“March is the Month of Expectation.
The things we do not know—”
— Emily Dickinson, March is the Month of Expectation
March, typically, is one of the most boring months of the year. If it weren’t for the start of Spring and for the designation as Women’s History Month, March would be wholly unremarkable. But this March has been something else entirely. This March has been one of the hardest and, frankly, terrifying months I have ever lived through.
When the month began, life was essentially normal. I was working and worrying about an upcoming interview for a new position at work. I was anxiously counting down the days until Spring break. I was so looking forward to a trip down to Texas for a conference. Life was good, and everything was looking up for me. Then the news reports, the ones that had been increasing for weeks and the ones I had dismissed as media hype, were growing increasingly concerning.
There was a new virus spreading quickly, and every day the numbers of the infected grew higher, and grew closer. Suddenly I was hearing words like incubation period, quarantine, and pandemic. Suddenly there was hand sanitizer everywhere. Suddenly we were being told to stay home if we were sick. Suddenly there were lists of vulnerable populations on the news and a list of vulnerable workers at my job. As the first couple of weeks of the month wore on, rumors began flying everywhere. Rumors about how bad things would get and the severe measures that may have to be taken. Then, suddenly, everything changed.
As I write this, my wife and I have been off of work and hold up at home practicing social distancing for nearly three weeks now. Almost every business in the state has closed their doors, and the Governor has issued a “stay-at-home” order. Last I heard from the school district I will return to work on April 20th, but I am hearing rumors again. Rumors about how much longer this will go on and how much worse it will get.
As for me, I’m getting through it the best that I can. I’m one of the lucky ones. I not only have the opportunity to stay home to protect myself and others, but I’m being paid to do so. I’m only being asked to endure isolation and boredom. I’m choosing to make the most of this time partly because I feel guilty for resting so much while the world burns around me, but also because I need to keep my mind occupied.
Going forward, I have no big aspirations. April will be a month of simply coping and doing what small things I can do to keep myself from falling victim to loneliness or depression. I’d like to read a few books, write a few posts and essay, and perhaps create a few collages and poems. I’d like to take better care of my physical and emotional health and complete a few projects around the house. I’d like to spend time with my wife and give my pets and plants the attention they deserve. I want all the things I always wish I could be doing when I had to work instead, but before I do, here is what I am currently:
Writing a couple of real blog posts. I’ve been using Google docs not only to track my daily to-do items and store my daily logbook lately, but to work on my drafts and essays too. I’ve been able to free write, take notes, add comments, and perform searches for quotes and facts right from within the documents. It helps to avoid distraction (when coupled with the use of a timer) and in this time of social isolation I feel like I finally have the time and a system in place to get my ideas organized and perhaps get some real writing out there instead of just talking about it.
Making lists. I’ve written a little about it already and plan to write a lot more about it soon, but I’ve been working on a new to-do list and logbook system I shamelessly stole from Jeff Huang. I’m incorporating suggestions from Cal Newport on adding time blocking and action plans and recently discovered a whole blog dedicated to Plain Text systems. I’m using Google docs to facilitate accessibility across devices and working on a system to incorporate calendars and links to other documents to track an editorial calendar and easily write and publish new blog posts.
Planning for a lengthy stay indoors. To be honest, nothing can be planned for at the moment. We don’t know when we will be able to go back to work, see our loved ones, travel or attend events. Everything I had been planning for or looking forward to had been postponed indefinitely, and all I can allow myself to plan for now is a day or two in advance. The silver lining is that for the time being I can live in the present and focus fully on spending the time I have today the best I can. One day at a time is the only way any of us can hope to digest the future that awaits us.
Reading It by Stephen King, still. I’ve been chipping away at this tome for months now and though progress has been slow, it has been made. I expect that by this time next month I’ll have finished this and two or three more. I hope to close the two book gap between where I am and where I should be by now if I want to beat my 2020 reading challenge. Going forward, I’m going to make an effort to read more digital books. I have an old iPad I’m repurposing as a dedicated e-reader. I have plenty of gift cards for Amazon, Google, and Barnes & Noble that I can use for this experiment and plenty of time on my hands to work on my comprehension and focus when reading from and screen.
Watching the news. I’m trying not to watch it all the time but, like most of you I’m sure, I’ve had to check in regularly not just with national news, which I did all the time even before all of this, but with world and local news too. It’s helped to be informed, but I’ve had to be mindful of where I get my news and how often I check it to avoid panic and speculation. I watch for an hour or so in the morning while I make my coffee and eat, and when I’m done, I turn it off and don’t allow myself to look again until after dinner.
Learning about International Women’s Health and Human Rights on Coursera. I’ve been trying for over a year to complete this course, but I have always failed to make the time or to do the work consistently. Now that I am off of work I have whole days to devote to studying and writing and, hopefully, finally marking this course complete. I’m ready to move on from this (and from my Modern & Contemporary American Poetry course too) and it has been this desire to move on that has kept me from finishing, but the only way out is through and there is no better time than now, when I have all the time I could ever want.
Anticipating my birthday, I suppose. Normally, I spend the whole month of April celebrating my birthday. I tour all my favorite museums. I eat out at my favorite restaurants. I always do something extra special with my wife and I plan multiple events with family and friends, but this year I’ll have to spend it quietly indoors and away from everyone I know. I’m a bit bummed about it but I know I can still make it special if I try. I still have my wife here with me and we can cook my favorite foods and I hear she’s already ordered gifts for me. I can still call my family and friends and perhaps we can plan a hiking trip if the parks are still open.
Reflecting on all the ways life has changed and how easily it has changed, how easily it could have always changed before all of this if we’d all been better, stronger, more kind, more imaginative. We’re seeing now what was always possible and when this is over we are going to have to answer for why we lied to each other and ourselves for so long. We’ll have to face that universal healthcare, housing assistance, and paid sick leave at the very least we’re always possible, affordable, and in all our best interest. We’ll have to face that some things will have to stay changed for the better.
Fearing this virus making its way into my circle of loved ones or into my home. I’m afraid for my parents, who were forced to work far further into this pandemic than I was comfortable with. I’m worried for my wife, who’s asthma has grown more severe over these last few years. I’m worried for my siblings living in other states that aren’t yet taking the measures my state has. I’m worried for myself being on medications that leave me somewhat immunosuppressed and needing to make regular trips into the clinic for care. Every step out of the house is a risk, and so much is out of my control.
Hating the impact this virus has had on my own life and these past weeks. I know it’s a bit selfish, but I’m giving myself permission to be angry over missing so much I had been looking forward too. There was a St. Patrick’s day dinner and a movie date I had planned with my wife that was cancelled. I was planning a big trip to Texas for work that was cancelled. I just got a promotion the day before the district closed and I haven’t been able to have my title or my pay scale changed. I had a class scheduled to become a Crisis Prevention and Intervention instructor that has been postponed indefinitely. Spring has come, and I haven’t been able to fully enjoy one day of it. I’ve lost time, I can never get back, and it’s okay to be angry about it.
Loving how we’ve all come together to beat this thing. I love seeing that so many of us are doing our part by staying home, by sharing supplies, by volunteering, but donating money or supporting local business by ordering delivery. I love that we have chosen to keep each other safe rather than to indulging in petty wants. Even if I am disappointed in the fact that it took this pandemic for life to change, I love that we were able to change for the better so quickly and easily. I’m proud of us all, and my faith in humanity has been restored.
Needing to see some sign of hope. I need to see that what we are doing is helping and that lives will be saved but all I see is more death and more to fear and everyday I grow more depressed and hopeless. I desperately need my spirits lifted and I know I’m not alone. Everyone is feeling this same anxiety and dread and a little good news in these terrifying and uncertain times could go a long way, but everywhere I look there’s nothing but bad. I know the media is keeping us informed and I know they tend toward what keeps us engaged and nothing does that more than what incites panic but please, please, please, show us something good too.
Hoping we can all keep this up. I know the longer it goes on, the antsier we all get, the more we begin to relax the rules and lose our sense of urgency. We start venturing out. We start letting the kids play together in the park. We start visiting the friends and family we’ve been missing so much. We start to believe that things aren’t as bad as the media would have you believe and that the recommendations to stay home have been overblown. I hope we can, for once, keep foremost in our mind what must be done and that we can, for once, find the collective courage and discipline to do it.
So, yeah, all in all, March was an absolutely horrifying month, but there has been some small good in it. I am happy and healthy and so are the people I love. I got the promotion I’ve been working so hard for and one day, when all of this is over, I can do all of those things that I missed out on. I’ve learned to be present and we’ve all learned that we’re all connected and we cannot get through this without the help and cooperation of us all. March has been, at the very least, eye opening.
But what about you? How have you navigated these changes, this fear and uncertainty? How have you been impacted by this virus? Have you stayed well? Have you stayed at home? Do you have enough toilet paper?
Let me know in the comments.
The inspiration for these posts comes from Andrea at Create.Share.Love
Photo by Elijah O’Donnell on Unsplash