Hope during the tough times

What We’re All Feeling Right Now

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It’s odd being a writer without the words, a photographer who hasn’t felt the urge to pick up a camera, a creator who wants to do absolute no creating. And yet here we are.

In the past weeks, I’ve reverted back to familiar patterns I thought I’d tucked away in a box on a top shelf years ago, leaving it there to collect dust over the decades to come: namely sleeplessness, staying up until well beyond the witching hour until my eyelids finally lost the fight, afraid the moment I fall asleep the world won’t be here when I wake up.

I’m an extrovert with no desire to socialize. It’s been 17 days in—for us at least—and I haven’t really missed social interaction, it turns out. Will this change me when we come out on the other end? Will it forever alter how we all operate?

I have no need to go out, and yes, I firmly acknowledge my privilege in having both a comfortable and spacious house within which to glide effortlessly from room to room, a partner who lifts me up, provides me with mental and emotional accountability, and keeps me fed. A trio of animals who follow me around as if I were the Pied Piper, leading them to some Utopia of endless bacon and lethargic squirrels to bully.

And yet still, I can’t comprehend: Why are people still socializing? How is it so hard to just do the moral thing and STAY THE EFF INSIDE? We’re not talking in terms of forever here; we’re talking about until the world is safe for you to go outside. You can suffer a few months of boredom for the greater good. Other than essential grocery runs, which we’ve now delegated to Instacart (God bless the gig economy workers who are still doing these necessary tasks for the masses), I’ve felt no desire to leave my home, and I can’t comprehend those who do, unless to go to work or fulfill an essential need.

How do you reconcile losing one’s entire livelihood in a year full of Mondays? Because that’s exactly what this past month has felt like: the cruelest form of Groundhog’s Day, where a new shoe—a steel-toed boot transporting a new set of horrors—drops on the daily. It’s been less than a month since the Nashville tornado permanently altered the lives of so many dear to us, and yet, before I even had time to process it, to grieve with loved ones, this evil came riding in on its coattails, sucking the breath and life out of every last one of us.

I have no answers, and I feel like we’re all looking to someone, anyone, to provide them for us. But I do know this:

I feel scared. Not for us being SVV and me, really. We’ll be fine, we always are— at least I tell myself that to shove any fear back into the furthest reaches of my insides. But I am terrified for everyone, everywhere. The elderly. The immunocompromised. The restaurants who may never bounce back. The small distilleries and breweries who have already been forced to shutter, lay off or furlough employees, cease production until who knows when (maybe forever). The private practices. The independent stores and boutiques. The cafes and coffee houses that are the beating hearts of so many communities. People like my parents who were forced into retirement after a stroke and rely on their long-term stock investments to stay afloat. Anyone who owns a business. I don’t care what industry you are in, we are all affected. So instead of adopting a “woe is me” attitude, let’s all think of the individuals and entrepreneurs everywhere who may not rebound from this. Literally no one remains unaffected.

I feel a lack of guilt for distancing myself from people and things that don’t do me service. This is prime time to rid yourself of the clutter that only brings your life added stress and not joy. Learning to say “no” has been one of the most advantageous skills I have acquired over the last handful of years, and I’m using it liberally during these times with zero guilt.

I feel unmotivated to work. This is a new feeling for me: In a time where I have few, if any, hard deadlines, it’s hard to motivate myself to get ahead of the curve and work toward writing and marketing projects that may or may not come to fruition when this is all over. And yet…

I feel unencumbered by a need for productivity. Sure, I put together a list of things to keep you preoccupied, because if you’re like my husband, an hour of free time is akin to a prison sentence at Rikers Island. But I’ll be honest: While I’ve had plenty of productive days through this, I’ve had just as many where I stayed in bed all day and read. Or didn’t even crack a spine. Or snuggled Ella. Or just laid there, catatonic. Or painted for the sake of a creative release. Or planned to paint all day and never even broke out a brush. This isn’t the time to beat yourself up for unhealthy living, not getting in that at-home workout or not completing your novel. This is a time for survival above all else. Be kind to yourself.

I feel frustrated by the politicians like our own Tennessee state governor who can but aren’t doing enough. And those who finally do, but too little, too late. And, on the flip side, I feel equally frustrated for those in states like New York who are doing all they can but have residents who refuse to comply. Why can’t we all get on the same page here? It’s not a violation of constitutional rights to ask humans to respect and protect the lives of their neighbors.

I feel annoyed by influencers who are acting as if nothing has happened. I get that “selling” may be your bottom line, but there’s a time and place for everything. How can you hawk sundresses and floppy hats and other frivolous purchases without acknowledging the world of hurt the general populace is going through at the moment? This does not apply to the makers and small business owners selling goods and trying to survive, but for the love of God, Instagram “models,” stop being tone deaf.

I feel eager to see if this has a positive impact on the environment. Already, the smog is lifting in China, the water is clearing in Venice—how will our Earth heal after it’s given even more time and grace to do so? Will this change the way we treat the only home we’ll ever know?

I feel helpless. I’ve never wished to work in a medical field before—I faint at the sight of blood, so perhaps it was wise I didn’t choose that career trajectory—and yet I would give anything to be able to contribute to proactively saving lives. Every doctor, nurse, emergency responder or hospital worker of any kind deserves a Presidential Medal of Freedom after this is all over.

I feel hopeful. Because a thing of beauty so often emerges from the darkest hours. We saw it in the immediate aftermath of the Nashville tornado, and we are seeing it around the world with those who are doing their part to stay home, others who are on the front lines of this crisis and the hundreds of thousands cheering them on via acts of kindness, no matter how big or small. The world so often feels like a cruel place, but witnessing acts of kindness remotely have made me feel more love than ever.

With all of that said, how are you faring? How are you coping with the stress, fear and trauma? I’m thinking about every last one of you out there, whether we’ve met in person or are just connected via the invisible tether of the Internet, and sending you love, light and, most importantly, hope.

COMMENTS
  • March 31, 2020

    Kristin

    I agree with what you have to say about being scared for other people. I am somewhat concerned for my wife and me. We are both in our 70’s. She is in great health but I have been battling cancer for the last 3 years. My treatments have gone well, I am cancer free but I am considered to be at high risk. I live across from a park and everyday I see people out walking in groups, making almost no effort to keep a proper distance.

    I am not scared but I do have a sense of unease. I have not felt this way since I was in Vietnam, 50 years ago. I was not in combat but our base near Da Nang was within range of the rockets the VC fired at us. I went to bed every night for a year knowing that a rocket could come through the flimsy roof of my barracks without any warning. Our world today is quite similar, in that anyone of us could wake up tomorrow morning with COVD-19. Take a look at my website in your spare time for more info about my experiences in Da Nang.

    • March 31, 2020

      Oh wow, Ray, that’s a powerful simile. Thank you so much for your service to our country. This period must give you some serious PTSD, and I hope you guys stay safe, healthy and positive. You’re both in my thoughts, and I hope your wife is still able to continue to get the care she needs throughout this all.

  • March 31, 2020

    Thanks for this Kristin.

    It’s a most difficult for so many people as this outbreak has never happened on such a global scope.
    And so enormously quickly.
    In our lifetime.

    I’m glad that I live in Germany but I’m British and I worry for my family back in the UK, and feel very cross & dismayed at the way our Prime Minister – Boris Johnson – is handling the whole thing.

    And when I read about the depth of denial and understanding of Donald Trump, I don’t where to look and how to explain his thoughts and actions, to my German friends.

    I’m not American but I’m deemed to be the “expert” as far as Anglo-American culture is concerned.

    I’m not scared-scared as I know that I’m safe, I’m well looked after in my adoptive country of Germany, and my husband, our son, our two cats, and myself are all together in a safe neighbourhood, a large apartment and our own private garden.

    You can’t help a feel a little anxious about what will become of our community, the independent businesses that surround our home, our freelance artist friends, and our society at large, but all you can do is support local businesses, do your bit, and stay indoors.

    • March 31, 2020

      Trust me, friend—none of us on this side of the pond can explain those thoughts and actions, too. I hope you’ll let your German friends know that this blatant inaction does not speak for the American people.

      One of my first friends to get a positive test back was in Berlin, so I’ve been watching his posts from afar, but sadly he was just the beginning of a cascade of others with confirmed cases. Like you, I’m not scared-scared for myself, just for all my loved ones.

      Thinking of you!

  • March 31, 2020
    Alja

    Thank you, dear for your deep thoughts!

    🙂 i am sorry you feel like that… but I am thinking of your writing and feeling that you provided with the whole spectrum of emotions and feelings… and I appreciate that 🙂

    I have to say that, I am on the other side and am feeling great. I finally have time for myself, can sleep if I feel like it, read a book even 🙂 i feel creative and fulfilled… i have no contact (almost) with social media, I definitely do not follow the news … but I do follow (very strictly the orders on how to behave in order to not spread anything harmful around)… apart from that for me there isn’t much different 🙂

    I guess I needed this break from my work (and work I have zero- tourism is totally down, of course)- and that is the biggest impact for me 🙂

    I hope I didn’t come upon as a shallow or ignorant… because both I am not… but I somehow have always been good in extreme times 🙂

    I wish you all to stay good… and get as much energy as you need to keep yourself well… and safe

    Love

    Alja from Slovenija

    • March 31, 2020

      Alja, I’m so happy you’re in a good place! I’ve been staying more upbeat than I expected, though like most, my emotions ping-pong depending on the day.

      Not shallow or ignorant at all—we each have our own way to process fear and grief, and I love that you’ve used this time to work on your own fulfillment. I’ve also worked far less than usual (because tourism) and read books, watched movies, caught up on TV shows, and that’s been the nice thing to come out of all of this.

      Wishing you continued safety and good health in Slovenija!

      • April 1, 2020
        Alja

        Dear Kristin,

        Thank you for kind wishes 🙂
        I wish you much creativity… I guess we can all do with more of that

        Love

        Alja

  • March 31, 2020
    Libby Yates

    Hi Kristin,

    You have explained many of my feelings, although I am still going into work a couple of days a week. We have altered hours and work with only one or two other coworkers at a time-keeping our distance, of course.
    We will be supporting teachers and students who have started distance learning programs. I have also helped deliver food for some of our students whose parents cannot make it to pick up themselves. Trying to help from a distance.
    Face Timing with my grandson who is quarantined with his other grandparents. His own mother staying away from him because she works at a hospital.
    And I have been to Wal mart to pick up groceries and saw families of 4 or 5 people shopping together. Only one person per household should get out if necessary! There have been parties and cookouts in my neighborhood!

    One of my coworkers Father passed away this morning
    after contracting COVID. Thankfully, his family has tested negative. So, it is hitting close to home.
    Believe it people. STAY AT HOME!!
    Praying this will be over soon.

    Love you Kristin, Scott and families!

    Libby

    • March 31, 2020

      Oh Libby, be careful! I’m glad you guys are keeping your distance and we appreciate you helping keep the students and teachers on top of their education, as well as volunteering to deliver food. Looking forward to seeing you when we come out on the other side of this!

  • March 31, 2020

    Kristin – just a note to say that this resonates with me so, so much. I have also been a writer without words the last couple of weeks. Cheers to remaining hopeful!

    • March 31, 2020

      Sarah, sending all the hope and words your way, as well!

  • March 31, 2020
    Vanessa

    Hi Kristin. Your article perfectly articulated how I’m feeling too. Really overwhelming times, I know we’re also very fortunate to have a warm, cosy home and everything we need. In some ways I’m enjoying actually getting to see Simon more. But I worry for my parents who are vulnerable, and as a 24/7 carer my dad is feeling pretty isolated right now. Jake is really struggling to adjust to missing school, not seeing friends and having to ‘work at home’. So we’re trying to support him as best we can.

    Normally I’ve got several creative projects on the go, but I’ve just lost my creative mojo and just can’t motivate myself to do anything like that, despite the pressure of ‘making the most of this time’! I’m mostly really tired and finding working at home, along with some home schooling, general house-wifery and emotional refereeing all pretty exhausting. It’ll come back, I Judy need to let it be until then.

    But yes, please everyone – JUST STAY THE EFF AT HOME!!

    Much love xxx

    Ness, Manchester UK 🇬🇧

    • March 31, 2020

      Love to all of you, and I can imagine that lively Jake is getting a bit of cabin fever! Hope your parents stay safe, as well; mine are healthy and thriving with an equally lively 2-year-old granddaughter to care for daily.

  • April 1, 2020

    I feel all these things plus double guilt! Or maybe triple. I feel guilty for still being super busy with my job, grateful that I have the job, but guilty when I see the community that I have belonged to for over decade get practically decimated overnight. I feel guilty that when I am not working that I don’t have the slightest desire to blog or plan or write. And I feel guilty that I am also in a large house when I know others are stuck inside tiny apartments or rooms. I am watching way to much news and feeling way too sad. I am angry that this will continue until every state finally has a “Stay at Home Order” until then, we won’t be able to truly conquer this. Florida is killing me right now, I find solace in the daily Cuomo briefings and angst in the nightly ones from Trump.

  • April 16, 2020

    You’ve nailed it for me – these exact thoughts have been in my head the past few weeks. I am retired so I have the luxury and privilege of staying home and I appreciate the sacrifice so many are making for me to still have goods available. My primary concern is for my daughter who is a social worker in NYC and considered essential. How she goes out everyday to work in such an environment is beyond me.(One family member told me “She’ll be fine.A hospital is the safest place to be right now. They’ll make sure she’ll be uber protected. Right.) And my daughter-in-law who is a teacher and works part-time in a pharmacy – more concern. My son who builds Red Cross Bloodmobiles so he is essential. All of these are at the forefront of my mind. Yet the frustration I feel when I hear family members complain about how bored they are…or the friends who argue that we need to open back up as the government is taking away their freedom….or the cousin who says its just like the flu, all this hoopla for something that’s not that bad. That’s what makes me lose it and my biggest fear – my fear for humanity and the lack of empathy and the selfishness. Thanks, Kristen, for expressing this so well and so eloquently.

  • April 22, 2020
    Angelica

    We are not feeling good. Everything is lockdown. Stay home, stay safe.

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