Thoughts on Lockdown: Age of Extreme Emotions

A note: Several weeks ago there were oodles of articles that said people should be keeping journals during the pandemic. That’s a no-brainer for me: I’ve been keeping a journal since the third grade. As such, I’ve recorded my thoughts about COVID-19, the global pandemic, and the quarantine quite extensively. But what I haven’t done is write much about it on Kaleidoscopic Wandering even though it’s consumed our lives. I even thought that maybe it was too late.

Yet, I’m afraid we might only be getting started. So, starting today (April 6) and moving into the foreseeable future, I’m going to be sharing my thoughts on lockdown — along with a random photo from more carefree days. Thanks for joining me on this journey.

sunset portugal

For so much of March, this whole thing felt surreal. Distant. Someone else’s problem. Heck, as of March 13, we rode the subway and ate brunch at our favorite breakfast joint.

We read the headlines, followed the news, and obeyed the rules put on us by local law enforcement. Just a few weeks ago, we knew it was very possible that we’d contract coronavirus at some point — even if we were asymptomatic.

But it just didn’t feel real.

And then a couple weeks ago, a former colleague of mine died from COVID-19 complications, and it became very, very real. Our thoughts on the whole situation went from “this is a minor inconvenience” to “this is terrifying.”

I’m scared something will happen to my parents, and I won’t be able to leave the country to help them. I’m scared my sister and brother-in-law, who are psychologists at a veteran’s hospital, will be called in to help on the front lines and contract it. I am so angry that friends in service jobs — at non-essential businesses like home goods and hardware — still have report to work. And, admittedly, as each day goes by, I’m scared we’ll catch it — in a country where we don’t speak the language well and are so far away from our families.

I think lots of people feel these complicated emotions right now.

Because the thing is, things really aren’t that different for me under a quarantine. I work from home anyway. It’s common for me to spend days in a row without ever talking with another human besides Cory. And yet everything is different.

I oscillate between two extremes: manic motivation and complete lack of motivation.

Some days (heck, some hours or even some minutes), I am driven to create and do and work and read and take full advantage of this opportunity. I have ideas I am crazy excited about, and I spend time drafting up and ruminating on them. And then, just as deeply and passionately as I jump into them, I want to dump them. Before the pandemic, this happened too, but the oscillation is so extreme now I’m having a hard time figuring out what ideas that come out of the manic moments are actually worth pursuing.

Because then there’s the complete and total lack of motivation. It’s this feeling of why does anything I do matter. This feeling that it’s okay to do the bare minimum to get by right now. That, if I eat right and exercise and get sleep and take care of myself to protect others, that’s all I really need to do. People will understand if I do this, and it’s okay to lean into that lack of motivation. In fact, this extreme — and the “bare minimum” response — seems to be the prevailing message in the news and social media right now. Honestly, that feels like a bit of a cop out to me.

The truth is, I prefer the neutral or manic feelings along the spectrum. I think I would feel bored, unproductive, and incomplete if I just sat around in my pajamas, wallowed in feelings of negativity, and just let this whole thing pass me by.

How else am I feeling? Comforted to be with Cory and Rudy through all of this. Thankful for technology so I can communicate with my family. Appreciative of books and paper and paints so I can let my mind wander off. Privileged. Restricted. And frustrated that I feel restricted.

And I also feel nervous. Nervous that I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. But then, when I step back, I realize we never really know what tomorrow brings. It’s just far more obvious in this age of extreme emotions.

About this photo: I took this photo in Lisbon, Portugal, on my 39th birthday, just under three months ago. Cory, our friend C, and I walked up from our Airbnb to a square near this overlook hoping to find a flea market, but the market had closed. Coincidentally, an outdoor cafe near the square had an incredible overlook of the city. So we found a table, ordered glasses of wine, and watched the sunset together.

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