Yesterday I wrote to our Air BnB host that we were cancelling our June weekend trip to Block Island. I’d been looking forward to this family get-together for months at the perfect summer home in a remote part of our favorite place off the Rhode Island coast. But the state requires 14-day self-quarantine for travelers from out-of-state, the virus is still surging here in Massachusetts, and I cannot imagine that, even if restrictions are lifted in a month, it will really be safe to go there on the ferry.
Call me risk averse. I consider it an asset, these days. So far, as I write, I’m very grateful that our family remains healthy and safe in our respective homes. Others in our friendship circle are not so fortunate, which is both deeply concerning for their well-being and scary. I feel the virus encroaching and a need to be ever more vigilant.
Confinement, so necessary, is taking its toll. Some days it doesn’t bother me, and others, it feels like a blue funk that I can’t shake. Obviously, this is nothing compared to the terrible struggles others are facing, fighting the virus itself and the economic hardship it has wrought. But the feeling is still real, and, as Brené Brown points out in this episode of her thoughtful “Unlocking Us” podcast, denying your feelings because others are suffering more doesn’t really help anyone. Our capacity for empathy and supporting others is intricately linked to our capacity for self-care. So, I’m trying to give myself some space to feel what I’m feeling, without getting sucked into a black hole.
Connecting with family and friends certainly helps, but I am hitting my limit with Zoom get-togethers. I find them exhausting when there are a lot of people involved. “Zoom fatigue” or “Zoom burnout” is real, a phenomenon triggered by the inability to read non-verbal cues on a video chat, as well as the need to be “on” for the whole call. I have used Zoom for years for business, and it’s a great tool that makes me feel closer to my clients. It saved our Passover seder and has enabled us to catch up with family long-distance. But I’m finding that I need to pace online group get-togethers so I don’t feel so drained. One-on-one is easier, and not an issue.
Getting outside whenever the weather is good is essential for me. We had another gorgeous weekend, and Al and I took advantage with another hike, this time to Purgatory Chasm State Reservation not far from home, so named because of its huge, tumbled boulders and rocky trails. I found the going tougher, and there were more hikers, so it was less relaxing. But it was still good to get out in the woods again (albeit necessary, now, to start checking for deer ticks).
Making stuff helps, too. I sewed three more masks on Sunday out of tea towels. Cleaning the house is a meditation, making order out of chaos. Keeping up with my German homework taps a completely different part of my brain and gives me a sense of accomplishment as I learn and remember more.
Most of all, however, what’s keeping me sane is writing. I finished the third draft of my novel last week (more rounds to go, but a milestone, nonetheless), and started a new short story. The act of writing completely transports me to a mental space where time dissolves, I’m absorbed in my imagination and words, and I can call all the shots.
Real life is not so accommodating. “We’re all in this together” is beginning to wear thin, but is all the more true. I’m trying to do my part, even as I yearn for normal, whatever that will mean when we are truly able to resume work and socializing in person. And so I sit here and write to you, Dear Reader, and hope that you have found relief from your own cabin fever that is fulfilling, safe, and considerate of all those around you. We have a very long way to go and need all the resilience we can muster to get there.
Image: Ryan McGuire