Pandemic Diary: Pandemic fatigue, also, sniffles

I wake up with stuffed nose and sniffles and I don’t know how that’s even possible, unless it’s dog hair allergies, because, for fuck’s sake, I never go anywhere anymore. My fridge is empty and I don’t want to go to the grocery store, because I don’t want to be surrounded by panicked people—I also don’t want to send a minimum wage Instacart employee to the grocery store on my behalf, kwim? If you’ve done no reflection on how your ability to work from home and order in is an epitome of socio-economic privilege—no matter how poor you think you are—do it. Now.

I’m pretty sure it’s allergies…

Anyway, a stuffed up/runny nose is not a COVID-19 symptom. But I think my throat is sore too. Maybe? Is it store? Or is it just dry? Should I tell my kids not to come over today? Cancel my planned six-feet-apart—this is so not six-feet apart, but it’s too far to feel good, why did we even bother—walk with a friend?

Pandemic fatigue. Don’t mock. It’s a thing. People who are tired of making decisions make bad decisions. They decide to stop deciding.

They die.

Ok. The house is warmer now. I’m warmer. Sniffles gone, I think? How about that sore throat? Not sore anymore. But now I have aches. Am I stiff or getting the plague, or some other plague? Or is the pandemic turning me into a hypochondriac as well as an unbearable whiner?

I’m thinking today’s the day I stop drinking, for the month at least, because it’s safer, really, right? Instead of wondering, “Am I drinking too much?” … just drink not at all. I can do it. I don’t want to do it, but I don’t want to do anything, so what’s one more thing?

Damn. Another sneeze. Am I 100 per cent sure sneezing is not a symptom of COVID? Google. Yes. It’s not. But am I getting a cold? How can I be getting a cold? I don’t want to get a cold. Yuck. Or maybe I do. A few days sick in bed with a good reason not to do anything… would not be that bad. Right?

Ugh.

Decision fatigue. Pandemic fatigue. Sniff.

Yawn.

Do all the things, and do them without your friends and without leaving the house.

Yuck.

Also, fuck.

😦

Jane

But the sunrises are beautiful…

Pandemic Diary: Creative process in uncreative times—especially when that creativity’s supposed to pay the bills…

In the process journal: A page and a half of rambling about—I’m not quite sure, either why I hate Facebook or why I hate people. Big X. Note to self: “This is not going anywhere.”

Visit to JuliaCameronLive.com. Surely, my guru has something for me? Yes. “The Power of Creativity in the Time of the Coronavirus.” Goddammit, she just peddles the Morning Pages, again, and you know, I haven’t stopped, although I do do them wrong intermittently, even though Julia says there is no wrong way to do them. The second tool she offers—another standby. Artist’s Dates. But of course. What else would Julia recommend, has the woman had a new idea in the last 30 years?

“It is my hope that during this period of uncertainty we lean into our creativity, awakening our spirit so that we feel more deeply alive.”

Ugh. Julia. Did you just tell me to lean in? Also, I feel dead inside, and also, I want to smash things not lean in or create—I feel betrayed.

Next stop: Maria Popova’s Brainpickings.org. “A Young Poet’s Love Letter to Earth and to the Double Courage of Facing a Broken Reality While Refusing to Cease Cherishing This Astonishing World in Its Brokenness.”

No. This does not suite my mood at all. Next? Who can I try next?

Matt Inman’s The Oatmeal, of course.

Well. That’s more like how I feel… except it’s probably not what I need.

Oh. “Eight Marvelous & Melancholy Things I’ve Learned About Creativity.” Yes. This. Let’s have a read…

Oh. Matt.

“In the context of your work, you don’t matter.”

Ouch. WTF?

“If you’re like me, then my advice is to buckle up, motherfucker, because you’re destined to die under a mountain of false starts and sad, exasperated poetry. You’re destined to put your personal life in the backseat while your creative spirit gets blackout drunk and takes the wheel.”

from the The Wondrous Utility of Self-Loathing” section

 

Actually, yeah. That helps.

So do the parts about killing your darlings and not making babies, and the business of art.

But especially, that. Thanks, Matt.

Except… I still don’t really want to do the work.

I don’t want to get out of bed, have a shower, turn on the computer.

I’m doing a tech/social media detox starting tomorrow and I’m claiming I’m doing it to clear my head and get myself into a creative space fuelled by boredom—but honestly? I just don’t want to do the social medial and marketing aspects of my work.

I don’t want to do any of the work.

And usually, I’d give myself the advice to just ride the allow period, it’s part of the process, just read poetry, smoke cigars, dance naked in the kitchen—but I don’t want to do any of that either.

When I say I want to smash something: I want to smash that feeling, that mood.

Myself.

Next? Hafez:

Last night, pansy addressed flowers and itself displayed
My swinging in this world, so and so’s hair would braid.
My heart was a treasure chest of secrets, the hands of fate
Closed and locked and its key, to my Beloved bade.
Physician sent the broken me to my Beloved and said
My panacea and cure, only by Your hands are made.
May he be healthy, and happy, and in bliss
That his healing hands upon the needy laid.
Take your own advice, O incessant counselor
Sweet lover and wine, whosoever forbade?
Passed by poor me, and towards my rivals strayed
Said, “my poor Hafiz has given his life, I am afraid.”

Ghazal 113
Translation © Shahriar Shahriari
Los Angeles, Ca January 23, 2000

Um. I don’t know how you’re interpreting that, but I sure hope it’s not the way I’m interpreting it…

I’m running out of gurus. Colette? Frida? Jane? Anaïs? Can one of you please send a demon down (or up, I guess?) to yell at me and tell me to get to work?

Her: The blog’s not work?

Jane: No. One, I don’t get paid for it; two, whining about how you can’t, don’t want to work is not work. Get with the program here.

What I have learned, over a career that now spans two centuries and three decades—I’m not really that old, not yet, I was just almost a child prodigy—almost a true story—is that the only cure for when you don’t want to work?

(You’ll hate this.)

It’s to start to work. Open the notebook—laptop. Get the dry paintbrush out of the jar. Pick up the rake. Fold the first sock.

(I probably meant to write towel—but I like that image—and who folds socks, by the way? Anyone?)

That, in the end, is the difference between the professional and the amateur. The working artist and the wanna-be artist. The published author and the eternally aspiring one.

One learns to work when they don’t want to work… and the other doesn’t.

I don’t want to work.

I don’t want to play, either.

But. Here I go.

Words.

xoxo

“Jane”

Pandemic Diary: Helplessness tastes like sand; eat chocolate instead

I feel fat, which means I am very unwell and about to stop eating. My mouth feels full of yesterday’s food and I feel layers of fat and flesh obfuscating my soul. My belly–I grimace at it in the mirror–looks large and swollen.

I feel shame.

It is possible that I’ve put on a few pounds over quarantine. I’m drinking too much, people who love me are feeding me a lot of chocolate and ice cream—and chocolate croissants, with chocolate and ice cream on the side—and the other day, Cinder made lasagna, delicious, poisonous cheese and gluten, and I devoured it, gastrointestinal discomfort be damned.

So it is possible that I’m heavier. Fatter. Flabbier. But that I am having these thoughts, drowning in these thoughts? It has nothing to do with my actual weight or body shape. And everything to do with my mental health, which is, at best, shitty.

Yours, too? Yeah. I’m not well and neither are you. Nor is she. He. Them. Not to mention our therapists.

Flora’s medical team, notably her psychologist and our family therapist, fuck up big time last week. I lose it with them in a pretty spectacular way. Hang up in a fire of righteous anger that has still not burnt out.

Later, while not letting go of the anger—it’s still burning, hot—I recognize that everything I’m feeling? They’re feeling too. They’re not well either. Nobody is. So how can we help each other?

 

Over the weekend, we hold the first YYC Queer Writers meet-up since COVID. Via Zoom, still, cause half of us are waiting on post-protest COVID-19 tests (we are a cohort of socially responsible anti-racists and anarchists) and the other half don’t have the energy or will to leave the house or couch. We love each other and hold space for each other… and almost all of us break down.

I remember thinking, writing, when all of this started that the fact of this being a communal, global crisis rather than my personal tragedy helped. It kept me from navel-gazing and drowning in personal sorrow as I had the year we were trying to save Flora’s life.

I lied.

This is worse. Broken people helping broken people, mutual salvation stories? It’s the stuff of films and fantasies. Empty people attempting to fill their wells from other empty people end up drinking sand.

Yesterday’s meal, coats my gums, tongue, saliva even though I’ve brushed my teeth, once, twice, thrice. It tastes like sand.

 

The sun is out and it’s a beautiful day. Yesterday, there was rain, hail, flash flooding and a tornado warning. I looked at the pictures from around the city on my phone and then, the rising level of water in our alley—“Are we going to have to evacuate again?” Ender asked., “We need to go clear the drain, Mom, now, hurry,” and there we were, in the alley, clearing debris off the storm drain so the torrents of rain would have a place to go.

And I thought—no more. Seriously, you throw one more thing at me this year—I fucking quit, no more, no more.

We don’t flood or suffer hail damage, but other parts of the city aren’t as lucky.

I think about them, helpless. What if they felt like me—no more, one more thing, and I fucking quit—and then, one more thing, fist-size hail stones breaking house windows?

No more. I’ve got nothing left to deal with this. I quit.

I know you feel this too. And many of you are going through much worse things than I am. I have work—not stable work, mind you, thanks, Jason Kenney, for delivering on all your election promises to eviscerate education, appreciate it—but still. For now, work. And, despite the incompetence of her therapists, Flora is doing well. Cinder is working and thriving. Ender is love. The call just came—I don’t have COVID-19, so there’s that. Also, even if I ever get it—I have a robust immune system and I’ll probably just have the sniffles. Of course, I did just see the other day that obesity is one of the contributing risk factors to complications and death. And I am now fat—need to stop eating. On the other hand, a few weeks in a hospital bed—I could use the rest. Death? I probably wouldn’t die and if I did—honestly, kitten, right now, it’s difficult to get motivated about living, so, you know. We must all die sometime.

This is bad. Right? You do not want mothers, people with responsibilities—the normally resilient people who get shit done, who keep calm and carry on and do all the things to think like that, do you?

I think about this, a lot: if things are this hard for me right now, how hard must they be for people with no house security, no food security? For those families who have lost family members to COVID-19—run-of-the-mill cancers—police violence—domestic violence?

What I don’t think about, much: the future. Do you ? Can you visualize it? It eludes me, and that’s frightening. So I turn my attention to what I can control.

I feel fat. I feel the flesh on my belly, my ass and it repulses me. I can control that, make that disappear.

I can stop eating.

My form of self-violence, self-harm.

Deep breath.

An act of immense will: I eat some chocolate as if it were a Communion wafer and take the dogs and Flora for a walk in the sunshine instead.

xoxo

“Jane”

 

Pandemic Diary: Getting out of bed to protest–also, to make breakfast–during a global pandemic

i.

Another day of not wanting to do things, not wanting to get out of bed, not wanting to teach the workshop I so lovingly designed, not wanting to deal with dogs, children, family.

Sean takes our beast for her early morning walk and when I finally come up to the kitchen to start my day’s work—don’t want to do it—he is on his hands and knees washing the kitchen and living room floor. “Pee or puke,” I ask, don’t really care. “Muddy paw prints,” he says. He didn’t want to walk the dog either, doesn’t want to start his day washing the kitchen floor. I should feel grateful.

I don’t.

I do wonder—did he want to get out of bed?

Probably not—the whole world does not want to get out of bed right now.

But. We do.

ii.

Something good: yesterday, after Flora and I get back from the Black Lives Matter vigil and Sean picks up Cinder from work—Ender is violating lockdown rules and having a sleepover with his grandmother and cousins, ssshhh, don’t tell the self-appointed sanctimonious “deprive yourself of all human contact until there’s a vaccine” quarantine police—we kind of reaffirm the beauty, the power—the necessity—of the ordinary. We take our furry beast for a rumble on the hill. Then, Sean makes us gin and elder flower tonics in badly washed martini glasses. We sit on the balcony watching a storm approach. So many things we should tak about, but this calm before the storm is precious, and we are exhausted.

So. We don’t.

The teenagers come down to join us. And take us on a trip down memory lane… and alos, carefully, tenderly… look to the future.

When I start to chase Flora to bed a couple of hours later, she protests.

“I’m enjoying family time!” she says.

We look at anti-racist memes on Insta and Twitter together for a while longer.

I am, in the middle of battle and uncertainty, very briefly, at peace.

iii.

Out of bed. Pen. Notebook. Coffee. But this is not  a happy moment, for I don’t want to do any of the things that usually bring me joy, and the things to which deadlines are attached I want to do even less. Also, I hate people, all people, even you, and hate is an ugly, exhausting emotion, I want it gone.

Coffee. Pen. Paper. Words. My prayer, my meditation.

Halfway down page two, I feel at peace.

It’s gone by the halfway point of page three. Still. It’s something.

iv.

Something’s got to give, break, crack, change.

The Black Lives Matter protests  in the streets, peaceful in Canada and most other countries, intermittently crossing the line into fire and violence in the US, are an external manifestation of this individual, internal feeling in my heart, perhaps in yours. They are the foment—not yet the explosion. Not yet the change.

Something’s got to give.

The pressure is building.

v.

I get out of bed, pen, paper, coffee, words, and then, all the things, because, one day, Cinder and Ender’s children—Flora does not plan to use her uterus—will ask me, “What did you do in 2020, Babciu,” and I don’t want to say, that was the year I didn’t get ouf of bed, that was the year I suffered, whined, complained, wanted to be over.

But it’s very hard. I wonder if I’ll remember to tell them that.

I did the things we had to do. But it was very hard. 2020, the year that you will remember as the year that changed the world? That was the year that it was very hard to get out of bed.

But.

I did.

xoxo

“Jane”

PS Yesterday’s vigil in yyc can be viewed here: https://www.pscp.tv/w/1mnxelybwwNJX?

Pandemic Diary, the Collection from Nothing By the Book

I am, of course, blogging the pandemic. What else would I be doing?

Below is a collection of my Pandemic Diary posts, from March 17, 2020 onward. I’d say, “Enjoy,” but they’re not really fun. Yet? Maybe eventually, I’ll get funny again? One can hope.

In the meantime: I’m documenting. You’re welcome. 😉 xo

Pandemic Diary: Alberta reopens for petrosexuals’ golfing pleasure

I don’t golf, so nothing in my life changed this weekend—you did hear that Alberta re-opened golf-courses on Saturday as part of its economic restart? That’s Alberta to me, in one action: who are we going to pander to? The rich! When are we going to do it? Now, now, now—they’re not so good at delayed gratification, and they need their golf courses open now.

I’m being unfair. Of all the social activities that can be done together and yet six feet apart—so long as you don’t share a golf cart, cause I’m yet to meet a golfer who shares golf clubs—golf is atop of the list.

Still. The optics fit in well with the priorities of the Alberta government.

My precious coffee shops, sheesha lounges and bookstores—also, my hairstylist, dear god, do y’all need a haircut as badly as I do?—may re-open as early as mid-May as part of a “safely staged” recovery plan through which, the politicians and pundits inform me, the world will slowly but surely go back to the way it was. Except, of course, it won’t, because, actually, we don’t really know what we’re doing and we don’t really know what’s next, and it’s all guess work, and uncertainty is hard—could we, at least, golf while the rest of you are sorting it out?

When I say “we” don’t know what’s going on and what’s coming, I mean, all of us. Everyone. From the people in charge all the way down to you and me. We’re all trying to sort fact from fantasy, best practices from delusions, whether we’re doing the sorting in our newsfeeds or during high-level briefings with epidemiologists and economists.

Do the epidemiologists and economists know what’s coming? I don’t know. I am, as you know, a borderline pandemic denier—or, to put it more fairly, I totally think there’s a pandemic happening but, frankly, it’s not deadly enough. There are too many of us and if 10 per cent of us disappear tomorrow, Mother Earth will throw a little party and then turn her attention to designing another plague that will clean house even more effectively.

Still, the part of me that recognizes the binding force of my social contract with you is staying home, wearing a mask to the grocery store, and limiting my mammalian social contact interactions to my small, safe covid cohort, and to walks—six feet apart—along with river with a handful of friends.

Having done that for—I’ve lost count, more than 40, fewer than 60—days, I’d rather do it for two, four more weeks than rush out to golf, shop, dance… and have to do it all over again, for another 60 days or more, through July and August.

I am, of course, neither an economist nor an epidemiologist, and most of the numbers about the pandemic’s infection, hospitalization, and mortality rates as well as its impact on the local and global economy make about as much sense to me as Donald Trump’s press conferences. But, from my layperson’s, mathematically impaired point of view, the world economy got such a profound kick in the gonads that two weeks more, two weeks less is not going to make much of a difference to its recovery. And Alberta’s economy, given the petrosexual fixations of its premier and ruling class, is going to recover never. So, really—wait! I figured it out!

Alberta’s economy is going to recover never—so we might as well golf now. Right? Suddenly, it all makes sense.

I don’t golf, so I didn’t golf yesterday and I won’t be golfing on Monday, but I don’t begrudge those who will be. Enjoy. Caress those golf clubs, breathe that fresh air, club those balls hard—soothe your aching petrosexual heart on the manicured, human-made unnatural landscape of the province that you so dearly love. I’ll be outdoors too, soothing my unpetrosexual heart in my own way, and not thinking about how you’ve fucked over the economy of the province I try to so hard to love.

I won’t be rushing out to do all the things on May 14th either though. I’d rather give up two, or four, more weeks of coffee shops and sheesha, art galleries and hairdressers—First World Whines, people, from us the so-very over-privileged, would the people with real problems please make us shut up?—and let others conduct the community transmission experiment.

You, however, should go out and do all the things, and maybe lick some door handles while you’re at it.

My experiment requires it.

Pandemic Diary: Paradigm shift: choices, agency, uncertainty

I’m supposed to be marking, an assortment of business profiles and a couple of overdue entertainment reviews; also, re-grading some advertorials.

I’m also supposed to be incorporating beta-reader and development editor comments into novellas that are supposed to launch… like, way too soon.

And I’m supposed to… well, it’s a pretty long list. It usually is.

Instead, I’ve spent the last few days figuring out how to move the rest of my outstanding course on-line, and in-between, re-organizing spaces in my house.

It’s a very soothing task, reorganizing spaces.

Cinder joined me in this exercise today. The closure of his martial arts class and the Y affected him much more than the uncertainty over what’s happening with school. He examined the living room—crowded with Lego—and asked if it could be reorganized so that there’d be a clear work-out space for him.

Done.

In the process, we found a new storage solution for Ender’s nerf guns.

That child of an anti-gun mother, by the way, has way too many weapons. It’s ridiculous.

Flora’s been chilling and napping.

It’s kind of funny how the past four days seem… well, none of them seemed long individually.

We have been a work-at-home, homeschooling family all of our lives, really. The current two in high school, Sean with a full-time job, and me with out of house classes to teach two or three times a week thing is new.

So it’s not really like we’re home significantly more than we usually are.

And we’re not really stressed or anxious. Not really.

Ok, a little.

Because—media, and press conferences, and closures, and wah.

And also, uncertainty—how long will all of this last?

So. As we’ve been hearing—schools closed, campuses closed, libraries closed—I think we’ve all been struggling with the uncertainty of… for how long.

Funny thing about stress—if you know how long something awful will last, and you know that it will definitely end by a pre-determined time… it’s so much easier to endure, and plan for.

Anyway. Our home arrest, if that’s what it will come to, will not be significantly different than our regular life. For me, Cinder, and Ender anyway.

But there is a big psychological difference between spending a lot of time at home because you want to… and spending all your time at home because you have to.

Choice, and even the perception of choice, is a huge thing.

I choose to stay at home to do my part in containing the speed of the spread of the pandemic.

There. That wasn’t that hard, was it?

xoxo

Jane