Privilege and Guilt

April 7

The privilege of living alone in a pandemic:
I do not feel compelled
To strip naked in my doorway upon arriving home from errands
I do not feel compelled
To ration my own supplies so my loved ones will have more
I do not feel compelled
To eye every stranger with suspicion, afraid of what I might bring home

The danger of living alone in a pandemic:
If sick, who will feel compelled
To risk their life
To make sure I am breathing?

April 8

I let myself sleep in some days until 7:30 a.m. though I feel guilty.
That is 30 minutes past my typical arrival time to my classroom.

But students have other concerns right now, I tell myself,
And my classes do not rank amongst them.

Yet I still sat at my computer for office hours today
Hoping at least one student would stop by and say hello.

I am obsolete.

Spiders and Walking

April 5

In a grad school textbook
I saw a drawing of a spider spinning a web
After scientists gave it caffeine.
Disorganized, unpatterned, this web
And I think about Whitman
His spider poem once reaching out to me
Patient, spinning, giving me hope.
And I think about the caffeinated spider
And how I have so much in common with its web
Disorganized, unpatterned, this life
And I wonder if I will ever again feel balanced,
Capable of creating something as delicate and organized
As a spider’s web
Or if the new normal is this
Disorganized, unpatterned.

April 6

A new routine:
At least twice a day
I lace up my charcoal grey shoes
Put on my charcoal grey hoodie
Attach my AirPods
Fire up an audiobook
And I walk.

I stroll slowly along the sidewalks in a loop
While Malcolm Gladwell or Ronan Farrow
Teach me about injustice

My entire woman life I’ve thought movement must involve
Sweat, exertion, pain
Never fun, relaxation, enjoyment.

These walks I take are my only fresh air
They are my primary source of movement
And rather than dread them or consider them
Something That I Must Do For Society To Value Me As A Person
I breathe deeply,
I listen,
I enjoy
My walks.

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.