N is for Now (#AtoZChallenge)

N2020What’s the worst part of quarantine? Not the boredom. I’m not bored. I don’t have time to be bored. I’m my usual committed self, swamped with Zoom meetings, writing, Zoom meetings, cooking, Zoom meetings, chores, Zoom meetings, gardening, and Zoom meetings. I could do with some boredom. 

Not fear of the virus. I’m past that. Or, rather, like the adaptable, resilient human I am, I have adjusted to it. We humans can adjust to nearly anything.

What I mind is the uncertainty.

I am a planner. I use two different to-do apps and used to keep a bullet journal (now it’s mostly a regular journal). I check my calendar at the start of each week so I can be prepared for what’s coming up. I make project plans. Lists. More lists. I like routine. Predictability. Or at least the sense of safety and security that comes from the illusion of predictability.

Sure, I read books and blog posts about the importance of living in the moment, that all we really have is right this minute now, about being mindful in whatever you’re doing right this minute now.

And then I start planning my next vacation or garden or novel.

But this pandemic has stripped away the future. Hell, it’s stripped away next week. We can’t plan, whether it’s a new job, a vacation, or even a Sunday drive. The only certainties are death and Zoom meetings (taxes have been postponed till July). All else is uncertain, shrouded in virus-laden mist.

Our worlds have shrunk to the size of our houses and backyards and computer screens (seriously – I had 6 hours of Zoom meetings on Thursday). And so all we have are two things:

Here.

and

Now.

And really, that’s all we’ve ever had, as the mindfulness gurus tell us, but of course we never believed it. When I have more time… when I get a raise… when we buy a house… when we go to [insert exotic destination here that I will never see except on a co-worker’s Zoom background].

But our plans were always iffy. Man proposes, and God disposes. Man plans, and God laughs. But ya gotta admit, the odds were better. In our safe, modern world, the odds that we’d make it to next year, next month, or next Thursday were pretty good for most of us. And the odds that we could predict next year, next month, or next Thursday were fairly good.

Not now.

I have no idea what my life will be like in three months. I have a pretty good idea what it’ll be like next Thursday, though–more Zoom meetings.

And so I am unmoored by uncertainty and trying to learn how to live–and treasure–life in the moment. What is there for me in this place, right here, right now? (besides a Zoom meeting). With my choices circumscribed, I focus more deeply on what is in front of me, the way a macro shot shows only its subject, the background blurry and barely distinguishable.

hellebore

My eyes are the lens, and I can choose where to train them: on the flower or the withered stalk. With fewer choices, I’d better make mine count.

I choose the flower. I choose the beauty. The love. The joy. The peace of this moment, right here, right now.

And I’d better get on with it, because I have to be on a Zoom meeting in ten minutes.

F is for Favorite Things (#AtoZChallenge)

F2020Today marked the beginning of week 4 of working from home/social distancing/quarantine/lockdown for me. In the interest of staying positive–and finding a theme that a) starts with f, and b) isn’t an obscenity–I will devote this post to a few of my favorite things about this surreal time. So here it is:

Janet’s Top 6 Favorite Things About #QuarantineLife

  1. Calm. You’d think that with a deadly virus lurking just beyond my driveway, I’d be freaking out. You would be wrong. Even though I’m working full time from home and am busy most of the rest of the time with writing, cooking, and washing dishes (note: I do miss takeout. I think I spend half my free time doing something kitchen-related), I’m way more relaxed than I was when I was working in the office. I’m sleeping better, too.
  2. Time. I have an extra hour a day that I would normally spend driving to and from work. I also have break times throughout the day. At work, my breaks consist of surfing the internet, reading Ask A Manager, and avoiding anything good for me like exercise or writing. At home, I spend my breaks exercising, doing household chores, preparing food, or reading–activities that give me more free time at the end of my workday or are intrinsically rewarding.
  3. Solitude. Pre-quarantine, I was almost never alone. I might get two or three hours alone on weekend mornings before husband and son (a/k/a the night owls) got up. About half the time, I’d be so exhausted that I’d get up late and maybe–maybe–get an hour or two to myself. Now I have the house to myself for almost half my workday. For a natural introvert like me, that is a blessing.
  4. Simplicity. #QuarantineLife may not be exciting, but it is so much simpler than normal life. Decisions are constrained and therefore easy to make (see The Paradox of Choice and any article about decision fatigue). I can do whatever I want–as long as it doesn’t involve going anywhere where there are other people. I can eat whatever I want–as long as I have the ingredients on hand. I can wear whatever I want–which for me, ironically, means an easier choice, because I’ll always choose yoga pants and a t-shirt. I’m not going anywhere, so they don’t even have to be color-coordinated. Shoes are, of course, optional.
  5. Sanctuary: The world beyond my driveway may be spinning out of control, but here in my little cocoon of happiness, I can decide what I hear, read, and watch. I’m spending my time with the people I love most (even though they’re obnoxious and occasionally smelly), in the place I love most (home). The outside world is just that–outside.
  6. Introspection–or maybe head space. Slower pace and fewer choices = mental space to think, to process, to consider what matters most in my life and how to get more of it when this craziness is over. I also find myself wondering what about our culture and lifestyles will be forever altered by this pandemic. I don’t have answers, but thinking about it is fascinating.

So how about you, dear reader? Are you finding anything good in this long, strange trip?