Contributed by Skye Beaty
If you ask me what I’m doing today, I’ll answer with a to-do list full of very important tasks like planting basil seeds, organizing the garage, making salad dressing, and going for a bike ride. It probably looked similar yesterday and will most likely be close to this tomorrow.
Until recently, I was a part-time digital marketing manager for a law firm, creating content for the website, writing case studies, and making regular social media posts. And I waited tables at a fast-paced brunch restaurant on the weekends to actually pay my rent. My work week prior to COVID-19 was split into two drastically different schedules: the first half of the week I spent working from home, staring at a screen and on my own schedule; the second half I woke up at 5:00 AM, spent 7 hours speed-walking and pretending every customer was the funniest one yet and was back home by 3:00 in the afternoon.
If you hadn’t already guessed it, I wasn’t considered “essential personnel” to either of these employers. I am one of the many people recently unemployed and navigating a new rhythm of my days.
When all of this started a few weeks ago, I was in shock. I went from working six days a week to facing an endless and indefinite amount of free time. I held back tears as I filed for unemployment and wondered what I would do. It was like going into summer vacation I didn’t ask for, except that this time I’d have to pay bills and buy food.
And never have I felt so much anxiety in the grocery store. Don’t pass people too closely. Will my germs get on the vegetables even if I’m holding my breath? Choose the best-looking avocado and cross my fingers that it’s ripe enough because I’m not touching 12 of them this time. What kind of checkout is the safest?
With the acceptance that the only thing to do is wait this out, I have tried to make the most of my newfound downtime and have slowly settled into a routine. I made a long list of things I’ve been wanting to get done, from propagating my pothos plant to organizing the garage.
What I’m Doing
I have found that keeping even the bare bones of a routine helps me feel a little saner. I try to get up at the same time every day, I make a to-do list, and I write out a schedule. Even if I don’t have a day of work to get done, checking things off a list and not letting my day disappear into a screen is helpful for me.
Every day I make sure to spend some time outside and find movement: go for a run, do yoga, or ride my bike. I am lucky to already be accustomed to doing this; I ride and race bikes with a local Nashville team and before this all started, I was ramping up my training to prepare for the road racing season. I am hopeful that races will still take place at some point this year. Either way, keeping up with my training schedule and having another reason to get outside and push my body helps me to focus on something other than every sad and scary news report sent to my inbox.
I balance this by taking things slowly and making sure to be gentle with myself. I listen to my body and pay attention to my emotions. I have been reading more poetry. I’ve been baking and cooking foods that are comforting to me.
I am very aware that this is not the situation many people are in. But here I am, doing my best with what I’ve got going on. I am grateful to have the space to go outside and feel safe doing so. And I am grateful to be able to spend my days at home and not be completely overwhelmed by anxiety.
Things I Am Learning
I think it’s safe to say that we are all learning about the importance of connection. We have been pulled from our regular routines and dropped into a strange space with no face-to-face meetings, small talk with coworkers, interactions in lines and at counters, or evenings out with friends. Most of us are filling this gap with virtual meetups and hangouts.
I have been reminded of the relationships that I take for granted because they fall into my lap and I’ve been working on reaching out to people more. I have seen a heartwarming effort being made to connect more with our loved ones who may already live far from us. I’ve been playing games with my family over FaceTime and participating in happy hours via Zoom. I am grateful for conversation and the simple comfort of laughing with people who know me well.
And I am relearning simple things like the joy of a slow morning, the mental freshness I feel after going for a walk and looking at the trees, and the ways that feeling the sunshine on our skin can provide healing to our minds and bodies. This has been a test in patience and acceptance. I am practicing and learning to look for the joys and comforts that show up in all of this.
I can’t wait to hug my friends, eat at a restaurant, and not hold my breath in the grocery store. But for now, I hope for calm, safety, and comfort for you and yours. As we navigate this unsteady and surreal time, may we be patient and gentle with ourselves, listen to our bodies and our feelings, and do what feels right for ourselves and those around us.