I keep a daily journal filled with stream of conscious writing — three pages every morning (or afternoon … sometimes right before I go to bed when my day gets away from me). It’s a practice called Morning Pages from Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way. I’ve been doing it for nearly 25 years, the same way I practice working out, some months I’m 100% committed, some weeks go by without a single entry. I opened my suede-covered journal today for the first time in 19 days. My last entry, March 7, had not one mention of an outbreak, self-quarantines, “essential” work forces, sanitizing routines — all the words that are taking up extra space in my head right now.
How do you write about something so completely out of your frame of reference? What metaphors do you use to describe wildly shifting mood swings, going from goofy laughter over a joke your teenager makes about your suggestion they keep a daily journal (“Sure, mom … Day 7: Today we sat on the couch again and watched more episodes of Schitt’s Creek while not being able to look at our phones because you made us put them away an hour ago.”) to un-contained fear that no matter how often you’ve wiped down the kitchen countertop you haven’t cleaned it enough.
Months ago, I had planned to spend this week, a week I took off from work because it’s our kid’s spring break, digging into a writing project about the year I decided to stop dyeing my roots and went completely gray. Silver Linings, that was the working title. Now Silver Linings means something entirely different to me — that as a family, we’ve spent more nights in a row eating a home-cooked meal than maybe the entire time we’ve been a family. That I’ve gone cold turkey on my online shopping habit — a sentence that drips with such privilege I want to delete it.
But that’s where we are today — and I’m grabbing on to all the happiness I have because I don’t know where we’re going to be in a month. My job, the one I’ve had exactly seven years as of last last Wednesday, has always been remote. But we’re a small company media company and I am not naive to the fact this pandemic is twisting the life out of many small businesses. My husband is considered an essential employee, meaning he is out in the public every day. Two weeks ago, we instituted a new after-work routine for him — he enters the house through the laundry room where he disrobes and puts his work clothes directly into the wash machine (what a funny term that is now). He then scrubs his hands in the deep sink before making his way into the shower. After his shower, he takes his temperature and then washes the thermometer off with rubbing alcohol. Starting this week, the two of us decided it was best he hangs-out in our finished basement, sleeping on the sectional couch downstairs. His razor and shaving cream, tooth brush and toothpaste now stay in the downstairs bathroom. Again the privilege of having enough space to socially distance ourselves from each other in our own house is not lost on me.
For all the fear flowing through Jung’s collective consciousness right now, it’s a really beautiful day. I’m writing this from our back deck. The sun is out, there’s a breeze. The birds are obviously oblivious to all that is happening to their human counterparts. I’ve counted at least four UPS planes overhead since I’ve been out here. I wonder what they’re transporting. Ventilators? 3M face masks? Toilet paper? Who knows. I only hope whatever is being flown from one state to another ends up with the people who need it most. I want to confess how on the fence I was about writing any of this down. Actually “on the fence” doesn’t quite work. The truer sentence is I was avoiding a conversation with myself. Saying things, fears, out loud, putting them out in the world, makes me feel as as if I’m jinxing myself. My family. But then I read this during my third cup of coffee this morning, scrolling through my Twitter feed:
if you're writing or editing or working on a book right now, it may be incredibly difficult because the future is so uncertain. but every word you put on paper is an affirmation of the fact that there will be a future. it's a profound act of faith.
— Talia Lavin (@chick_in_kiev) March 26, 2020
So, for whatever it’s worth, this is my act of faith. I hope we all are able to keep our chin up as best we can, and have someone else’s shoulder to rest our heads when we can’t. My plan for today: I’m going to continue my Nick Flynn-reading-marathon. (His writing feels like a weighted blanket to me, so oddly comforting that I’m currently rereading his previous novels in opposite order.) I’m going to go for a walk and then a bike ride with my kids. I’m going to watch an inordinate amount of TV and fix a lunch fit for a king. And I’m going to keep writing.