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Creative Relief for the Quarantined

March 19, 2020

get me outta here

There’s a great deal out there – from microbial to financial – that’s causing a lot of anxiety right now, and most of our usual ways of letting off steam are currently unavailable (at least if we have any sense). We’re discouraged from going to the gym, the restaurant, the pub, dinner parties, coffees, concerts. Even libraries are off limits for heaven’s sake.

We’re being forced into a Jeffersonian life of walks in nature, reading, listening to podcasts, Audible books, music, and hanging out almost exclusively with our nuclear families. Who would have thought, say three weeks ago, that a trip to the grocery store would come to be both dangerous and strangely exhilarating? Makes me feel like that girl in the horror movie who is compelled to enter the room where the killer is lurking and ready to plant a saw in her face, but she MUST GO IN because there may be a crying baby to save, or a gun with a silver bullet in there!

haunted house shadow

For those of us who are parents and work from home – which is a lot more of us now than there were last week – we’re faced not only with still having to get all of our work done, but with unprecedented interruptions from our little and not so little angels.

It’s true, that being a bit of a hermit does in some ways give me an innate advantage over some of my more social peers during this time of self-quarantine. Not only am I used to being isolated, but I’ve trained myself over a period of years to be disciplined when working from my home office. It’s also true, however, that the mortal enemy of the writer – someone who is nourished by solitude and watches movies like “A Quiet Place” with a certain dreamy-eyed sense of envy – is the interruption.

It’s hard for me to get too frustrated with our precious distractors, the way I tend to do in the waning days of summer vacation. They’ve been forced into seclusion, too, and many of them are disheartened over the cancellation of sports activities, clubs, and even, potentially, rights of passage such as prom and graduation. I’m actually pretty damned impressed with how they’re handling it so far. They’re taking it in stride, much like the British did during the Blitz. I watch them wandering around the house, filming TikTok dance numbers and funny memes, adjusting to the current state of things with remarkable aplomb.

empty amusement park

Of course, we Cold War kids had our own problems. In our case, we looked potential mutual nuclear annihilation right in the eye with a heavy dose of punk rock attitude. If there was going to be an apocalypse, we were going to go down screaming and swinging, dammit.

But what’s hard about the current offensive measures we’re being asked to take in our fight against the coronavirus, is that they’re…defensive. The British marched on through their days with a stiff-upper-lip-business-as usual-demeanor, even as German flyboys streaked across their skies and bombs rained down on them.

The immediate generations after World War II used defiance as their weapon of choice. When the hot war turned cold, they sock-hopped, discovered The Beatles, went to Woodstock, flew to the moon for the love of God, played air guitar to anthem rock, created a cinematic and literary revolution, then discovered the action film, partied like it was 1999, came up with rap and hip hop, and pioneered the technology that’s transforming our world.

man on moon

In our war against this new biological enemy, we’re being tasked with something else: We must turn inward, find meaning, come together, re-evaluate, invent and innovate, as well as behave our way out of this. And I believe we will. In some respects, this may well be a much needed pause in our busy, distracted, partisan, selfie-obsessed lives.

We all must do our part. The real heroes of this epidemic will be on the front lines – medical professionals risking their own health in order to ensure the health of their patients and the greater population. There will be those of us who find ourselves out of work, and will have to scramble, improvise, do anything we can until some degree of normal jump-starts our work lives again. Entire business sectors will be under water, at least in the short term. Already, we have a friend in the hospitality industry who has watched helplessly as his revenues evaporate. To the extent we can, we should extend offers of help and mean it.

In our down time, and let’s face it, there’s going to be a lot of it, we have the opportunity to reflect and find beauty and a sense of gratitude about our lives. On the bright side of all this, we will fare much, much better in the current crisis than any other generation in history. We will be able to react, get accurate information, and self-correct in real time both faster and better than we could even fifteen measly years ago.

I know that’s easy to say, but more difficult to absorb and feel. That’s why I want to extend to you what my husband and I like to do for each other when we’re experiencing times of high stress and low certainty. We send one another – usually through text or email, even though our home offices are right next to each other – bits of artistry, enchantment, humor, and grace that we call “morsels of positive affect.” Positive affect, according to psychologists and other peddlers of emotional well-being, refers to “one’s propensity to experience positive emotions and interact with others and life’s challenges in a positive way.”

Morsels of positive affect, at least in my experience, can be a big help in getting us over mental humps and slumps. Of jarring us out of descents into self-pity, and stopping us from “awful-izing.”

So, that’s what I hope to give you today: a bit of positive affect.

I’ll start with inspiration from some of the artists I follow on Twitter, if I may…

“fire-hollowed house, the lawn laden

with nameless blossoms” –Joseph Massey, poet

Joseph offers some of his poems for free on his website.

Yo-Yo Ma has been playing #songsofcomfort such as Dvořák’s “Going Home”, and if you’re not on Twitter, you can watch and listen right here.

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns has asked PBS to stream his new series, “Baseball”, for free and beginning immediately right here.

My small contribution to quarantine begins with an exclusive short story I’ve written for my forthcoming “Breath” series.

Breath

Breath_Kickstarter_paragraphheaders_WIP01-1_STORY_small

Two souls. Infinite lives. A quest across history.

Nif and Sherin are Ninti, beings both human and divine, who share a deep and powerful love that puts them both in mortal danger, while propelling them towards an extraordinary fate that ensures they will live infinite human lives…and suffer an equal number of deaths. Together they must solve a mystery that spans the ages, or risk losing one another forever.

The following “Breath” story takes place in rural Virginia, and involves a brief encounter with the villain of the series, who is also an immortal Nin’ti.

Easter’s House: A Breath Story

I plan to have more for you in the coming days and weeks. I’ll try to cull great content from my universe of weird, glorious, sublime outliers, as well as offer some of my own creative work for all of us to chew on as we wait this out.

Yes, we live in an age of reality TV, and often silliness seems to rule the day. But there’s a lot of wonderful, soul-nourishing content out there, ironically thanks to the very same internet and social media platforms that we curse.  With any luck, most of us can come out of this more resilient, wiser, kinder, more connected to those who matter most, and with our hearts and imaginations re-booted, perhaps even re-engineered.

More to follow…

beauty

 

 

 

5 Comments
  1. Wiser and kinder would be great, Victoria. Thanks for this.

  2. My pleasure, John.

  3. How’s this morsel? I’m ready…😝😆🤣😜🤪

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