Do you remember those idyllic days, back in March or so, when we all realised we’d have a lot more time on their hands? Office workers would be working from home, restaurants were closed, events were cancelled. Suddenly, whether you were working or not, there just weren’t as many places to be. Hello, free time.
Except that time hasn’t turned out to be free, has it? If your kids are home, they’ve probably been interrupting you every five minutes. If you live with a partner or roommate, they’re probably driving you up the wall by now. And even if you are in blissful solitude—it ain’t that blissful.
We are in the middle of a pandemic. Or at the beginning of one, if we’re going to be totally honest.
It is normal, in these circumstances, to be anxious about the state of the world, about your health, about how your grandma is doing, about whether it’s safe to even go for a walk.
Trying to work in a pandemic is not the same as working from home. Emergency remote teaching during a pandemic is not the same as homeschooling. And trying to relax during a pandemic is not at all the same, will never be the same, as simply relaxing.
This is why you can’t concentrate on a book for more than half a page. I can’t, anyway. I thought I was lucky to snag a long, deep book from the library that they cannot now make me return. I’ve barely made it through one chapter, and don’t ask me what was in that chapter.
I think there are a few things going on here. Partly, it’s hard to focus when you’re anxious about the state of the world. But another aspect is that everything we know about trying to unwind has been turned on its head. Forget unplugging, for example. Your phone and computer are no longer distractions keeping you from the real world; they are now your lifeline to every single person you know who does not live in your home.
I constantly feel like I’m going to be needed somewhere. By my children, by coworkers, by friends online who need to talk or who are burning off their own anxiety by posting on social media. And this isn’t exactly a problem: I want to be there for those people. I have the same desire to connect with others, to be useful in the world.
Before the plague, I was reading plenty. That included a textbook I was diligently studying. I was also journaling regularly, noodling on possible future book topics. There’s nothing stopping me from doing any of these things now, except ... well, you know.
It’s okay to be this way, and it’s okay to be honest about that. I’m relaxing now the same way most of you are, I think. Playing games that don’t take too much brainpower. Having a beer more evenings than not. Watching whatever TV distracts me best from the world around me (I started with Tiger King and have now moved on to vintage Muppet Show).
I don’t have a life hack to get through this. Exercise helps, I guess. Diving into whatever hobby your brain still has room for. I just wanted to let you know, if you’re feeling this way, you’re not alone.