Covid-19 and normalcy


How are you?

I’m writing this early days in Virginia’s increasingly stringent isolation policies. Things have changed rapidly in the past few weeks. I feel overwhelmed.

But today I sat outside and ate my lunch in the sunshine. I read a book. I waived at another human being from an appropriate distance. Everything still feels off. But I was starting to feel normal. Starting to adjust.

I try to look at everything I experience as possible story fodder. I take notes on landscapes when I’m in a new biome, on colors and smells and impressions that may one day make it into my work. I take apart the clockwork of my life regularly — this has always been how my mind works, analysing, dissecting. But it is very hard to dissect something while you are in the middle of it.

Still, every day of this crisis I have wanted to write to you, my readers, about the things I’ve learned.

First, the brain adapts. Things become normal that weren’t normal, before, and you look back and wonder how you changed so quickly. Time expands and contracts in strange ways in crisis. There are times when I find myself only able to stare at a wall. There are times when I sit outside on my porch and almost feel like nothing is wrong.

Second, it’s okay to lean into the normal moments. It’s okay to seek them out, to comfort yourself with them. It’s okay to do yoga or crunches or snuggle your partner instead of staring down the barrel of pure existential dread. It’s okay to make words, or not to make words, to be quiet or sing, to give up on your hair, actually, or put on makeup because it makes you feel put together on the outside even if you don’t feel that way on the inside.

Third, you’ll need new things. You can’t focus only on what you’re divesting yourself of. You need new things to make it better. Pick up the hobby you laid down years ago or take up a new one. Give yourself permission to do without producing. Give yourself space to enjoy things just for their own sake.

The most important lesson I have is that we all need to cherish every moment. Even when that seems very difficult. Cherishing is hard — being grateful and kind is hard — we’re humans and we get demoralized and overwhelmed and want to somehow solve it. But some things we cannot solve. We can only let them pass through us, around us, and eventually past us.

Take care, friends.

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