Pandemic journal: Day 33

Wednesday, April 15, 7:22 AM

Day 33 of voluntary social distancing, Day 30 of county shelter-in-place, Day 27 of statewide shelter-in-place

Theme of the week: You are here 

I’m writing again with HB & AS, and H has just read us part of an amazing short story she’s working on, and A is writing a poem for me apparently, which is a gift and a half! I am, of course, not writing anything like that. I’m envious, but I also don’t want to be crafting and revising and sending out. I’m not sure if I want to be doing that work ever, to tell the truth, because (as I discovered a couple of years ago) I write to document for myself and I’m not so sure I care about any of the rest of it. 

A list of all the things I’m not doing, during SiP: 

  • Working on the family history: interviewing relatives over Zoom, reorganizing my notes, trying out different forms and structures and sketches, research
  • Learning to use my immersion circulator: making custards in jars, braising tough cuts of meat
  • Baking bread that needs time and kneading and shaping and precision
  • Attending to my physical weaknesses and tendencies, stretching and releasing all the tight places in my body, unlearning old habits, building strength, re-learning handstands, doing yoga every day or almost
  • Finally giving meditation a proper try, doing just a few minutes at the start and end of every day, joining the EBMC Zooms, doing qigong regularly, reading Buddhist philosophy 
  • Sewing: tackling the mend pile, hand patching the ottoman, making masks, repurposing that gigantic old linen duvet cover, experimenting with dyeing, embroidery 
  • Practicing watercolor technique: still lifes, multi-day portraits, online figure drawing, sketches from reference photos, getting to know my brush pens, playing with wax-resist pastels 
  • Trying complicated, multi-day recipes I usually don’t have time for
  • Learning how to pickle, making more condiments or sauces or extracts
  • Doing elaborate makeups and getting really good at taking selfies, playing dress-up, doing campy fashion shows
  • Learning video editing, finally using that camcorder E bought me, trying out sped-up process drawing/painting videos or cooking videos with Owl
  • Trying fitness and dance forms I never have before
  • Picking up piano again, complete with finger stretches and exercises
  • Hell, various sex things!
  • Learning, or learning more, Mandarin or Shanghainese or Cantonese or Spanish or French or Portuguese or Japanese (I could get through all of Human Japanese, imagine!)
  • Having a regular rotation of making granola and cookies and beans and grains
  • Completely tidying, decluttering, organizing, and decorating every square inch of the apartment finally
  • Donating masks, putting joyful signs and paintings in the windows, writing daily letters and drawings to send to friends or stick under neighbors’ doors or in their mailboxes, cooking and baking for front-line workers or homeless or domestic violence shelters, making notes and sourcing gifts for delivery drivers, volunteering if I dared, sending notes and care packages to strangers, writing more postcards to voters (hundreds at a time rather than 5-10) 

I’m not sure how this list makes me feel. I had wondered if it would make me feel wistful or inadequate but I think it actually makes me feel mostly good about my choices. I can feel the drive deep within me toward these things, but I’m also so, so happy to let them go at the moment.

[I’m typing this up on day 67 and what amazes me is I actually have gotten through, or at least touched on, quite a lot of this list in the past month. Not a majority of it, by a long shot — but definitely not zero.] 

Last night was my night to put Owl to bed; I decided to do a shoddy job, just getting them into their diaper and PJs and letting them brush their own teeth and skipping flossing and just giving them a hug and no story and hoping that would be sufficient, and it was.

Yesterday I ate quite a bit more chocolate than I usually do, including one with espresso in it, and while it didn’t exactly keep me up all night, I think my system was a little shocked. I was up fairly late writing anyway, and then I woke after 1 with my heart beating faster than usual. And yet I still want to keep eating chocolate today…

SiP has felt a little like pregnancy for me, in that my brain has decided this is a pivotal moment where it’s vital to be kind and nurturing to my body and spirit; there’s so much to worry about that I could kill myself trying, so I’d better not even start. The key thing is just to care for myself and connect with others in the hopes of still having some resources left over for whatever comes afterward. This is certainly in contrast to my usual mode, which involves a lot of self-doubt and self-flagellation and worry, a lot of overriding my body’s signals and not taking care of myself, trying to do too much, worrying what others think, hurtling toward burnout, massive overstimulation, etc. No doubt, as an HSP, hunkering down is very good for me.

[Note from day 101: now that things have normalized, the tendency toward burnout has resurfaced in force!] 

Some more items for the list:

  • Catching up on all the shows, movies, podcasts, interviews, books, and articles I’ve saved or wanted to get to
  • Organizing Owl’s artwork and hanging it, painting their room
  • Freewriting extensively from all of my saved prompts and ideas
  • Doing activities with Owl, teaching concepts, going on walks and outings, doing video chats with friends, teaching Mandarin, making play dough
  • Discovering all the nature around the Bay Area, taking photos, making plein air sketches 
  • Writing long missives to all the friends I want to reconnect with, everybody I’ve ever missed
  • Doing extensive digital tidying so all my files make sense 
  • Taking better care of my garden, rooting some green onions and maybe some dill and parsley, getting new plants? 
  • Making large-scale art for our walls, brainstorming and executing visual art projects
  • Writing (finally) a children’s book 
  • Doing collaborative creative projects with E, maybe finally writing the games or apps we’ve tossed around for years 
  • Visually documenting our life in this moment with sketches or paintings
  • Actually reading every single one of the email newsletters I’m subscribed to

Actually, what this list shows me more than anything is the total impossibility of doing all the things I want to accomplish, EVER — let alone right now. And that’s kind of depressing but it’s also very liberating!

Short-haired East Asian American parent and young child with masks

Sending loving thoughts to people experiencing worse gender dysphoria as a result of the pandemic (not being able to access medications or surgeries, not being able to deal with their hair, etc).