Now I am ready to tackle this essay. I think. Even though my days are empty due to the stay-at-home order to stop the spread of the coronavirus, staying on task is a challenge. I plan to write this morning… hopefully… finally.
But Moxie’s cat hair coats the cushion where I want to settle. I need to clean it before I am ready to review what I wrote three days ago. While I have the vacuum out I must get the crumbs I saw on the rug and the dirt by the door.
I see my credit card bill sitting on a pile of papers. I better pay it before it gets buried. And I haven’t checked my voicemail this morning, so off I go again. Each day a thousand distractions pull me away from writing. Then, by late afternoon I am too tired.
Three days later, I am revising this first paragraph. A blurry spot invades my field of vision. I change the lighting in case it’s just glare. No luck. I clean my glasses. Still there.
I look around and it is everywhere. Is my macular degeneration going from dry to wet? Is this an emergency? I call my eye doctor. She calmly tells me not to worry. I relax hearing her kind reassurance. However, I feel achy and tired the rest of the day. Relieved, I am still aware of lurking danger, the virus.
I watch an SNL rerun and go to bed. Another abortive attempt to write this essay!
The next morning, determined, I get started on my writing project. Then I get a voicemail from Matt Parker of Stealft Investigations in Houston. He says there may be “unclaimed assets” for me or a family member.
My sister-in-law got the same message two weeks ago and contacted the DA’s office thinking it may be a scam. I call her. She updates me with information from the DA. I cannot follow-up now as I have set aside this morning to write!
But it haunts me. I call and learn he is looking for Bernie, my ex. I text Bernie, he calls and off I go caught in another distraction.
Will these distractions ever end?
This is a strange time. Every day is a new reality. At first the stores were closing. Then schools shutdown and the restaurants closed. And now all businesses are closing except for “essentials”.
There is a stay-at-home order until the end of April. The streets are empty. Each day the news is worse. Ten million people applied for unemployment in the last two weeks. The pandemic spreads. Zoom is our link to work and family.
I am barraged and overwhelmed with online opportunities for exercise, meditation, webinars and meetings. Opportunities — or distractions? How do I filter this onslaught?
Each morning I say to myself, “Another day.” A day of social isolation by state law and for me time to write. At first I thought of unscheduled days as a gift.
However, I am challenged to use the time meaningfully. If only I could focus. This “gift” is handed to me by some evil infectious virus. It’s changing our lives.
An empty day isn’t like something from my Amazon Wishlist. I don’t know how to use this gift. Normally an unwanted gift would go to my regifting shelf.
Time cannot be regifted just like the dollhouse my grandfather built for me. It was an amazing gift but not for me. The dollhouse, large enough for several 8-year-old girls, had real shingles, windows that opened and closed with cute linoleum flooring and homemade curtains.
My mother would have loved it as a child but her father was busy surviving the Depression. So she persuaded him to build one for me after he retired.
Unlike her, I did not like to play with dolls. For me a treehouse would have been a treasured gift. But I got a dollhouse. What do I do with these gifts that are thrust upon me? What do I do with a day of no commitments, just distractions?
I want to be productive but it is a challenge now. I try my usual coping strategy of list-making. At night I compile a To-Do List so I am ready to start my day on task: Write essay. Reconfigure Quicken. Sort junk mail. Exercise. Meditate.
Morning comes. Distractions begin. I am not motivated to spend hours reconfiguring software, writing creatively, nor deciding which papers to recycle. However, at bedtime if I cannot cross an item off my list, if I have wasted the day, I think of my grandmother’s message and a malaise comes over me.
I vaguely remember my grandmother telling me, “Do something meaningful every day,” as if wasting time was a sin. Did I invent this memory? Real or not, I treasure this message and let these words guide me especially in this challenging time, isolated and living alone.
Every time I feel pulled by a potential distraction I say to myself, “Off I go again!” Then I can choose to be a sinner or not.
I have learned something about myself in this struggle. Challenge is a crucial part of my life. Living things evolve. Learning something new is how I want to evolve. I want to engage life in the midst of this deadly threat.
In isolation, opportunities are limited. Learning a new craft, writing, engages me with life. It is how I choose to grow, to feel alive, and thus have a meaningful day.
When I take charge of my time, I feel alive, am not a sinner, and have an item to scratch off my To-Do List.
Regina Gray lives in Boulder.