“I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day
When it’s cold outside I’ve got the month of May”
— The Tempations, My Girl
This May, much like the April and March before it, was both too short and too long, far too empty and far, far too full. There has been good news in the fight against coronavirus and the world has begun to reopen and life to return to some version of normalcy we can recognize but there is still so much uncertainty and fear. There is still the lingering chance that the numbers of infections and deaths will begin to rise again and we will have to shut ourselves off and away from one another once again.
As the good news of few new cases and deaths were just brightening our spirits, the world found other ways to to fall apart. Protests over not opening fast enough gave us all pause. Displays and deaths due to racism peppered social media streams. Cities all over the country marched peacefully for change during the day, and by night they burned with rage.
The world is a scary place right now and the more they try to push us out the more we want to stay in and the more they push us to the breaking point the closer we all get to boiling over. I’m not sure now how any of this will end and there is a large part of me that predicts it won’t anytime soon, if ever. The coronavirus isn’t going anywhere and racism is so deeply imbedded in our culture I can hardly imagine what life in this country would look like without it.
As for me, I like many others have learned that sometimes the best we can do is allow those who can fight to fight and those who can’t to do their duty and stay out of the way. I spent much of the month waiting. The shifting return to work schedule made it hard to plan projects and after two months of isolation and anxiety I was too emotionally exhausted to write. All I could do, all I felt I should do, was rest.
And now I have gone back into the world and the days and weeks have picked up a rhythm I can follow. I work four hours a day, Monday through Friday. I come home and eat lunch with my wife, clean, and sometimes cook. I watch my shows. I write. I sleep. I try to get used to life again.
As I move into June, I’d like to hold on to a little of that time I spent in quarantine and take what I learned about myself and about what I can still do and take more of an active role in the life that I am building. I want to have more time for myself and not what happens to be left over after work. I want to have more time because I gave less of it over to work. This has been the biggest lesson from all of this the value of my time and what I can do, and what I don’t have to do with it. From now on so much more is going to be up to me.
But before I learn to take back and protect my time, here is what I am currently:
Writing an essay a week. I know I’ve been talking about this project for a long, long while now, but I finally feel ready to commit. I’m actually not ready at all and this is probably the worst time to start any project but one thing I’ve learned these past few years is there is never going to be a right time especially with anxiety and procrastination so readily available to get in the way.
Making better choices. Being cooped up in the house day in and day out made it hard to practice good self-care habits but now that I am returning to some form of a schedule I am finding it easier, and more important than ever, to be mindful of the choices I am making. Now I’m picking healthier food alternatives. I’m going to bed on time. I’m exercising every day. I’m reminding myself that a habit is more than a task you don’t have to think about, it’s one you don’t want to think about. So, stop thinking and just do.
Planning my days and weeks. I’ve been keeping a text-based to-do list and logbook in google docs for a couple of months now but I’ve only just recently gotten to a point where I am updating and reviewing it on a daily basis consistently. I’ve added comments to each date where I track things like weight, meals, steps, mood, and what I’m listening to, learning, and reading. I track the weather, the moon cycle, and the day of the year too.
Reading Femme Fatale by Guy de Maupassant and There Is No Outside: Covid-19 Dispatches, a collection of essays published by n+1 magazine. I’ve been slow to make progress toward my yearly reading goal and am sitting 2 books behind as of this writing, but I’m hoping to get ahead again in June with more time scheduled for writing and an easier way of carrying them with me.
Watching Mrs. America on Hulu, a miniseries following of the struggle to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in the 70’s, Homecoming on Amazon, a psychological thriller series, and Insecure on HBO, a comedy-drama series written by Issa Rae. I’m currently binge-watching Showtime’s Homeland, a spy thriller I love to hate and Avatar: The Last Airbender on Netflix, arguably the best animated series ever written.
Learning nothing. I was taking The Science of Well-Being from Yale University, but I’ve been too busy, too tired, and too full of excuses to finish it. I made it through all the videos of Memoir and Personal Essay: Managing Your Relationship with the Reader by Wesleyan University, but I have yet to finish the writing assignments. Some of these will be the first posted in my essay a week project. As I scale back on TV and social media time I hope to get back to these courses and more.
Anticipating the summer. The season, despite the oppressive heat and violent storms, is my favorite of the year by far. I’m disappointed that this year there will be so little of it to enjoy. Then again, even a low-key and abbreviated summer is better than no summer at all. The world is opening back up more and more and though I’m not quite ready to do all the things available, I’m ready to try to do some things, slowly and safely.
Reflecting on what the quarantine has taught me. The pandemic was and continues to be a devastating tragedy, but that doesn’t mean nothing good came of it. We learned that if we are bold, cooperative, and committed anything and everything can change. I’ve learned what is important to me and how I had been denying myself peace and personal fulfillment in the name of productivity that turned out not to worth very much to me after all. There is a lot I learned about myself these past few months and a lot I’d like to hold on to even as we return to normalcy we can recognize.
Fearing what the near future holds. The world feels like it’s in free fall and no one anywhere can provide answers or even a plan for how we will make it through these next few months with our health and humanity intact. With the possibility of Covid cases surging, economic devastation and sweeping budget short falls, partisan politcs and protests and riots erupting all of the country it’s hard to see a way through it all, to feel safe or secure, and to know how to help or at least how not to hurt. We’re all afraid and we are all in this together, no matter what side you are on. We’ll have to find a way to the other side together too.
Hating the police. I saw a post on Twitter lamenting the lumping in of all cops under the same categorization and pleaded with other to understand not all cops were brutish, power hungry, or cruel. Someone replied with something like “you’re right, not all cops are bad, some are just complacent.” The indifferent are now as culpable as the cruel and the blood shows equally on both hands. There is so much grief and anger that it can no longer be controlled or constructively targeted.
Loving the support I see from the media, politicians, and even some police officers for the BlackLivesMatter protesters. Now feels like the right time to make a change in the world. We’ve got as close to a blank slate to rewrite our laws and reaffirm our commitment to true justice and equality. We have already remade the world in profound ways let’s be bold and imaginative. Lets spread love and support even as we spread anger and grief and see what beautiful and righteous connections and changes we can make.
Needing everybody to use their critical thinking skills when reading the news these days. Cultivate a habit of reading more deeply, looking for context clues, and asking yourself, “what is missing”?. Who’s story is being told and who’s isn’t? What is deliberately big emphasized and deemphasized? What is the history.of this issue? What change needs to be made? Who is asking for a change, and who is answering or denying that call? Read past the headline. Read more than one story, one platform, one side before you form and opinion and choose a side.
Hoping something big happens soon in the name of good and justice. We’ve had so much bad, and difficult, and painful. We’ve had so much that turned us indifferent, angry, hateful, or sad. It’s long passed time for a little love and happiness. I know it’s unlikely. Perhaps that isn’t how love works. Perhaps it’s in all the little acts that don’t make the news and words that don’t trigger opinion pieces. The good is out there. Talk about it more. Share it more. Spread it more. We need it more than ever.
So, yeah, all in all, May was a chance to reflect and to return. These last few months have been so empty and so lonely and finally we can return not just to each other but to nature too and in that return we can reflect on what we learned while the world paused and, more than anything, May gave us the chance to choose. As June approaches we can choose what our new normal will be and what we will value when we finally rebuild.
But what about you? Have you stepped out of quarantine and back into the world. We’re you ever able to step out at all? How much summer have you been able to enjoy? Have you protested in your city? Have you stayed safe and sane? Has your humanity survived this time for fear and divisiveness?
Let me know in the comments.
The inspiration for these posts comes from Andrea at Create.Share.Love
Photo by Mickey Dziwulski on Unsplash