Everything is weird now. Ever since the world went on lockdown, it feels almost as though we are suspended in time. We don’t know when restrictions will be lifted or what the world will be like once they are. There are countless variables and, as we’ve been learning, the stakes are high. For many folks I’ve been talking to, there’s a feeling that we’ve reached a point where lockdown and social distancing is the new normal and not just temporary measures to keep us safe. The past is gone, and the future has yet to arrive; all we have is the here and now.
It’s here, in the present, that I think most of us are struggling. So much of our time and energy is focused on the future and what comes next. Now that everything is different and the future is uncertain in so many ways, it can be hard to know what we should do now, in the present.
There’s no right or wrong answer and, if there was, I certainly don’t have it. I’ve spent a lot of time in my pajamas watching TV, and I’ve also dressed in real clothes and been very productive. I’ve alternated between being overly optimistic and treating lockdown like a vacation and sobbing into my hands because people I care about have and will continue to be affected by COVID-19. A lot of my own plans have been derailed or otherwise put on hold for the time being. It seems the world changes more and more every day, but I continue to face the same question: What will I do?
At a certain point, I metaphorically threw my hands up in the air. As I remind myself every day, there’s no point in obsessing over things that are outside my control. Instead, I need to find ways of making each day matter.
I started by creating a short list of projects to keep me busy. I knit a shawl that included a somewhat finicky stitch pattern – tricky enough to keep my interest but not enough to add to my stress. There have been culinary adventures, most of which were successful (or at least tolerable). There have been FaceTime chats and Zoom meetings. I learned that I’ve been washing my hair “wrong” for years and have changed my shower routine accordingly.
Now I’ve run out of projects. Aside from daily chores, there aren’t many things left I have or want to do. And I’m learning that that’s okay. What we are experiencing is a traumatic event, and each of us deals with trauma differently. I’ve read that parts of our brains are systematically shutting down in order to help us survive what we’re experiencing and, once this passes, we’re all going to have a lot of processing to do.
Somehow, learning this was exactly what I needed to feel better about living in the present. Like a lot of people, I wanted to come out of this as a better version of myself. While that is still entirely possible for all of us, it’s also likely that we underestimated what we would be up against when we made those decisions. It’s okay to not be productive every day. It’s okay to feel uncertain about the future. It’s okay to have an existential crisis because, as a dear friend likes to say, simple people don’t have existential crises. If you’re feeling weird about your life, it’s because life is weird right now.
Even though we may not be able to predict the future and know what we will do next, we can take care of ourselves so that we will have options when the time comes. That means being kind and gentle to ourselves as we get through this. Know that there will be lots of ups and downs and that this is just part of the process. The kindness you give yourself today will become strength when this passes and we adjust to whatever the new normal may be.
- Brian George Hose has been an advocate for LGBTQ persons and issues all his adult life. He holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Shepherd University and looks forward to pursuing a Master's of Social Work with a focus in mental health. A former musician, Brian served as minister of music for New Light MCC for several years and incorporates music into social work practice. He lives in rural Western Maryland where he has amassed a sinful number of books, yarn, and books about yarn. He has been writing for Baltimore Out Loud since February 2016.