^^ In our house, it’s impolite to let anyone have an afternoon nap alone. ^^
This past month has certainly taken a different turn from the last. Instead of being able to share adventures from the city, this month I can only share the adventure of hunkering down in my apartment and using my dishwasher as a drying rack for all my hand washed socks.
I’ve been trying to journal everyday during self-isolation to document the ways the world, and I, are navigating the pandemic. I know it’s something I will look back on in the future and say, wow, remember that? I am looking forward to those days of looking back — of eating pasta on open patios in the sun, laughing with friends as our sunglasses become slightly askew from our second glass of rosé, and saying, “Remember when we were all in New York for the pandemic?” Those days might be very far away from this moment and while tempting with their siren songs, I’ve been trying to stay focused on the present and what I can control in this moment. Easier said than done of course.
^^ Outside the closed Brooklyn Library on a Saturday evening waiting to celebrate a friend’s birthday with a socially distanced walk in the park. This was much earlier in March, now we’re all self-isolating separately. ^^
^^ This was said socially distanced birthday party which was a sweet reminder that the little things can actually mean the most. ^^
Everyday has proven to be a little different as this period of self-isolation stretches on. Some days remain relatively normal as I am still working full-time and the hours of the evening fill up quickly with writing or chatting with loved ones or watching Alta Mar or Locke & Key. But then somedays, like today, are steeped in a heaviness that remains difficult to shake. It’s on days like these, the blue days I call them, that I find books especially important in providing me another world to escape into. Whatever day you’re having, I hope you know you’re not alone in it and that despite how it may feel right now, this will not last forever.
While in my last post I gave recommendations for books that will give you a good laugh and books that would give your heart all the feels, this time around we’re traveling to a different shelf on my bookcase and talking about fantastic fiction and noteworthy memoirs to keep you company during this time of self-isolation.
I had originally planned to write this blog last night, along with filing my taxes, spring cleaning my closets, building a blog business plan, calling 127 people, and baking a pumpkin loaf. Not to spoil anything, but what I actually accomplished was finishing Tenements, Towers and Trashby Julia Wurtz and the Netflix original series Alta Mar — two things that hold zero productivity points on paper but in reality, gave me a much needed respite from the constant intake of pandemic news.
The first day of self-isolation, when we were asked to officially work from home, I found myself hyperaware of my sudden need to lean into productivity and almost guiltily, have something to show for my time at home. “Uncertain about a situation? Make a list about it!” my brain yelled at me while playing a carnival organ. “There is no anxiety to see here behind this curtain! Just focus on these good ole’ fashion, unrealistic to do lists that will eventually bring you anxiety but until then, will distract you from the anxiety already brewing over the pandemic!” My brain is very theatrical in times of crisis. Bless it, it’s like an ever running production of The Cursed Child and Moulin Rouge combined.
Productivity, for better or worse, has always been my coping mechanism through uncertain times, giving me a fake sense of control in times when I really had very little. It should work wonderfully in theory, but then again so should MC Hammer pants. What my productivity coping mechanism almost always fails to take into account is that sometimes what my body actually needs is to slow down, acknowledge the uncertainty, and just be.
Going into week two of self-isolation, as cases of coronavirus ramp up by the thousands in New York City, I’ve been trying to avoid as best I can the social media posts displaying all the things one can accomplish during their time at home. Work out everyday and get a six pack, learn a new hobby, learn a language, clean out your entire house, write a novel — this is your time to make all your dreams come true! At times it has felt like every voice is yelling to be a part of the conversation that we all need to be making the most of our time at home.
And this conversation is driving me absolutely crazy.
I have always found a special kind of solace within the pages of a book. Whatever my mood or the circumstances of that moment, books have been constant through all the chapters of my life and given me both anchors when I felt adrift in the larger world, as well as expanded my perspective far beyond just my own experience. I try to read every day because for me it’s a form of meditation. Now more than ever, I find myself spending most evenings wading out the uncertainty of the coronavirus from my couch, immersed between the covers of a book with a large mug of tea. In the hope of providing you with the same solace my favorite books have provided me, here is a handful of book recommendations to keep you company during your time of self-isolation.
I originally sat down to write a piece about the time one of my best friends and I went to a 6 a.m. sober rave on a boat that circled lower Manhattan for two hours. But then the past week happened and with it, a sudden shift into feeling like the U.S. was crawling towards the beginning chapters of “Station Eleven.” By now, you’ve received probably hundreds of emails from friends, family, organizations, your own workplace, companies, and brands talking about the coronavirus. In New York, it was at first hard to believe that a pandemic was happening when the spring sunshine was burning deliciously bright overhead, but then the streets began to empty out and almost all NYC institutions temporarily closed — the most personally alarming being the NYPL. When the NYPL (and later, Disneyland!) closes, you know it’s the real deal here.
On Friday morning, I thought I would do a last minute Trader Joe’s run before leaning completely into my new socially distanced life. Hundreds of other people must have had the same idea as I spent 45 minutes waiting in line to get into the store where employees ran around trying to restock as quickly as possible. When I finally left at 11:30am, having waited in line to check out for over an hour as we snaked through every single aisle (which on the plus side, meant a second round of grocery shopping), the store had already been depleted to bare bones. I felt grateful to how calm and kind everyone was throughout the process, all of us stuffed together like sardines trying to fill our tote bags with food as the store quickly ran out of carts, but in that moment it was an alarming reality of what was to come.
Precautions around the coronavirus went into overdrive last week in New York and on Wednesday, we were officially asked to work from home for the month in order to help slow the spread of the virus. It takes a major incident to slow down the city that never sleeps, but practically overnight it has all but come to a halt. And perhaps the hardest part, it’s all still a bit unknown with all of us just waiting in the wings to see what happens.
Today, amongst the many other thoughts pin balling around in my brain, I asked my therapist about balance. Specifically, if it’s possible to find balance while juggling all the priorities that make life feel fulfilling?
(Unrelated, how New York does it sound to start a story with, “I was talking to my therapist”? The answer is very, though perhaps not as New York as yelling at someone for using an umbrella even though it’s actually raining. But I digress.)
It was a conversation that then followed me into my yoga class. Between warrior twos and pigeons, the teacher quietly stepped in between our mats talking about setting down our expectations of needing to do everything. “Adulting is hard,” the teacher said, in what I can only describe as “the yoga teacher voice,” a mixture that sounds like the smell of vanilla and lavender. By this point, having run into the life juggling conversation twice in one day, and later a third time while finishing the book What If This Were Enough? (highly recommend), it felt like a bit of a sign to invite it home for tea. So here I am, with a little note to all the life jugglers out there.
I’ve officially hit that point in winter called the dregs. It’s that point where the novelty of comfy knitted sweaters and layering up and freshly fallen snow have worn off and now everything feels just borderline annoying.
The 15 minutes it takes to layer up and leave the house, the constant battle of choosing to keep my snow coat on while on the subway and potentially develop heat stroke rather than have to carry an extra layer. The lack of sunshine for days at a time and the constant damp rain. The lack of snow but the rotation of the same snow jacket everyday. The constant hand washing of my favorite sweaters because they’re filled with subway sweat by the end of the day. Not being able to go on long walks due to the wind peeling off the first layer of my facial skin with its ferocity and the intense indoor heaters turning every other bit of exposed skin into a raisin.
Whew, even just reading that back you can tell, we are in the DREGS!
And yet, five years after moving to New York City, I’m still here, much more prepared than when I arrived as a Southern California native, and somehow, even more in love with living here. I know it’s hard to tell after reading through the paragraph above, but that’s the thing about New York, the complaining often comes from the deepest places of affection — much like when you’re talking about your loved ones.
So how much do I love New York City? I love it enough to own two snow jackets that make me look like giant raspberry-colored sleeping bags every day. I love it enough to learn how to endure wearing a snow jacket inside so I don’t have to carry it around when shopping (the key is to take off your scarf and unzip the jacket, it will change your entire game!). And I love it enough to still try and find the silver lining in the deep dregs of winter.
January was the first time in a long time that I was sick sick. Like take-off-work, hole-up-in-the-corner, eat-only-soup kind of sick — which should come as no surprise since almost everyone I know has been hit by sort bug or another since the new year began.
If a friend were to come up to me and say they were feeling ill and considering taking a sick day, I would nearly insist that they did.
“That’s what they’re there for!”
“Your health is a priority above your work ALWAYS!”
“No one wants you to bring your sickness into the office, so go home and take care of yourself!”
I’d say these off without even thinking, believing in them wholeheartedly because, well, they’re true. But despite knowing there is nothing more off-putting than someone showing up to work visibly ill and on the brink of contaminating the entire office, on a Tuesday night in January I found myself Googling at 3am, “how sick should you be to take a sick day?”
^^ Please excuse the couch cover that needs to be mailed back in the middle of the room. ^^
A week before Thanksgiving, encouraged by a friend to just do it, I spontaneously booked an appointment on TaskRabbit to have my apartment painted. I had been casually flirting with the idea since the summer when, during a rough mental health patch, I had looked up from my couch — which had become my new favorite companion — and realized my walls were gray. Had they always been like that, I wondered, or were they just reflecting my own current state of being? Painting felt like a fresh start and coupled, with a large clear out of my belongings, a way of truly claiming it as my own. I went with yellow and cream, both which I hoped would fill the space with cozy warmth, and since then I’ve been on a mission to make this space into a home.