If I am telling the truth, the only time I am only ever really moved to write is if I am skidding into psychic terrain I have charted, but would really rather avoid. There is a sort of disquieting familiarity in levels of stress associated with the pandemic fever-scape Americans suddenly occupy. I think we should tell our truths. In obfuscating these truths, we are only amplifying the loneliness and the distance that self-quarantine itself necessarily puts in place.
I also think that there is no better time to learn to write than in a crisis. A crisis can be truly and terribly and tragically liberating because the visceral wish to know anything and to set it down, is so profound. I know there is breathing too, and that’s great and all. But I do always forget, somehow. I hold my breath.
When I have been in places that feel this difficult it is really only writing that helps.
I have been trying to write all day. But I keep getting interrupted by things like my daughter searching for a hairdryer to blow dry her guinea pig after a bath she gave her in a pot I do actually use to cook spaghetti. Clearly, I am not paying attention. Or, the email I just got about middle school quarter 4 marking period, and the grading rubric. And wait, when is the SAT rescheduled, again? Also, there are no towels around that aren’t damp. I mean, there would be if we could manage to complete a cycle of laundry, but that seems like a lot. The other day, I found a dried-up clementine in the pocket of my robe and I did not even wonder why, I just tossed It. The churning machine of having to do literally everything all at once makes me panic and then, almost instantly, shut down. I can’t forecast more than five minutes out, or more than a few months back. I have no idea whether I am doing anything right. Ever.
Yesterday it snowed and today it is hot with buds on the trees like an actual fever spending ripples of warmth as a stone skims the surface of a pond. The afternoon unspools somehow and the quality of light feels fraught. This is high anxiety; it is feeling cold and thirsty and separate.
So I throw down this challenge. Watch this ten-minute video taught by Edie Meidav, the best writing teacher alive today (I never wrote a word before I knew her).
Now write something. Write anything. Write about how you feel about the pandemic, how you feel in your skin. Set an intention of how you are going to parent, or work, or care for yourself, or understand something/anything.
I think that when we unpack family life during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a going to be a lot there.
There are thousands of mom memes about being trapped — inside our homes, our minds, or our spiraling anxieties. We share them, trying to laugh, and sometimes even laughing. I recently put out a call for things that help scaffold parental mental health in the pandemic. I received helpful reminders and suggestions about meditations, chants, and other incredibly adaptive and important coping mechanisms. These are very useful, to be sure. I also got texts and messenger responses ruefully asking how early was too early to drink, smoke, etc. These people wouldn’t – not really – they are very present – but the ache to relieve the pressure is the thing. Remember the scene from Airplane, where Steve McCroskey, the air traffic controller, keeps on saying, “[L]ooks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking/smoking/taking amphetamines." It’s funny, but it’s not.
What we are experiencing as parents and as people is brutal. Certainly, it is far more brutal for some than it is for others. If you are finding a silver lining, amplify that too. I think we should tell the truth to ourselves about how we are. What is helping you? How are you doing? No, really. Write it down. We invite you to send it to us using this portal. We are on your team now and in the future. We want to find ways to share your perspective. Let’s try to overcome distance in this weird space and time we inhabit. Let’s start unpacking it now so that when this is over we have already begun to understand ourselves even a tiny bit better.
The good news? We will make it through. There was a lot of suffering – but kindness too was also present. Sometime we will be able to sift what we wish to keep and that which we mean to discard. Marilynne Robinson wrote, “there are a thousand reasons to love this life, every one of them sufficient." What are they to you? My only point is that it is okay that we tell the truth about it being hard in real time – not after the fact; the antidote to quarantine.
Give InKind is grateful for the expertise of Edie Meidav. Tara Shafer is especially grateful to Meidav for having inspired her to find and use her own inner voice – for better or worse. Meidav is such a gifted teacher that she loosened Tara to write over the course of one 1-day workshop, where the two met. You can write too, even if you never have before.
This the seventh in a series of articles to provide guidance as to navigating situations we continue to navigate during the COVID-19/Coronavirus pandemic. We recognize that life continues in all aspects, even the pandemic impacts all of us in profound ways. We are on your team now as well as post-pandemic – and beyond. We invite you to visit our library of situationally specific articles here.
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