Do You Feel Like You’re “Flunking” the Pandemic?*

May 22, 2020

I’ve been feeling disappointed in myself lately, that I haven’t “achieved” more during our stay-at-home order. I haven’t taken this time to think deeply about my life and determine what, if anything, I want to change going forward. I haven’t reorganized my bookshelves. I haven’t made sourdough bread starter, or even caught up on TV shows I want to see. And my first (and so far, only) attempt at mask making was a sad failure. I don’t appear to be doing anything other than just my normal stuff.

Am I flunking the pandemic?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough of “10 Craft Projects to Do During Lockdown,” and “How to Write Your Novel While Sheltering in Place,” not to mention, “Get Your Body in Bikini-Shape While the World Ends All Around You.” I understand the urge to make the most of our time and not to wish it away, but more and more often when I read headlines like the above, my response is: barf.

(Note: You really shouldn’t ask people terrified of losing their jobs, getting sick or even dying to be bikini ready by June.)

Is it only Americans who turn a worldwide pandemic into a chance to do more, hustle more, sculpt our clearly inferior selves into something shiny and new, emerging like a butterfly from one of the most stressful and frightening times in our nation’s history?

What is wrong with us?

I admit that during the past couple of months of staying home I thought I’d:

  • Spend hours reading
  • Bake a lot
  • Tidy, organize, and purge

I was surprised to find that I didn’t spend any more time than I normally would have doing those things. I did make brownies once, and I’m in an ongoing wrestling match with papers in my office, but after the closet, not much else has gotten cleaned.

No, I haven’t organized my home library.
No, I haven’t made artisan bread.
No, I haven’t learned a second language, written my book, painted the woodwork in my bathroom, or binge watched all of Netflix. I’ve listened to *one * podcast.

I think my way of coping is staying within my normal routine as much as possible.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong if you have been productive during quarantine. I have one friend who’s been tackling home improvement chores and another one who’s made thirteen quilts. We all handle stress and time on our hands in different ways.

If you made the equivalent of thirteen quilts, that’s awesome. I hope you enjoyed the process and found it soothing.

If you watched thirteen straight hours of Harry Potter movies while eating popcorn from a bowl on your chest, I hope that kept the anxiety at bay until you could cope with it.

My point, and I do have one, is that whatever form your self-care and coping comes in, it’s OK. Just because you’re not going to your 9-to-5 job every day doesn’t mean you must replace that with a long list of self or home improvement tasks. You don’t always have to be doing, improving. You can just be. Really. Sometimes, it’s better to soften

Bless you if you’ve been helping your neighbors or continuing to work in your normal job. Bless you if you’ve been keeping the rest of us fed, medicated, clothed, and otherwise stumbling along. But also bless you if it’s been all you can do to take a shower and get dressed, or make yourself and your family something to eat. Bless you if you spent two hours watching funny animal videos instead of cleaning the garage.

And please be kind, especially to yourself. You’re not flunking the pandemic, and neither am I. We’re surviving.

*This post inspired by Cathy Guisewite’s Instagram post.

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  1. Dear Kathy thank you for this wonderful post. The honest truth is like you I haven't accomplished anything more than usual and perhaps less in fact. Times of fear and uncertainty may be God's way of letting us know He is in control and we are not. His word tells us "Be still and know I am God." So just being is perhaps the best way to handle this present crisis. Thank you always for your wonderful and insightful posts. Hugs!

    1. You're most welcome, Debbie! "Just being" is and always should be considered enough. Hope you had a pleasant Memorial Day weekend. :)