When The Pandemic Is Not Inspiring: If Creating During Crisis Is Not Your Thing

When The Pandemic Is Not Inspiring: If Creating During Crisis Is Not Your Thing

I’ve written a lot of titles for a lot of blog posts that I have not written.

I have this overloaded and ridiculous ideal that I should be able to crank out work and be one of the most creative people of all time during everything that’s going on.

I mean, have you SEEN what’s going on?

But reality has other things to tell me. My kids. Are always. HERE. And I have no idea what to do with them half of the time. My mothering strategy previous to this was to get out of the house as often as possible and let them be as active as possible for hours at a time while I talked to friends or read on a nearby bench. We’ve still been going to parks…

But guys, it’s snowing outside. Or sleeting with snow threatening later. I don’t know. What I do know is that it is cold and wet when it was 99 degrees two days ago and all the indoor places I used to take them are closed.

And did I mention we’re tied to our home internet connection anyway? Because we are. I have two separate remote schooling schedules to keep track of and one two year old to keep from spontaneously combusting. It just has not been that great for creative output. Also my kids have been on screens so much that I am afraid their brains may melt and start draining out of their ears within the week.

All last night I dreamed that all of my family were just floating through my house talking about bad weather and how they couldn’t sleep. And I was so stressed about how none of us were sleeping. Also I’m pretty sure one of my family members was ghost hunting. Anyway, I woke up super anxious from my sleep anxious that no one had slept, when really I slept but dreamed that I hadn’t.

I’m going to have a chat with my brain about how it is supposed to be on my side. It seems to have missed the memo.

I am not historically an anxious person. I have always been able to sleep, always been able to do what I need to do and shut down whatever part of the brain is supposed to remind you that things could be going wrong or may be about to be going on has always been something I could shut the door on. Or, at least I thought it was.

Since before quarantine, I’ve been learning to meditate and tune in to the part of my brain I tend to ignore.

I can be whiny, I can be a sad sack, but that part of me that worries has mostly been put into a straight jacket and kept in secure vault somewhere in my mind. It has, I know, always reminded me of its presence through dreams–but lately I’ve been letting it out during the day time. And what a time to be tuning into my intuitive future pacing mind. UGH.

It’s not been a great time. Or great for productivity. Or the trying not to feel overwhelmed.

But. I knew, before this, that my right brain was never very appreciative of the fact that I tended to take it out to do parlor tricks and then tuck it away again the second it became inconvenient. I am a person who has let my left brain be in charge for way too long.

If that doesn’t make sense, you should check out this video here. Your right brain doesn’t know how to use words, but it absolutely can contain different information and motivations than your left brain. And it can contain feelings and frustrations your left brain is not interpreting correctly. Oh how I have betrayed and abandoned my right brain.

Right brain has taken the quarantine to show me this, which contrary to my productivity and success minded left brain, has meant slowing down to LISTEN more than to produce. Because it turns out, sometimes you need to take time to connect with yourself in truth before you can be effective.

I’ve needed this time out. And it’s killing me. Are we done yet? Have I successfully made peace with every piece of my fractured and over busy self yet? AM I WRITING LIKE A MASTER YET?

Buh. Blerg. I’m working on it. More meditation needed.

Anyway, does what I’m doing sound interesting and yet way too vague? Let me list some of my current goals and actual activities.

1. Learn to meditate with the Calm app!
2. Admit that I have procrastinated and avoided meditating way too often.
3. Downloaded the app “My Strength” to get help with depression, anxiety, and some goal mapping.
4. I set a goal to read 2 chapters a day. Since my current reading could never match pre-child days, my goals usually get too lofty and I burn out or avoid reading because I don’t have time to sit and read a book cover to cover like I used to. Yup. Nope. I can’t ignore the children for that long. 2 Chapters.
5. Letting my mind wander without direction or goal. This is different than meditating. I’m not trying to clear my mind. I’m trying to listen to it.
6. I deleted Facebook. Yup. Just gone. Of course I have like 25 days to make that permanent, but I’m planning on it. You can go to settings and then personal data to find a way to download everything first, and then delete that sucker too!
7. I have set a goal to have more personal phone conversations with people I have real working relationships with. Wish me luck!
8. I am going to write letters again. I used to sometimes, but then once I felt really weird after a friend received a 5 page hand written note I’d crayon colored in rainbow and seemed to think it was a bit much. She was nice. I may have just been insecure. (Note about me…I’m semi-terrified my friends will discover just how much I love them because I’m afraid it would freak them out. But chances are that if we are friends, I five handwritten rainbow colored pages love you.
9. I’m running. I highly recommend the app “Get Running” which is just verbal directions to cut through your music at set intervals to get you up to running 30 minutes consecutively (which is supposed to be 5k, but I’m me, and I am slow, so I assure that it’s not 5k for me personally. I’ll get there though).
10. I am questioning my own negative thoughts and feelings out loud to myself whenever I feel overwhelmed. I find I have to say it. Like a crazy person. Sometimes I have to hug myself too.
11. I gave up caffeine. I didn’t think this would matter. But holy cow am I never going back to regular consumption of large amounts of caffeine. My spousal fights have gone down about 90 percent since I quit. Along with catastrophizing and impulsively yelling whatever was on my mind.

So how’s quarantine going for you? Whatcha up to? Any self-improvement? Any movie watching world records being set? Domino mazes being knocked over? Let me know!

If You’ve Been Missing Something: A Morning Car Ride With an Old Friend

If You’ve Been Missing Something: A Morning Car Ride With an Old Friend
Every once in awhile you land in a period of time where for whatever reason, God lands a little extra in your lap in the form of someone else’s need. The kind of need that overwhelms you and all at once makes you hope this means that maybe God thinks you’re competent enough to help out in an important way. (And then you remember, no he doesn’t, no one is, that’s not the point, we’re all hopelessly broken, put down your pride you silly human and just do the thing.)
So I found myself getting up earlier than I usually do, driving across town and sunrise, and giving a much needed car ride.

I kept telling myself, that my grandfather used to get up before the sun to milk cows every morning. A heated car ride at 7 was not in any way something to complain about. A couple of chatty grade schoolers asking me everything from my birthday to my favorite animals were also much better company than cows.

“Mama’s sick, she’ll be better, what’s your favorite month?”

The voice in my head was calling me wimpy for not liking to get up at 6:20 this morning, already oversleeping my alarm by 20 minutes. The voice in my head wondered when the world went to hell in a hand basket and why I insist on being apart of the hell basket. The voice in my head worried that I’d said the lamest things imaginable to my little companions.

The voice in my head.

“Oh hello there,” I thought, finding my way home alone after a cheerful drop off.

“Where on earth have you been? And would you mind whining less?”

I have not had a critical voice as a companion for a very very long time. I think maybe I dropped her off a cliff in a nightmare sometime ago, running ahead of the hoards of scary things chasing me, knowing I did not have space for such dead weight.

I remember it, the dream where I killed her. Or maybe just abandoned her. I looked into her eyes. My eyes. I split a little piece of myself off and threw her into a pit, or maybe a stadium. I can never remember which.

“I have to go now,” she said.

I couldn’t speak as I tearfully threw her in and turned to run as quickly as I could, already longing for her, picturing her body somewhere below the road.

I don’t know why I’ve always thought that. That I intentionally buried or dropped or maybe murdered some piece of myself way back in the early days of my adolescence. That dream. The one after which I never felt quite whole. Never a kid again but not really ever grown up.

There’s one picture of me in particular that reminds me of that murder, or abandonment. It’s a drawing, actually. The assignment was to draw a self portrait. I did it late at night after procrastinating. I didn’t want to do it. Finally I stood in front of the bathroom mirror, balancing my sketch book on the sink edge. I didn’t think about it. I didn’t want to. What came out felt so vulnerable that I glued cartoons around it to soften the way it made me feel. It’s the way my face looks when I drop all pretense. When I’m concentrating instead of trying to make it look like something else. It made me feel like it was obvious something was missing in my natural state. Years later after rescuing it from water damage and lugging it halfway around the world, that look still gets me. I love it and I’m afraid of it.

Every time I see those eyes in my mind I shiver a little. The me I killed. Or maybe just lost. Who is she?

But today I heard the familiar voice. The one that was mad when I had to share my things no matter how new or how nice and I had to bite my tongue if someone broke them. The voice that felt murderous when someone brushed barbie’s hair and then popped her head straight off. The one from the day they killed my favorite trees, and the day they killed the one I decided to love after them.

She’s always known how she felt, and never shied away from critical tid-bits, either at myself or others.

I know people who spend their entire lives running from their critical voice. But I think I’ve been looking for mine, like a child on a milk carton. “Have you seen this girl? If found, she will probably tell you to tuck in your shirt and get a haircut and maybe not to chew so loudly.”

Someone to care about dishes that haven’t been done, or exactly the right way to fold socks. Someone who buys the clothes I actually want in the right size and knows when someone else has been rude. Knows when I’ve been rude. The voice that forced me to give the Sunday school money back that I stole from Ashley Conklin. (I think that was her name.) But also the one who knew that when that kid in fifth grade punched me, he should have been the one to get in trouble, that I didn’t have a big mouth–it was in fact exactly the right size.

And this morning I realized she had found a seat in the car next to me and was staring me down. Chastising me for being wimpier than a dairy farmer. But comfortingly patting my arm as I drove home smiling from my journey. I’d done what I said. I showed up, the ride was given. Such a small thing. Such a good thing.

Do you know what’s worse than having a critical voice? Having one with no power. Having one that doesn’t matter. Having one that got thrown over a cliff sometime ago out of a need to survive. I’ve been making due with resentment and stubbornness masquerading as critique for some time. But those voices could never do her job. It was always about some personal vendetta, or digging in my heels so someone doesn’t make me give what I don’t want to, or what I can’t, or what I don’t have enough of yet again. It turns out absolutely nothing else could do her job.

I’ve missed her so.

So I found myself driving home, noticing what I think is shabby, or out of shape, or missing, or just a little skewed.

What a relief what a relief what a relief.

For when you can notice what is wrong, maybe you finally have a chance to fix it, or even prevent it.

And if she’s back, maybe nothing is chasing me anymore. Maybe anxiety can give way to anger. The good kind. The primary anger that rights what’s wrong with a level head and confidence I often lack.

I drove home from my morning run to sit with my family around a kitchen table eating cereal and drinking coffee. The good kind pressed in a French press. Dare I say, the right kind?

I do this, sometimes. I invent a reason why something that’s been wrong could be right all of a sudden. I epiphanize myself right out of reality. Maybe I’m just telling myself I can grow a critical voice, a voice that cares and understands what is right and wrong, needed, expected, and handles it well. Maybe the fact that I envisioned my critical voice as a child I tossed over a cliff into the shadows a long time ago is crazy. Maybe it’s way too telling. But maybe–maybe if I lost her in a dream, maybe I can find her in one too.

“That’s too much sugar,” she says. “Do you really need that much sugar?”

I smile to myself. Maybe I don’t.