In Tonight and Every Night

It’s week 6 of working from home for me. When I talk to people in my circles, we ask each other how we’re doing, and my answer is, “Every week is different.” I’ve also found that the things that made me happy before this semi-quarantine still bring me joy, and the problems that existed before it still worry me. Of course, daily life and stresses are different, and they bring with them new joys and worries as well.

Week 1: Feeling the confusion and excitement that comes with a blank slate. Trying new activities to create a new routine. Tried yoga for the first time. Worked out at home for the first time. Wasn’t sure when to eat snacks or what to eat when, as I am used to bringing all my snacks to work and eating them throughout the day at my desk. Every conversation with anyone was about coronavirus. Spent the workday tapping into the dialogue being had all over the country in my field. Felt part of a larger community and invigorated by the possibilities for new initiatives and ability to create positive impact through work. Talked to my mom on the phone almost every day, which was not in my previous normal. Stayed home every night, also definitely not in my previous normal. Took a walk in the middle of the day and enjoyed the beautiful weather. Every day made a little progress on organizing my work space. Talked to my beau frequently.

Week 2: Slid down. Discouraged at work and stressed by the news. Worried about people in my life who are struggling in different ways.

Week 3: Climbing back up. Not reading a lot of coronavirus news because I receive it from family and friends. Need to know the essential points, such as local restrictions. Routine is stabilizing. What I find most worrying is hearing my doctor friend’s accounts of the worsening situation in the hospital she works in. There’s no escaping the reality of the pandemic there.

Week 4: Emotional highs and lows. Being in a temporarily long distance relationship with someone in the same state is… not hard, exactly, when you’re with someone who communicates well… but not ideal. Remind myself to not let the nighttime thoughts run wild too often. Work is fun again. Phone and video conversations with friends do me good. We talk about the challenges and also laugh. Good conversations with family make it into my gratitude journal.

Week 5: Going to sleep later and getting up later. Productive during the time I am working. Walks are now in the afternoon, after work. A couple of quality nighttime conversations with the beau. Still with the highs and lows in life happenings, but that is life. I notice that green is replacing the cherry blossoms that I have witnessed over the past five weeks. On Saturday I had probably the most screen time I’ve ever had, hosting a language group for an hour and a half and playing an online board game with a friend and his friends for three and a half hours (!). On Sunday I broke my undesired streak of getting up late for the past two Sundays. Biked for the first time this season.

It has been interesting to see how people in my life have reacted to being under quarantine (I say quarantine for brevity, but in my region we are still allowed to go out for exercise, unlike in some other countries). Introverts seem to do better, but not always. Some are glad to be living with people, and some are glad to be living alone.

What I noticed in the first week is that we will always find a way to stay connected. Right away people found alternative ways to communicate with each other. Technology makes it possible, but human nature drives it.

New Yawk

Overheard this month:

“A $600 pair of shoes. Hah!”
– An older woman walking through the bus station, exclaiming to herself. Amen, sistah! I’ve never spent anything close to that amount on an item of clothing.

“Don’t be ashamed to cry. Crying is good.”
– A man to a man who sits on the floor of the subway staircase landing every morning. Casual conversation (no one was crying).

“An elevator full of women of color at [company I work at]. I dig it.”
– Young black woman. There were seven of us in the elevator, six young black women and me (Asian American).

Sure, sometimes I witness negative or disturbing interactions, like the other night when I saw a woman sitting on the sidewalk screaming and crying while a man stood next to her and two police officers tried to handle the situation. We’re constantly bumping into people’s pain and skirting around it. It’s nice to encounter positive interactions too. In the span of one week I saw a woman laughing aloud, a man encouraging the expression of vulnerability and emotion, and a woman who infused positivity in an elevator of strangers. There are reasons to hope.

Bof

I feel a sense of dread about this year. There are various reasons for that that aren’t easy for me to verbalize.

I generally think of myself as a positive person, and I think most people I know would describe me that way, but when I think back to years ago and then move forward to more recent years, there were periods where I struggled to find something positive and some beauty in life. As is the case with everyone. Life ebbs and flows. If we’re lucky, we have more happy times than sad ones. I know in the grand scheme of things, I’ve been lucky. And #blessed, if I was someone who used hashtags.

During hard times, where I turn to find that momentary relief has changed over the years. Within the past decade one source has been nature. Looking up in a quiet space outside. Witnessing the trees that are bound to change next week.

And there’s music. Writing. People. Turning outward when it’s tempting to turn inward and stay there.

For a few weeks now certain things that I thought I had almost become desensitized to have reasserted themselves and stayed wedged in my mind past the moment. They span the levels from personal—what’s happening in my circle—to global—what’s in the news.

A small example: every time I see a homeless person in the subway now, the sadness I feel lingers longer than it used to. It seems inhuman to hear someone beg and then go about one’s day. There is a man I see sitting in the corner of the subway entrance every morning. What would help? I’m not going to give money every day. Would a smile be better than ignoring him?

I think in most cases, the feeling of malaise in difficult situations comes from feeling powerless or not knowing what to do or believing that one’s actions or words won’t make a difference.

If someone told me all this, I would probably tell them to think about what they can do, and try to do it. Sittin’ and sulkin’ ain’t gonna do anything. Well, I wouldn’t tell anyone the latter—tough love isn’t really my thing—but it’s what I tell myself after a night spent worrying or when a cloud descends on my mind.

More thoughts to come.

 

Note: I wrote this two and a half weeks ago. It’s representative of a moment in time, and good and hopeful things, as well as bad and worrisome things, have happened since then. Everything evolves (though I still wouldn’t say I’m feeling particularly cheery).