Tiny Revolutions №18: Do the Thing or Don't Do It
either is fine
Hi, I’m Sara, and this is Tiny Revolutions, an occasional newsletter with personal writing and links about the practice required to stay mentally healthy. Reply anytime and let me know what you think!
Quarantine has been an adventure for me. I fled LA last month, knowing the shelter in place order was coming and being freaked out by rumors of a nationwide lockdown enforced by the government (rumors that were later revealed to be misinformation spread by the Chinese government, but that’s another story). In any case, I knew that spending 95% of my time alone in my apartment for weeks and possibly months on end would not be good for my mental health.
Where I’m truly fortunate in this world was that I had alternatives. So on the morning of Monday, March 16, I booked a flight to Minneapolis and by that evening I was safely at home with my sister, her husband, and their two young boys.
It’s a strange thing to leave your life in a rush with no idea when you’ll be coming back to it. I’m also lucky that my work can be done from anywhere, but even still, parachuting out of your day-to-day reality is a weird thing to do. I wondered if I’d regret opting to quarantine outside of my own space with all of my own stuff. I thought about whether if I did go it would only make it more difficult to return to my life if and when things got back to “normal”.
But it was definitely the right call. People need each other. We got sick and we got well and we just hung out and took a lot of walks together. Baked and cooked and chilled. Time moved along as it always does, sometimes at a crawl and sometimes at a sprint.
I’m now back in LA after five weeks away and wondering what the days and hours of solitude and social distancing will look like for me. My biggest fear out of all of this crisis is not the illness itself (though that is certainly terrifying), but what it will do to us on the person-to-person level.
I like having people around me. I understand why masks are necessary and I’m wearing them because it’s the considerate thing to do, but I hate them. Hate the way they conceal us from one another and add another barrier to the six feet rule that’s already in place. I worry that even once we’ve gotten more of a handle on the way the disease is spread with mass testing and contact tracing, the suspicion people have of each other as potential vectors of disease will remain. It’s a heartbreaking prospect.
The good news is that when I was at the airport, I noticed how many people were kind to me and my dog. From the TSA agents and foodservice workers to the people sitting in the boarding area, we all seemed to be looking out for each other. One woman told me when my dog’s leg got caught in her leash. Another unhooked it from a seat handle when we were boarding.
It was refreshing to see at a time when a glance at social media or news headlines indicates a people increasingly at war with each other. I’m not immune to it, even if I am attuned to it. But it’s in the in-person interactions that we find our common humanity. I’m hopeful we can find a way to get back to them before we all are totally convinced we no longer have anything in common. Because we have everything in common. We all want to live. And we need each other to do it.
Here are some things I thought were inspiring this week.
My dear friend and brilliant acupuncturist Alex Bruehl has started a newsletter about applying wisdom from Asian medicine in daily life. It’s called To The Point, and it’s great, both practical and theoretical. I loved this post about keeping your qi flowing while in quarantine—both how to do it and why it matters.
One of my favorite Zen teachers is Alan Watts, whose book The Wisdom of Insecurity is one of my go-to’s. I recently discovered that Matt Parker and Trey Stone (aka the South Park guys) animated a few of his talks a while back. Here they are on YouTube—there are only 12 minutes of them and they’re well worth your time. (As a bonus, he has one of my favorite speaking voices in history.)
Where are you on the prickles and goo scale? I’d say I’m about 75% goo, 25% prickles.
“The idea was to show that, during this pandemic, everyone is going to be stress impacted, but that they can prevent themselves from becoming stress injured by assessing their state of mind and taking steps to protect their mental health”
Loved this advice from the American Mountain Guides Association on How to Build a Psychological First Aid Kit.
From the “everything is connected” department:
Plants, say Mancuso, “are masters of starting symbiotic relationships with other organisms: bacteria, mushrooms, insects, even us. Just look at the way they use us to be transported all around the world.” We may think we have the upper hand, but plants may beg to differ.
The secret life of plants: how they memorise, communicate, problem solve and socialise
I find coloring extremely soothing and meditative, and was excited to stumble across these PDFs of coloring book pages from museum collections around the world.
In this excellent roundup of how various writers are spending the quarantine, my favorite words are from Anne Enright:
Honestly, there is a lot to be said for tooling about all day, looking up recipes and not making them, not bothering to paint the living room and failing to write a novel. In the middle of the messy non-event called your mid-afternoon, you might get something – a thought to jot down, a good paragraph, a piece of gossip to text a pal. Boredom is a productive state so long as you don’t let it go sour on you. Try not to confuse the urge to get something done with the idea that you are useless. Try not to confuse the urge to contact someone with the thought that you are unloved. Do the thing or don’t do it. Either is fine.
😘 from under the mask,
p.s. If any of this resonated with you, I’d appreciate it if you shared it with a friend. They can subscribe here.