I’m not going to write a novel during lockdown and that’s fine
Setting reasonable expectations is self-care
We’ve been asking members of the KC community to submit stories about life under house arrest. If you’ve got a story you’d like to share, please send it to email@example.com for consideration. Today, Celia Searles reminds us that there is self-care in not setting impossible goals right now.
I don’t think I’m going to write the next bestselling novel during the pandemic.
I don’t think I’m going to teach myself French.
I don’t think I’m going to run a marathon (half? maybe).
I don’t think I’m going to go vegan or have the perfect sleep schedule or read one book a week.
All of these things I enjoy: writing, French, running, cooking, and reading. But as far as doing anything more than just enjoying them right now? Count me out.
To know me is to know how important mental health is to me. I am many things before I am anxious, but I have suffered from generalized anxiety disorder since I was in middle school and it remains a part of my life that requires my attention frequently. It’s not all I am- but it’s a part of me. Over time I have learned what works to manage it. I’ve found that moving my body, seeing a therapist, and finding the right medication have all allowed me to not feel like my mind is a car barreling down the freeway with no brakes. In normal life.
These days it’s a mixed bag. Some days I wake up and make myself a cup of tea and practice yoga on the back deck. Some days I scroll through social media for an hour before dragging myself out of bed. Some days I put on makeup and real pants and other days I sit in my pajamas and don’t even have the energy to shower. There are days where I have a productive morning and get my assignments done before lunch and other days I find myself emailing my professors asking for an extension because I couldn’t bring myself to do anything but watch YouTube for six hours.
Switching between the two extremes isn’t normal for me. I’m used to a healthy mix of doing what needs to be done, taking care of my mental and physical health, and indulging in a lazy day when I need it.
Habits and lifestyle aside, it’s increasingly difficult to not succumb to the rising sense of panic that- when it’s not at the forefront of our minds- is taunting us in the background of everything we do. Despite being a rising senior in college who is so close to finishing their degree, I’ve spent more time in the past two weeks asking myself if online school is worth it if I can’t go back in the fall than I ever have. I’ve never questioned the tradeoff between my education and just beginning my career, but now I am.
I lie awake at night wondering when the next time I’ll get to hug my friends will be. I get nervous when I think about being confined to my childhood bedroom for the entire summer. I mourn the loss of seeing my campus bloom in April, enjoying the warm weather with my friends, and my summer travel plans. I worry that my father, cousin, and boyfriend who have all been deemed essential and have to go to work will come down with the virus. Some days, I own the fear and other days the fear owns me.
We’re seeing now that even though collectively, we’ve thrown most of these rules out the window, the war between productivity and rest is especially present.
Last week I took a break from social media for a few days and tried to tune out the noise of our hyper-productive culture telling us that we need to do as much as we can during this time. They tell us to learn a language, train for an extreme race, reach out to long-lost friends, write a book, learn an instrument, or be the best student we can. While those are all honorable endeavors, most of us can’t accomplish half of those things in our “normal” lives. During the few days that I wasn’t reaching for my phone to see how everyone else was spending their quarantine as soon as I woke up, I found myself easing into a gentler pace that didn’t feel like a race of who could do the most while doing nothing at home. I wasn’t comparing myself to anyone else. I was giving myself grace.
I’m not saying social media is the bane of our society or the root of our struggles, but the tweets and posts and videos telling us that we need to make “use” of this time as effectively as we can is. In this time where the majority of our conversations revolve around the pandemic, our behaviors are altered by it, and we all know someone who is directly affected by the virus, I think we all deserve a damn round of applause for just getting up in the morning. Doing what we need to do to feel good and not shaming ourselves for what that looks like is grace.
This isn’t the time to write the next bestselling novel- unless it makes you feel good.
This isn’t the time to teach yourself French- unless it makes you feel good.
This isn’t the time to run a marathon- unless it makes you feel good.
This isn’t the time to force yourself to have the perfect diet, perfect sleep schedule, or be the best student in your class.
It’s enough to simply be. To allow space for the waves where things feel okay and when things feel anything but. It’s enough to just do what you need to do to take care of your mental and physical health and check up on your loved ones. It’s absolutely enough to do the bare minimum right now. If you feel like doing more? Go for it. Don’t let anybody stop you. But don’t let yourself think that you have to play by the productivity mindset our society ran on. Do what feels good. Have a routine if you can. Sit outside and feel the sun on your face when you can. Listen to music. Listen to the news. Or don’t.
Let this time shift your focus from doing the most to giving yourself what you need. Listen to your body. Listen to your mind.
Writing the next bestselling novel during the pandemic isn’t my priority: It’s getting through this time taking care of myself the best I can so that I can write that novel in a time where our collective stress is lowered. Now isn’t that time for most of us. And that’s perfectly fine.