The last few weeks have been a roller coaster and the world has become a strange place.
Things here in New York State are changing about every hour or so. Last week was complete chaos as my campus was among those unexpectedly ordered by the governor to move classes online for the remainder of the semester. Up to that point, we had been thinking they would be online for a couple of weeks at most. Then came the news that even though classes were moving online, the campus was still open and those of us in the library, along with a number of others, were being required to come into work with opportunities for telecommuting limited to just a few special cases which needed to be cleared with HR. There was a lot of back and forth about that but it’s since been resolved. I’m now officially telecommuting until further notice.
Meanwhile, almost all the local businesses are quiet or shuttered completely and there is no toilet paper or paper towel to be had in any grocery store in the entire town.
Not that long ago, I was looking forward to my sabbatical in the fall and excited about the idea of not having to come into the library every day. Now I’m finding myself grieving for my everyday worklife. I miss my office (especially my Buster Keaton poster). I miss my colleagues. I miss my routine. I miss my sweet used-to-be (as Willie Nelson might put it).
So the last week or so has been filled with a lot of negative feelings. Anger, sadness, anxiety. It’s hard not to dwell on the negative when every news headline gets worse and worse with no relief in sight. Instead of adding to that, I decided that I wanted to write a post about good things. Things that are making my happy despite the current misery, things that I’m grateful for, things that I’m looking forward to.
Before I get to my list, though, I feel like it’s a good idea to acknowledge my own privilege. I am lucky enough to be in a job where I am being given (after a bit of a fight) the flexibility I need to protect my health and the health of those around me. At this point, I don’t have to worry about missed paychecks (knock on wood). I have plenty of sick leave accrued if I need it. I have the means to access what I need to make myself feel safe and prepared. Not everyone has those things or even some of them. They should. But for right now I recognize that I am in a very privileged group.
With that said, here is a list of things that are making me happy, that I am grateful for, and/or that I am looking forward to, in no particular order. Some of this is work related, some of it’s not.
Please feel free to share your own happy things in the comments.
People are asking each other how they’re doing and they actually mean it: Earlier this week, when I was still going into the office, I would pass colleagues in the hall and they would ask, “How are things going?” or “How are you doing?” This was nothing new—we all ask each other this all the time—but suddenly it was a real question. We actually wanted to know how the people we worked with were doing and how they were coping with the situation at hand. It’s been the same in other places, too. I had a whole conversation with a grocery store clerk the other day (with the proper amount of space between us), someone I had never met before, about how we were each holding up with everything that was going on. This never would have happened before everything changed.
It’s okay to admit that you’re not okay: This goes hand-in-hand with the one above. Before, if someone asked how you were doing, you’d say “fine” and move on, no matter if that was the truth or not. To do otherwise was a serious breach of social etiquette or possibly a sign of mental illness. Or both. Now it’s okay to admit (in a blog post, for example) that you’re anxious or scared or angry or sad or all of those things. True, this can sometimes result in a conversation where everyone feeds into each other’s anxiety by talking about their own. But it’s nice that for once we can all just be open about the fact that we’re not okay, if that’s the case (and that’s okay).
Renewed motivation to get a social life: I mentioned that in the fall, I’m going on my first sabbatical. My goal leading up to that sabbatical (and something I had planned to post about) was to get more of a social life than I have now by going out more and participating in more social gatherings so I wouldn’t become too socially isolated during those six months. I started working on this goal in November and I actually had some good momentum going. I’d started going to some yoga classes, I had a couple of meetup groups whose meetings I was keeping track of and occasionally attending, I had taken the first few steps to starting a writing group at my local library. Then around mid-February that momentum left me and I more or less went right back to where I’d started. I’d set a goal for this month to start things up again but obviously that went out the window when social distancing became a thing. I don’t know if I would have met my goal if the world had stayed the same, but I know now that once this social distancing thing ends, I’m going to take the idea of going out and doing things and meeting people a lot less for granted because of it.
If social distancing had to happen, at least it’s 2020 and not 1918: The Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 has come up a lot lately in the news and in my conversations with other people. I admit that I haven’t done a lot of reading about it because I don’t want to scare myself so I don’t know what measures were taken at the time to curtail its spread (if any) but imagine if you lived back then and you were told to practice social distancing. You can’t go out. You can’t see anyone. The internet does not exist. Cell phones do not exist. Telework for those who normally work outside the home doesn’t exist. Video games definitely aren’t a thing. You may or may not have electricity or running water in your home. At least if we have to practice social distancing now, we still have the means to keep busy, entertain ourselves, stay in close contact with people we can’t see in person and practice good hygiene (knock on wood).
Staying physically and mentally healthy: I wrote not that long ago about how this time of year is when I usually restart my running habit because I get tired of working out indoors. Unfortunately, it’s not warm enough yet for outdoor runs where I am (at least not for me) and I have no access to a treadmill at the moment, so running isn’t an option. But the fitness platforms I always use (DailyBurn, Fitness Blender, Yoga with Adriene, and Popsugar) are still available to me right now, so I can still stay active which helps me maintain not just my physical health but also my mental health. And in between therapy appointments, I’ve been using Headspace to help me deal with my various emotions. I restarted my paid subscription but right now they’re offering a set of meditations and videos for “Weathering the Storm” for free to anyone who uses the app. I’ve also liked Calm in the past and they’re currently offering free resources as well.
An excuse to indulge in things that are comforting: I tend to read a lot of entertainment news sites like Vulture and AV Club. Those sites have been coming out with a lot of lists lately about comforting television or movies to watch or music to listen to or books to read while you’re trying not to go crazy from everything that’s happening. For me, I’m spending a lot of time rewatching Stargate Atlantis for the first time in maybe about ten years and so far it is working wonders for me in that department. I also started rewatching The New Girl, which I didn’t love the first time I saw it but seemed like a fun, mindless piece of entertainment to return to right now. And because I heard Nick from The New Girl is now on a show called Stumptown, I started watching that too and I’m enjoying it so far. What I’m saying is there’s a lot of TV-watching going on for me right now. But where before I might have felt bad for watching six episodes of a dumb sitcom I happened to enjoy in a row, I feel like now it’s okay to indulge a little. Which is to say, I’m still doing what I can to maintain a normal, productive routine but it’s nice to be able to give myself permission to lose myself in some guilty pleasures when I need to.
So that’s my list for now. I hope that wherever you are, that are you are staying safe and well and that you have your own list of happy things. I know this blog doesn’t get many comments, but if you feel like sharing any of your happy things, I hope you will.
As for this blog, my plan right now is to continue to post regularly. I already have enough posts written to last me through about mid-May. Of course, these were all written pre-coronavirus, so they all seem like a bit of a time capsule now. I’ll also write some new posts about current events as needed/inspired in case that information might be of interest.
Until then, stay safe and well and feel free to keep in touch through the comments or the contact form.