Do I Have It?/Week in Review

April 3

A sore throat
A headache
An upset stomach

Do I have it? I wonder.
And if I have it, who did I give it to?

Or is the sore throat from open windows
Winds blowing pollen and dirt all day?

Is the headache from cutting down
To one Diet Coke?

Is the upset stomach from eating patterns disrupted
Still calibrating the necessary calories
With less movement than I’m used to?

Every ache, every sneeze, every stomach churn
Do I have it? I wonder.

April 4

The week in review:
Six long video chats
With friends who, before this time
We always said “Let’s do lunch!”
And never did.
Until faced with our mortality
We must have internally concluded
This is the way to limit regret.

Poems in the time of COVID-19

It’s National Poetry Month, and I’ve used the blog to celebrate in times past. As someone who’s kept a journal since she was 5 years old. I do think creating primary source documentation of this time in history is important, so as many days as I can, I’ll be sharing unedited, unrevised poems here throughout the month of April.

I forgot to post one yesterday, so today you get two for the price of one. No titles for these poems, just dates.

April 1

The apartment is quiet,
Except for the sound of my refrigerator running.
It’s keeping my cheeses cold and my gelato frozen
Waiting for me to visit throughout the day.

I have plenty of food in my pantry:
Pasta and canned fruit and staples to build meals
And dozens of unhealthy snacks
For when stress-eating is the only answer.

My clothes are clean and my makeup drawer stocked
As are my cleaning supplies, dishwasher tabs and garbage bags.

I look around at the cornucopia,
With its east and west facing windows
Ensuring I am never without sun
And though lonely, I am content.

How could I not be?

April 2

I knew it was coming and felt frustrated with the delay
“We all know we aren’t going back,” I texted innumerable group chats
“Just make the announcement already.”

Trying to play Fate–
If I speak it into existence, maybe Fate will laugh
“Think again, Julie. I can’t let you be right.”

Instead, Fate weeps.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t stop this for you,” he says.
So I sit with him, quiet.

We breathe in crisp spring air together
And sigh
As I let go of my plans
And watch them float away on the wind.

Sooooo…whatcha doin’?

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

Sunday night, I pulled out a notebook and wrote at the top of a page, “What is a sustainable routine?”

I need routines as part of my cognitive behavior therapy so teaching high school is actually a really great place for me, what with a bell schedule telling me what to do at what time, including eating lunch.

But what do I do when I don’t have a bell schedule or students?

I sketched out a possible sustainable routine on that piece of paper Sunday night, and adhered to about half of it yesterday. Today, not at all.

It’s not like I’m lacking for things to do; I have plenty of options. So. Many. Options. And maybe that’s part of the problem–the “paradox of choice.” Maybe limiting my options is a good step.

Or maybe what I need to do is take a step back for a day or two, breathe, give myself some time and grace to adapt to the current situation.

I go through something similar every summer–when the school year ends and my routine is taken away, it takes me about two weeks to recalibrate and find an acceptable balance. But I always know that it’s coming–May 1 hits, and I start thinking about summer contingency plans to manage my mental health.

This particular moment though? I saw it coming, but the same way I see summer storms–off in the distance with a chance that it might break to the north and miss me completely. Except this storm hit.

I’m not throwing out my Sunday scrawlings just yet–I think I created a manageable system for when I am ready for it to take hold.

My point is this: if you too are feeling unmoored, maybe even guilty for not creating a routinized life for yourself or your family, take a breath. We’ve not been here before. As my friend Matt keeps reminding me, “There is no playbook for this.”

And if you can’t give yourself a little patience or grace right now, contact me. I’ll give you some of mine.

Be Aware of Your Default.

I came home from school today with a list of 10 things I needed/wanted to do, and here I am, five hours later and dizzy from an evening of tracking what feels like a million news cycles, still with that list of 10 things staring me in the face.

There’s so much we don’t know right now, and whenever we don’t know something, the default reactions tend to not be so positive. Fear. Anger. Hate.

Image result for fear anger hate dark side gif

The whole principle of default is that it’s easy. It’s comfortable. It’s what we are used to. But I think right now, as hard as it might be, we need to work on switching our default.

To be clear: I am a firm believer in listening to county and state health departments and following their recommendations. Hand washing, self-quarantining when asked, and yes, bigger things like canceling events that we might have been looking forward to. All of those things (except maybe the hand washing) make me a little bit angry. But you see what Yoda says about anger.

So how to switch the default? In addition to the measures we might need to take for safeguarding our physical health, we need to also safeguard our mental health. How does that happen in an uncertain time like this? I have a couple of ideas.

  1. Reach out to people over email, FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, whatever. Catch up with someone you’ve been neglecting. Check in on other humans. Do not forget other humans. If you’re able to, look at their faces and hear their voices. Text if you must, but if you can, connect visually.
  2. Create something. Write poems, write songs, write a book, read a book, make music, draw stick figures on the back of an envelope, pick up a Frozen 2 coloring book and splurge on the 64-pack of Crayolas the next time you venture out.
  3. Meditate. Oh my goodness, meditate. MEDITATE. Maybe even try some yoga. I hear Yoga with Adriene on YouTube is really fantastic.
  4. Donate money, if you are able, to organizations in your community that will need resources, since giving your time might not be possible. Fun fact: food banks can do more with your money than they can with your cans and boxes of food.
  5. Laugh with the people you can laugh with. Send memes, gifs, TikToks, watch Parks and Rec (for the 20th time), but for the love of all that is holy, don’t forget to laugh. This is probably hardest because of the fear and uncertainty. Don’t make light of the gravity of the situation, but I’m certain that every day I can find something to make me and my loved ones laugh.
  6. Attack that to-do list that you ignore because “life keeps happening.” Even if it’s something small like wiping down your baseboards (something that I hate doing but I also hate looking at the dust buildup), pick a task or two that will give you a sense of satisfaction.

These feel like such scary, uncertain times. And though he is fictional, I believe Yoda when he says hate leads to suffering. No matter the fear or anger you might feel right now, don’t let it lead to hate and suffering. Inoculate yourself against that, in whatever way works best for you.

Might I suggest a Star Wars marathon?

Documentation.

I’ve felt a lot of stress the past few weeks for a variety of reasons and the world is mostly a dumpster fire, so I feel compelled to document just how much joy and gratitude I felt as I drove home at 8:30 p.m. after a day of teaching, rehearsals, and parent-teacher conferences.

You know, to counterbalance the dumpster-fireness of it all.

  • I truly enjoyed all my students today.
  • We had a good first-off-book rehearsal of the musical.
  • I received much grace from the director and conductor for still struggling to play the second act.
  • I had great conversations with students and parents at conferences.
  • The remote start on my car still works so my car could warm up just a little before I walked to it (still took a good 5 minutes of driving to feel any heat though)
  • I was reminded several times over the past two days that I work with some really kind and wonderful people.

Most days, it’s tough for me to peer through the smoke of the dumpster-fire earth and find anything positive. So I’m quite grateful for the days when blue sky breaks through and reminds me of just how much good there is in my world.