So… okay, we’re all human beings. This “social distancing” in a climate of anxiety about wellness, disease, economic downfall, shortages, and human mortality is draining, and tests my patience. (Yours, too, I bet!) Yesterday was punctuated with a bit of snarling, a handful of cross tears, some frustrated moments… Yes, it’s hard sometimes. I sip my coffee feeling fortunate, in spite of that; it could be much worse.

I take some time to watch fish swim.

Gratitude, perspective, sufficiency, and basic mindfulness are all great tools for getting me through stressful times. They do each require that I take that step… sometimes it’s “a step back” to gain perspective, or a pause for gratitude. Sometimes it is a step forward, and a considered reflective reminder that “sufficiency” is enough. (Omg, I can’t help giggling, it’s one of my favorite little aphorisms that is also a tautology.) Sometimes, it’s just a matter of moving from one moment to another, to sit down and seek yet another moment, of stillness, of breath, and then beginning again.

You know what it isn’t, though? It isn’t “easy”. These are not easy times, and I often feel “tested”. I have some coping practices that seem effective day-to-day, but I persist in being quite human, nonetheless, and sometimes that is complicated by sharing space with another human being. We are in this very much together, and somehow still also very much having our own experience, even in these close quarters.

He games… I watch fish swim. We help each other out with projects. We tackle projects on our own. We take turns choosing video content. We both interface with the world using our phones. We connect. We interact. We take a moment for ourselves alone. No surprises here; we’re enduring the challenges with the rest of the world. Similar frustrations. Shared difficulties. Common experiences among friends and neighbors and communities and nations afar… we’re all in this together. It’s gotten very “real”, though, hasn’t it?

I have another sip of my coffee, I pause for a moment of conversation with my partner. I look at the fish, swimming in the new tank next to my desk. I check the time; the moment feels timeless, unlimited, and not anchored to any calendar events. How will I know when to begin again? lol

…I guess when I finish this coffee. 🙂

Sipping coffee on a Friday. Not thinking thoughts so much as relaxing and watching fish swim. I’ve somehow managed to start a second aquarium, on the work surface next to my desk, in my studio. lol I’m not unhappy with this, just sort of surprised that it a) happened and b) happened so fast.

…It started with my own “eagerness to please”, and my Traveling Partner’s purely observational comments about the peaceful community aquarium in the living room. I got the impression he wanted some specific change in type/color/size of fish in that tank, and I added a couple new residents with that in mind. It ended with the bullying that ensued; those new fish were not good neighbors/roommates for my peaceful community tank, and they were hassling the shrimp and the betta on the regular.

Tiny thug.

My partner and I started talking about “what to do about” those rude little bullies. Over a couple of days and several conversations, we settled on getting a small aquarium, and setting it up in my studio (where there is a place one could be set up fairly easily). The conversation had much of it’s basis, good-idea-wise, in the low cost; I had a spare heater, filter & pump, and light, left from upgrading the equipment on my peaceful community tank in the living room over the past couple weeks. Easy. Cheap. Why not? 🙂

Getting a new tank started, and preparing the water for livestock.

Yes, well… as it turns out, the small tank was easily set up, and the water prepared and ready to go quite soon… but it was so bare! So… I got some plants…

…And some shrimp…

…And a piece of driftwood…

…And a couple snails…

The view this morning is rather more like an aquarium, and less like a tank full of water. It’s a process.

…You know… that light I’m using isn’t really ideal for a planted tank (that’s why I replaced it)… so… (after some careful online shopping) the new light is on the way…

…and, um, damn, that filter/pump is pretty noisy… and takes up a ton of space in the small tank… and the heater hanging there is not all that aesthetically pleasing… so, I also found myself shopping for suitably small external canister filter-heaters. lol Oh, my.

…Looks like I have two aquariums! Each quite different, with unique characteristics (and residents), and individual charm.

Having this particular project going, while restricted mostly to life on the social-distancing-stay-at-home plan, has kept me from being “under foot” while my partner also explores his hobbies, projects, and long-term interests, himself. We each need that “bit of space”, even while enjoying the additional closeness and opportunity to connect more often, more continuously, and more deeply. We still need our “me time”. We still have our own lives. 🙂 It’s a challenging balance to strike, sometimes, but so far this feels pretty good. 🙂

I glance at the time, and at the aquarium, and then into the cold dregs of my nearly empty coffee mug. It looks like time to begin again. 😀

Another working day spent in the time of pandemic, another opportunity to connect with my Traveling Partner more deeply, with more openness, and greater… something, something, and etc. I mean, love still takes some work, and being my best self still takes real commitment to self-awareness, and practice (which feels pretty hit/miss sometimes, for results). We are each individuals. We’re in this together. Shared experience. Individual experience. All the overlap between. If we share nothing, we lose our connection, over time. If we share everything, we lose our sense of individual self and agency. There is a balance. In these days of isolation and confinement, it sometimes feels like dancing – the awkward, often self-conscious dancing of youthful uncertainty, which is a bit uncomfortable at times; we’re not kids anymore.

I worked a fairly routine day yesterday. Each time I took a break, I left my studio (which is also my “office”) and discovered some new thing had been done around the house. My Traveling Partner keeps busy with various quality-of-life-focused projects. It passes the time in a healthy way.

…He moved the furniture around…

You know, it could have been drama and bullshit, but honestly, it’s just furniture. If we don’t like where it is – and I mean either of us, over time, could decide it is a poor fit – we can move it around differently. We have that freedom. We have that power. Each of us. Both of us. I managed to find peace and balance with all of it super quickly, which was nice. No one needs my drama and bullshit right now, right? I’m unsettled by the quantity of small changes as the aesthetic of our home inches further and further from what I most ideally enjoy, myself, but there really are two people living here, and it is our home, not exclusively mine. It matters to be open to new arrangements of things. There’s so much joy in it when we both feel a comfortable sense of place. When we both feel at home.

The street is nearly silent outside this morning. These days there is very little commuter traffic through this neighborhood. People who can, really are working from home. People who don’t need to work are generally really staying home. A quick trip out for supplies revealed a world in which suburban men commonly work in the garage, or in their yards, in the middle of the week, in the middle of the day, building and making things to improve their quality of life, and that of their families. I saw a dad-aged man teaching a little girl to ride a bicycle… on a Wednesday. It was beautiful. It got me wondering, decades from now, how will we view this time of pandemic, looking back? Our perspectives are not universal.

Some people will remember store shelves stripped bare, and being unable to buy stable food items, and basic household items.

Some people will remember the profiteering, the incompetence and mismanagement, the heinous disregard for employee health and safety shown by some companies.

Some people will remember having to work from home, after years of begging for the privilege of being able to do so.

Some people will remember being sick, or supporting sick family members.

Some people will remember the anxiety, the chaos, the fear-mongering, and the uncertainty.

Some people will remember losing their jobs – others will remember being forced to work.

…And some people, who were children in the time of pandemic, will remember long happy weeks at home, with their parents and siblings, connecting over fun projects, entertained, loving, and they will, perhaps, look back on this time with real fondness, as a time when they enjoyed all the love and attention from their parents that they could ever possibly need. I like to think about that as a tiny pin-prick of an upside to all this COVID-19 stuff; some children will get loved more, by attentive parents who perhaps don’t realize that their efforts to stave off boredom, and keep their youngsters developmentally on track, is making some amazing memories.

Then, I frown over a news article pointing out how terrifying this time must be for people in abusive relationships, or households that experience domestic violence. 😦 Let’s don’t be that. We can each do so much better than that.

Be considerate and gentle with your words. It can really wear even your nearest and dearest down quite a lot, over time, to be in such close contact for so long. Social distancing can complicate that – you’re probably not hanging out with anyone else. The lack of variety may serve to highlight small things, which can make them appear to be The Next Big Deal Breaker. Doesn’t have to be that way. 🙂 Choose kindness. Choose authenticity – and positive intent. Be your best self, even though that definitely takes practice.

I’m saying it to you, because I’m saying it to me. There are verbs involved. Work. Effort. Commitment. Self-reflection. A lot of do-overs and new beginnings. A lot of practice.

I’m ready for another work day in the time of pandemic. I’m ready to begin again. 🙂

Another morning in “the time of pandemic”, another good cup of coffee, another work day (for me), and it feels simultaneously very ordinary, and very peculiar. The news articles don’t ease up, not even a little, and probably with good reason; the more ordinary any of this feels, the less likely people will take it seriously – and it’s very serious. Take care of. your health, you precious, strange, delightful, unique human being, you. There’s no one else quite like you, you know, and we’re all in this together. 🙂

As more people do get tested for COVID-19, more people are confirmed to have it. This should not come as a surprise. I encourage you to also consider how vast the numbers of people with no/minimal symptoms who do have it (and are contagious with it) may be roaming around assuming they – and every hapless bystander they may approach – are “fine”. It’s not the obviously sick people I find myself most puzzled by; we know we should stay home when we’re sick, right? It’s the less obviously sick people that cause me most concern. American culture is so deeply infected with the odd notion that only the highly productive among us have value (while also often being underpaid, and devalued monetarily by businesses, primarily to improve the bottom line at no great value to those underpaid employees) – we don’t want to yield a single work day to our own health and self-care. Crazy. Literally crazy. I’m terrified by the reflexive recent calls to “go back to work” and “back to normal” – this is not a normal time, and the pretense of normalcy may get a lot of people killed.

It is what it is. I breathe, exhale, relax – and let that go, for now, with self-reminders to remain “socially distant”, for real. Honestly, though, aside from the working from home piece, it’s not all that different for me. I tend not to “gather in groups”, generally. lol

…Why does “piece” look spelled incorrectly? Weird.

I consider the work day, in the context of the week in progress. I consider my current “sanity project” during this challenging time; my aquarium has been a source of fun, of work, of further developing project management skills, of connecting with my Traveling Partner… well-chosen for a balance of interesting details, required planning, and effort. His project seems to provide him similar value, although it is very different. We share the details in conversation, and give each other a hand with things that need “an extra pair of hands” (I could not have moved the aquarium to the other side of the fireplace, for example, without his help, and practical thinking).

Do you have a project to occupy your thoughts? A good book to read? Are you spending quality time with yourself?

I sip my coffee, feeling mostly content, in spite of a news feed that very much reads like the banner headlines from a mobile game called “Plague“. It’s a little too real world right now… Here’s a video of an actual doctor talking about playing the game.

I glance at the time. Still time to meditate before work. More important than ever. 🙂

 

This too shall pass. I sip my coffee and sigh, this morning. I’m groggy. I could go back to sleep, so easily. It’s a work day, though, and I will log on to my work laptop in a few minutes, and get started. The work day felt pretty short, yesterday (it wasn’t). Will today?

Yesterday’s moment of tension, between my Traveling Partner and I, is still on my mind. It wasn’t a big deal, and it wasn’t about him, or us. I had a moment of feeling “overwhelmed”…by circumstances, by demands on my time, by lack of cognitive bandwidth, by a sense that I somehow wasn’t doing enough to actually take care of myself, and I started weeping over the need to do one more thing in what had already felt like a very busy day. It didn’t last long, and once the moment passed I was more easily able to reflect on it (and take time to meditate, properly, for a few minutes). What was up with all that? I’m not sure, and I’m not sure it matters. If I were a younger woman, I likely would have called it “hormones”, just based on the way it swept in and swamped me, and then simply dissipated. I have a sip of coffee, and let it go. That moment has passed.

This coffee is good. My shoulders ache, an extension of the pain in my neck, and back. I breathe, exhale, relax… I go through all the physical therapy stuff, looking for relief. I go through my history, on YouTube, and remove all the COVID-19 stuff, all the Democratic campaign stuff, all the stuff clicked on absent-mindedly that I don’t need clogging my feed… maybe the content will improve? Small steps to improve the quality of my experience, generally. I glance at the time, reluctant to yield my consciousness or my soul to the work world, again, so soon. There is more to do, and to enjoy, with life’s precious few mortal years, and this morning I find myself more than usually resentful of having to maintain “gainful employment”. I’m yearning for “a proper rest”…

…Then it hits me; once source of background stress is simply the right-now reality of having to let, now, two little vacations go, over COVID-19. Restrictions on gatherings, closures of state parks, closures of many retailers not determined to be “essential”… I was really looking forward to a spring camping outing (and entire week out in the trees), but the reservation has already been canceled by the state park system, as a recent measure to limit the spread of the pandemic. I am “dealing with” the prolonged stay-at-home social distancing mandate pretty well, generally, but this morning? I also find myself seriously peeved about a vacation planned for May becoming… not a thing, after all. I could certainly still take the time off… but… how will it be any different than any day at home, right now? I sigh, and stare moodily into my now-cold coffee.

I breathe, exhale, relax… and let all that go (again). Another breath, another opportunity to let it go. Again.

And another breath. Another opportunity to let go. I make the effort to feel it effortlessly.

And another breath. Another letting go. Another effort. It amounts to practice.

We become what we practice; so I practice calm, and contentment. I practice non-attachment. I practice breathing. I practice letting go.

…I practice beginning again. 🙂