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Pandemic (un)Productivity 

posted on May 15, 2020


For the past few years, I have had this recurring dream, where it is the end of a vacation and I am scrambling to get to the beach because I realized that I stayed in my hotel room for the entire trip. I am bargaining for more time as I unpack and repack my suitcase because I didn’t get a tan, I didn’t have any fruity drinks, I accomplished nothing, and I wasted my precious vacation time. Dream me laments about how irresponsible I was with my use of time and at the end of each dream, I am promising myself I won’t stay cooped up like that again. 

 

COVID-19 has given us an unexpected vacation in a sense. A vacation from our day in and day out, normal routine. For most people, their routine has been shaken up, but it is not a vacation. It is an absolute nightmare, with work harder than they could ever imagine, with anxieties running high constantly, and uncertainty about what will come next. For others, it has been a time to slow down in a lifestyle that demands us to keep moving faster. 

 

It is difficult to reconcile the spectrum of situations individuals are experiencing and that they are also taking place simultaneously. I have wrestled with those feelings over the past few months, knowing both people in the healthcare field on the front lines, but also feeling grateful to spend time with my partner and with my dog, who I know doesn’t have much time left. 

 

As we move from red to yellow, and eventually from yellow to green, my dream anxieties are mixing with my waking anxieties. My brain is saying things like, “You have had all these weeks at home and nothing to show for it.” And, “Why didn’t you paint the kitchen? Why did you lay on the couch in a blanket for all that time? You could have organized the basement, and read your stack of books, and finished making your quilt.” 

 

These are things I am working through with my therapists (yes, that is plural), my friends, and my partner. They tell me – and they are right – that this is not a vacation, this is a FFF (flight, fright, freeze) situation. We are in constant survival mode, with warning alarms blaring. Does painting my kitchen help me survive? No. Does spending time on the couch with my old dog help me survive? Probably yes, in an emotional sort of way. 

 

How do we keep some semblance of normalcy while we are told simply going to the grocery store (to get life sustaining food) isn’t safe? A few weeks ago I went to Rite Aid, and by the time I got in line, I worked myself up to the point where I had to leave my things on a random shelf and walk out without buying anything. 

 

So with the Rite Aid situation in mind, I want to list some things that I did successfully to prove to myself that I was productive – and maybe it’ll help someone else who is struggling with this.

 

Things I did during COVID-19

  • Read 6 books, and counting (I am 7 books ahead on my 2020 reading challenge!)
  • Made masks for friends and family
  • Continued therapy with my couple’s therapist and personal therapist
  • Worked on difficult things from therapy
  • Dabbled in painting (watercolor is really hard)
  • Cleaned our house, made it a big mess, and cleaned it, and made it a mess….
  • Dug out and gave away a stupid amount of rocks from our garden
  • Spent quality time with my partner and my pets
  • Played hours of Homescapes
  • Binge watched Designated Survivor, Mrs. America, and Little Fires Everywhere
  • Worked with my psychiatrist to try a different medication 
  • Learned how to use Procreate (sort of) on my iPad 
  • Repotted plants
  • Retrained myself to sleep in
  • Attended two virtual Creative Mornings
  • Attended a virtual talk with Margaret Atwood

 

As I am reflecting on this, I definitely still feel like I didn’t accomplish anything important during this time and that I *should* have been more *productive* by normal societal standards. (Lol, what is normal?)

 

However, would I have read 6 books in 8 weeks with my pre-COVID schedule? Definitely not. 

 

Would I have attempted to learn how to paint? Nope. 

 

Would I have had time to watch 60+ episodes of TV? Not without losing a lot of sleep. 

 

Going forward, I will still be reading, I might still paint something, and I will definitely still be watching TV. I am hopeful I can do these things without feeling guilty for wasting “vacation time” and call tell my a**hole brain to suck it. 

 

Note: I have an immense amount of privilege in that I’m healthy, housed, & financially stable at the moment. My feelings on the state of things from that lens will have to wait for another day.

 

For the cats, 

Catlyn

 

 

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