at work. It seems my office has finally decided to start taking this pandemic seriously, and has requested that I stay home this week. I’m glad they’re at last taking it seriously. I am also fortunate, because I get to keep my job (thus far), and don’t have to worry too much about my next meal. I also live in Canada, where there is a promised safety net if I do happen to lose my job. It’s not as comprehensive as I would like (I rent ’cause I can’t afford a house, so the mortgage freeze doesn’t apply to me), it’s still a damned sight better than many other places. I’m extremely fortunate.
In fact, all I have to do is make a minor adjustment to my daily life.
Yet, I find that minor adjustment has translated into some pretty major issues. Creation has become all but impossible, or it was last week. Here are some steps I’m taking to combat the anxiety-induced malaise that has overcome me since this pandemic got started. I’m sharing them here just in case someone else is similarly struggling. Perhaps this might help those folks get back on track, with a fairly large caveat.
It won’t get this bad. And if it does, come find me. I have swords. I’m forming a gang. We’ll keep you safe.
First, Know That it is Alright to be Afraid
It’s so weird out there right now. The world has changed. It feels colossal. People’s livelihoods are on the line. The future is very uncertain. Even if it all turns out to be okay in the end, it’s isn’t okay now, and you’re allowed to acknowledge and feel that. It is okay to be afraid. These are uncertain times. It’s a bit scary. Be afraid. It’s alright. Trying to suppress a very real and very valid emotion with help nothing but your anxiety. It’s not alright out there. You’re not mad for acknowledging that fact out loud.
Chuck Wendig had a really excellent post to this effect. You can read it here. It puts into words better than I ever could how it is so okay to be not okay right now.
Indulge Your Need to Self-Care
We’ve established that it’s alright to be afraid in this situation we find ourselves in.
People cope in various ways. I find when I’m stressed, I cope best by bunkering down; by withdrawing a bit and letting myself shore up my own defences. It is very fortunate, then, that my self-care looks a lot like what we’re supposed to be doing right now; self-isolation. I coped all last week by replaying The Last of Us, one of my favourites. It game me some measure of control over a pandemic. Granted, it was a fictional zombie-fungus pandemic. But killing those zombies while I crossed what remained of the United States, while I survived, helped calm me down immensely.
Killing fictional infected folks might not be your style. Perhaps finding an old, comforting reread is the way to go for you. Perhaps it’s binging something darkly humorous on Netflix, or maybe it’s playing music, sketching, painting, or embroidery. Do those things that help you focus on that singular task, and forget the state of the world currently.
This has nothing to do with the topic at hand. It’s just super cool.
Look, finding the ability to do the creative stuff that might be part of your self-care is tough right now. So:
Routine is Important
Part of what makes this thing so challenging, for me at least, is that my days were scheduled to within an inch of their lives. I had a very set, very firm routine which I followed day in and day out (and a different routine on weekends) for a long, long time. That’s all been taken from me. I need routine to be able to function.
My morning commute is gone, as is my breakfast time before work, my morning coffee, my whole day. My evening martial arts, and weekend martial arts teaching, have been taken from me. My gym is closed, and I’ve lost my solo workouts… and access to weight-lifting equipment. I’d give my right cheek for a heavy bag and somewhere to hang it right about now.
Since my routine was so firmly established, I’ve made it my mission to stick as closely to it as I can manage. I wake up at the same time I would do if I’m headed to work. This morning, I actually had to duck in to collect the items from work I rely on daily, so that took care of my commute. Weather permitting, I intend to go for an hour long walk in the mornings to substitute my daily commute.
Made and ate breakfast, a little later than usual as my commute was doubled, sat in front of my home computer and wrote out my daily blog post for my own website. Midday hit quite quickly. That is usually when I leave my desk and head to the gym for my thrice-weekly weight-lifting session. I have no gym and no equipment at home, so I logged onto YouTube and did a bodyweight calisthenics workout I found there. I showered, dressed and returned to my home computer to write this blog post.
This evening, when I usually went to my martial arts classes, I will instead clear the living room floor and practice my forms at home.
I am, as much as possible, emulating my usual routine. So far it’s helping me cling to normalcy, and I am feeling better about things.
This also has nothing to do with anything. But it’s cool A.F. I want a battle lion, dammit.
There’s one other trick I’ve found that has helped me in this new reality.
Create Silver Linings
So, this is something that I often do. I let myself find silver linings in things. I’m anxious about loved ones, who are at risk right now. I’m anxious about the way the world will be after this. I’m afraid; not for myself, but for the people I have a real risk of losing, and for them losing their livelihoods. But it’s not all super terrible.
There are small things – little pleasures – that make life a bit more bearable.
For one, working from home means that I can have a glass of wine with lunch, which is a nice little luxury normally denied to me. In fact, lunch is cooking now, and I’m really looking forward to that wine. I also have confused the cats, which has been great fun, but they’re a snuggly bunch of kitties, so I get a lot of kitten cuddles. That’s quite lovely.
I’ve also joined a Facebook group dedicated to helping one another out during this time here in Ottawa. CareMongering is the best movement ever, and it’s a direct result of this pandemic. Seeing folks look out for one another like this gives me an incredible amount of courage and hope; two things very much needed at the moment.
All of these things combined have helped me remain self-disciplined enough that I’ve been far more productive in the last two days than I thought I could be again (last week was terrible). It’s helped me out a lot, and maybe it can help you.
There’s one more thing, however, to keep in mind as we struggle through this.
Creation is an Act of Courage, BUT Even the Brave Rest
Creating in this time is, for me, a profound act of defiance. It’s me, bellowing at a bear that is preparing to charge. It is me, standing before the hordes, a broken blade in my hand, nevertheless prepared to fight. It is something I do because I need to; I need to overcome that which would take me to my knees. It is my personal battle that I will refuse to lose.
Even warriors need to rest. You don’t need to do battle right now. You don’t need to push back; to pick up the pen, or paintbrush, or clay. You are, in a very real sense, wounded. And the wound needs to heal before you can fight again. So take the time to heal if you need it. Don’t let anyone, including me, pressure you to create if you need to rest.
You are far more important than anything you can produce right now. I want to see you all on the other side of this thing, so rest if you need it. Care for you, yourself, before you worry about whether or not you are productive. The story, painting, poem or sculpture will still be there for you when you’re ready.
I’m cheering for you.
Sending you all socially responsible digital hugs.
When S.M. Carrière isn’t brutally killing your favorite characters, she spends her time teaching martial arts, live streaming video games, and cuddling her cats. In other words, she spends her time teaching others to kill, streaming her digital kills, and cuddling furry murderers. Her most recent titles include ‘Daughters of Britain’ and ‘Skylark.’