By Anne T. Donahue
The only way I’ve been able to find a semblance of normalcy over the last 382 days is by focusing on the smallest things possible. I write down everything I possibly can in my planner. I delete my text messages after writing back to them. My email inbox is usually between two and zero, and while I’ve always been minimalist in terms of organization, I do it now so that I feel in control.
Because – no shit – I am not. With nearly two months of quarantine under our belts, I’m finally ready to admit that there’s nothing I can do to regain the feeling that regardless of what may or may not happen, I am still the one in charge. None of us are, even those who are getting paid to be just that. We will always just be humans at the mercy of germs and bacteria and the way our bodies react to them. And to know this is very humbling and overwhelming and scary, especially for control freaks like me.
So to keep the crushing despair at bay, I’ve made my world as small as possible. Not in terms of not reading the news or engaging with my friends or family less (as if), but in terms of chiseling my mindset down from a large stone building to a stone placed next to a door. Pre-quarantine, I looked at my present and future like an expanse I needed to conquer. Now, I take things step by step, and treat everything from making the bed to doing my makeup to drinking a hot cup of tea like a small victory. That way, these victories make up my day instead of the sense of failure that tends to accompany the paralysis of not knowing who’s going to get sick when and which date we’ll all be free to hang and chill. That way, I feel like a person who is capable and can live and move and participate in my own life instead of someone who’s lost her grip on it.
Because what I think has become one of the most terrifying things behind our quarantined walls is that none of us know when they will come down. And to make it through this awful, strange, question mark of an era, you’ve got to believe you’re doing something (anything!) that resembles a sliver of normalcy. You’ve got to treat doing dishes as something you did, not something that simply soaks into the rest of the day. You’ve got to congratulate yourself on remembering to eat, on making the bed, on doing the tasks you know you have to (and will) do regardless, but for sake of sanity are now testaments to the fact that you aren’t stagnant. Today, I did my makeup and got ready like it was any other Thursday, despite knowing my highlight will be talking on the phone to a pal who can’t see me. My goals? They aren’t even close to “do this work thing” or “watch this TV show in its entirety” or “be productive outside of keeping myself fed.” They’ve been whittled down to going minute by minute, basic task by basic task, and then rewarding myself with a freezie because I just bought a box and plan to consume a full one every week.
And right now this is enough. One step at a time, one second after second. I can’t handle “after quarantine ends” conversations because they make me long for something that doesn’t even have a start date, and I’m especially uninterested in parading productivity around like it’s a badge of honor to be placed on a sash that nobody’s even made. I am here for our small worlds. I am here for feeling like I’ve done something massive by watering the plants. I am here for our dark, stupid jokes on the internet because we need to vent our fear and frustration, and I am here for the weirdness we’ve begun to tap into because without it, we feel like we might disappear. To keep going is all I can handle, and I’m proud of all of us for doing just that. Step by step, hour by hour, minute by minute, and so on. Welcome to our tiny-ass worlds.
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