Letters I Haven't Written Yet

21 days and counting

So I’m 21 days into self-isolation: a bit longer than most I know, as it started because of a potential early exposure. Luckily, health-wise, it’s all good – knock on wood, as they say. But this whole mess is far from over, and this new way of life isn’t going to end in the short term. And I’m not going to pretend it’s been easy. Despite being so very lucky in so many ways (and I know this), it’s been difficult. We’re in uncertain times, where fear, anger and helplessness can overwhelm even the luckiest of us. I’m not going to sit here and ramble on about how we have to look at the positive side and all of that – I think most of us know this instinctively, and we take it into account every day. I have a roof over my head, I have food, I’m not ill, I have health insurance, etc etc. I know it, and I am grateful for it – every day. But it doesn’t make me less scared, less worried, less uncertain, and it probably won’t for you either. And guess what – that’s ok. With that in mind, I thought it’d be fun to share some basic realisations/lessons learned I have made over these last days.

1 – Chances are, I’m not going to write King Lear. Yes, Shakespeare wrote some masterpieces during the plague, but the bastard didn’t have a Twitter account or any kind of social media. Also, let’s be clear, despite the fact that there are still arguments about who he “really” was, chances are that Ol’ Wills did not have any domestic responsibilities in those times. So you know, he could just lock himself up, knowing his housekeeper will cook and clean, and that someone will tell him when it’s ok to go out, and write.

2 – I’m probably going to put on weight. I’m an emotional eater. I’m sad, I eat. I’m angry, I eat. I’m bored, I eat. I’m depressed, I eat. People say: “oh drink water, it’ll help!” Bitch please, all it does is make me want to pee more, and the bathroom is on the way to the kitchen, and the kitchen is where the cookies live. Guess what? It’s ok. I’ll try and be healthy, yes I am exercising on my new workout bike, doing all the cool YouTube videos, but there’s still a stress element, and just not enough movement. I’ll put on a bit, and I’ll be fine. I’ll work it off later.

3 – I’m going to be less efficient at work. Another reason I am so very lucky – I do consulting and short term work as continue to work on my writing – and I got a contract just at the start of this thing. It’s with MSF, an NGO I’ve worked with forever, one that I know and love. So it was easy to jump in. Plus, it could all be done from a distance. But even with all of that, it’s hard. Again focus, cookies, lack of exercise, an obsession with the news, general fear and uncertainty, TWITTER, all of it is overwhelming, and I work more slowly than I would in normal times. And that’s ok. It’ll have to be enough. We’re all just doing our best.

4 – I may not always answer the group text. So normally I love WhatsApp groups, and chatting by text in general. I almost never phone anymore. I have some serious anxiety linked to using the phone as well, that we don’t need to get into here, but overall, I can simply say that these group chats have served me well. But, sometimes it’s too much. Everyone at home, everyone afraid, everyone trying to find a way to connect in these scary times. It means you can take a lunch break, and when you come back, you have 100 unread messages in 3 different groups. It’s A LOT. It’s not that I don’t love the people who are writing to me, of course I do. But I can’t handle the constant communication all the time. I feel like my brain is overloading, and I need to reset. So, sometimes I won’t answer. I’ll respond when I can. If I can. That’s ok too.

5 – Special shout out for those who are homeschooling now, suddenly having to spend full days with their offspring, all while trying to work. Guess what? Teaching is an ACTUAL profession. A highly underpaid and under-appreciated profession, but one nonetheless. So what does that mean? Well, it means that you’re not going to be able to do what they do. Plus, you also have to work, or simply stay alive when the zombies come. Please know that it’s ok that they won’t be writing entire sonatas by the end of this. They won’t be perfect at math and speak seventeen languages. Fuck the mommy-shamers and the show-offs on social media. Please always remember that it’s all a fucking lie. Everyone is suffering. Do your best! Can’t get the worksheets done because your kid is having a meltdown? Had to turn off the camera during a video conference because your kid can’t find his pet monkey? It’s FINE. It’s ok to put them in front of Frozen 2 for the 70th time. You are not a failure, and your kid’s brain will not deteriorate. If anything, you’ll be better for it. Chill, do your best, and remember to be kinder to your kids’ teachers when school starts up again. And fight to get them a bloody raise.

Ok, I think that’s it for now. I’m sure I’ll have some magical wisdom later, or at least something else to complain about. In the meantime, stay inside if you can, stay healthy, and take care. And don’t watch Contagion. BIG MISTAKE on my part there.