^^ Art by Alessandra Olanow. ^^
On Tuesday I woke up knowing it was an anxiety day. Perhaps the emotions from my nightmare were trying to creep their way into the daylight or maybe my subconscious was further processing the fact I am fully living in the altered-now-normal reality of the pandemic, but I recognized the sensations immediately. The tight chest, the sudden feeling of fragility, the inability to find a root cause, the overwhelm — an anxiety day was here to stay whether I knew the reason or not. And rather than pretending the anxiety didn’t’t exist and pushing through, I’m learning how to care for myself instead, a habit that’s becoming more and more important during this time.
^^ Turning 30 in Prospect Park with these little loves and the handsome man behind the camera. ^^
In mid-March I went to my first socially distanced birthday party just days before New York City went into lockdown. We all met at the park, and sitting in a circle we wondered aloud about the the virus. We ate dessert and laughed and went home, not yet realizing it would be close to two months before we saw each other in person again.
In April, I attended my first Zoom birthday party. It was for my childhood best friend Imali and at the time, crowded amongst the squares of 40 other friends also in self isolation, I still couldn’t fathom this situation extending all the way until my birthday at the end of May. Yes, it was getting worse everyday but the idea of it continuing six weeks from then seemed impossible (*laughs heartily at past self*). Yet a week later, I went from thinking “this will be over soon” to quickly Googling how to make a funfetti birthday cake for one.
Dear Fellow White People,
We have to do better. As individuals, as families, and as a community. It is on all of us to be actively dismantling (hell, blowing them all up!) the systems of oppression, built for our own privilege, that have been killing Black Americans for centuries. When the protests first started in Brooklyn against police brutality and the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and countless others, I really struggled knowing where my voice and presence should be. Was it at protests? Was it speaking out online? Was it collecting donations for black-led racial justice organizations? Was it within meetings rooms or talking with family and friends? Was it reading? or petitioning local and national lawmakers, representatives, and police chiefs?
Of course, it’s all of these forms of showing up, but it’s been important to learn how to do so mindfully and with the awareness of empowering, and not, detracting from Black voices in my support of Black lives.
Since moving to New York City in 2015, the number one question I get asked is, “Do you think you’ll move back to California?” Sometimes it’s a bit more pointed with “When are you moving back to California?” but I respect that my grandma is a woman who likes a deadline and to do list as much (if not more) than I do.
I am guilty of asking this question all the time too, curious how others see their time in this city as a stop or the final destination. And during this time of physical distancing, I have been thinking a lot about the idea of home. Can home be two places? Three? Four? Five? When is a place granted the title of home and what does that mean to different people? What does that mean to me?
Last Sunday evening, as per my usual cool kid routine, I sat down to organize my planner for the week. It’s a whole thing — the colored pens come out, lists from the previous weeks make an appearance to be condensed into one space, and by the end I am feeling so full of organized life that I can’t help but scoop the cats up for a dance party.
Typically this is how it goes but last Sunday, with my colored pens and lists at the ready, I realized I didn’t really have anything to fill in my time after work. And then my brain immediately turned into this …
It would be impossible not to think, even a little, about loneliness right now. It’s a feeling that comes and goes like every other emotion under the sun, catching me off guard as Monday becomes Tuesday becomes the weekend once again. Loneliness is a word I have forever shied away from, but after these past four weeks of self isolating alone, I have a couple new feelings (and of course, thoughts) when it comes to the L word.
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 Trash by 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 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.
Routines, the elusive beasts I’ve been chasing for years and only now, am beginning to understand the true power of.