Wednesday, September 16, 2020

How to survive the pandemic and other chaos

 As Charlotte said in her Friday post, this has been an extraordinary month in an extraordinary year. Every day we ask How can it get any worse? And then fires happen, and hurricanes, and the covid case numbers start to creep up – at least in Canada. In our neighbour to the south, they have been insanely high all summer. People feel buffeted from all sides, and it's very difficult to stay centred. Sustained productive work is almost impossible. All our "normal" life anchors are gone and we can't predict or control what is coming. In the midst of this anxiety and helplessness, schools are reopening across the country, with teachers wondering how they will manage to teach anything in such an alien, socially-distanced, masked world, and students probably struggling to focus on learning the material anyway.

Some jobs require an external focus, forcing us out of our heads to deal with the task at hand, whether it's stocking grocery shelves, driving a bus, and performing heart surgery. It's possible to work through distraction and worry, at least for the short periods required to do the job. Others are more introspective and require deep delving into our own thoughts and feelings. Writing a novel is at the extreme of that. Not only do we have to inhabit our own imagination inside our own head, but we have to do so for hours at a time in order to "get into the zone" and create a meaningful. coherent chunk of story. 

Reading and TV provide a similar contrast. When I was dealing with grief, I found I couldn't read a book at all. I browsed through magazine articles and such but the sustained attention and immersion in the story required for a novel was beyond me. My thinking was fragmented and I felt flighty. I also could write the reports and articles required for my work but couldn't write a single creative sentence. TV watching was much easier than reading. You flick the switch and sit like a zombie letting the story wash over you without much effort on your part. 

Since March, I've gone through ups and downs on this continuum, as we all have. I have been more distracted and flighty, and have found I really have to work hard to stay focussed on the book I am writing. This is especially true if I've been watching too much news. I am spending much more time watching TV or browsing idly on the Web.

All this is normal in the face of a world turned upside down. And people's reactions are highly varied. Some deny there's even a problem. Some hide under their beds. Some believe in absurd conspiracies. Some take to the streets in angry protest. Some deliberately flaunt the rules with an almost frenetic, "end-of-days" enthusiasm. Most of us try to listen to the advice of experts, sort through the confusion, and take a reasoned stance in our behaviour. For us, the deniers, the flaunters, and the angry anti-maskers are just an added layer of frustration and worry, especially as the case numbers rise. 

There are no easy answers and no quick way out. We may have many more months of this uncertainty and as the days grow dark and cold, we will need all our resources of resilience and support. There have been lots of articles written about mental health, but I recently came across this interesting article which has some useful tips and information. 

I find that walking through nature helps me to find that peace and focus to connect with my creative side. What works for you?

1 comment:

Charlotte Hinger said...

Oh Barbara, I don't have any trouble at all concentrating on books. My reading can only be described as self-medication. It's been removal from reality.

Isn't this all crazy? Just when we here in American thought it couldn't get worse, we lost Justice Ginsberg.