These are strange and unprecedented times we’re living in. Today marks Week Two of my self-quarantine. Last week I worked remotely while recovering from a bad cold; this week my company is on furlough.
I’ve been trying to avoid most social media to moderate my anxiety levels, but it’s hard to completely shut out Facebook and Twitter when you have no other way of communicating with friends and family all over the country.
Last Thursday, when my company announced the furlough, I (perhaps naively) declared to myself that I would spend the two weeks of unpaid leave working on writing projects, specifically my new novel. But then I got a short story rejection in my inbox and things sort of unraveled from there.
I’ve seen many posts from writers I follow about how you should use this time to accomplish creative goals (assuming, like me, you don’t have children to home school or work to complete remotely). But I’m finding it very difficult to let myself relax enough to tap into that creative well when everything in the world feels so uncertain. What if my mind wanders into a dark place and then I can’t get back out of it? This is a genuine fear I have about writing in a time of pandemic, and why I find so many of the recent calls for story submissions about the quarantine experience in bad taste. Of course, these accounts (both real and fictional) will become vital to the way we remember this pandemic and how we plan to avoid it in the future. But right now, I don’t want to write about the fear and uncertainty I feel if it means having to dwell in that place.
However, in true Type-A fashion, I couldn’t let this week go by without having accomplished something.
A fellow Stonecoaster is one of the admins on a Facebook group of crafters (check out Relief Crafters of America) who create supplies for communities in need (Joey pouches for orphaned kangaroos, bereavement gowns, pet beds for shelters, etc.) So I signed up to make face masks for healthcare workers. The cotton masks have a pocket that allows you to insert a face shield for added filtration/protection, and then wash the outer mask for reuse.
I am a decent seamstress. I learned how to hem my pants and dresses as a teenager because I am short. My mom is an accomplished quilter, so I have also picked up a lot from watching her.
The Facebook page has all the information about materials, patterns, video tutorials, and shipping information. It also encourages conversations between crafters, all of whom are donating their time and resources to help strangers on the front lines of this pandemic.
The masks were fairly straightforward, but the fabric ties I had to create (4 per mask) because I didn’t have any elastic were a real bear.
However, three days later, fingers numb from repeated stabbings of my seam ripper, the masks were finished and I was filled with a sense of fulfillment.
I guess what I’m saying is, be kind to yourself in this strange time–and help others however you can. If you are able to write the next great American novel, that’s great! If you manage to keep the kids alive and shower once a day, awesome! Your only job is to stay safe and try to flatten the curve.
But if you are the kind of person who needs to help, think outside the box about ways you can contribute to make the world slightly better.
How are you holding up in isolation? What are you doing for self-care?