How I’m doing, honestly.

Hello Internet, today is Saturday, April 18th, and I’m at the end of my “Sanity Routine” checklist, which indicates that 3 weeks have passed since I made that list.

Here’s how I’m doing.

1) I still do not have star stickers. I may never get star stickers. Every time one of us goes to a new store (which is always a huge ordeal, as I’m sure all readers are aware), we look for stickers, but so far we have had no luck. BUT in addition to the colourful pens, I remembered that we own just an enormous stock of highlighters. And then, this week I realized we in fact also have markers, so I’m just going to continue to draw my stars. All is well on this front.

2) I have so far crocheted: a hat, most of a scarf, three pairs of slippers, and about 1/3 of a poncho. Future crochet projects include a headband for this time of year when really all I need is to cover my ears, and a cozy for this one oddly-shaped teapot we have. (Side note: “crocheted” is a weird word. It looks like it should be pronounced “crotch-et-ed” instead of “croshayed.” (I suppose, since it’s anglicized from the French, it should be “crochetais” or “avoir crocheté,” which would be better. (And that is just a small example of the stuff I not only think about but actually have time to research right now.)))

3) I’m getting decent with a ukulele.

4) On a whim, while on a remarkably stressful trip to Shoppers, I bought myself a puzzle book. It’s 200 pages long. I am about halfway through the puzzle book.

5) Food is joy. Making it, eating it, planning it. My life is now mostly centered around what I’m going to eat next.

OK yes, here is how I’m actually doing, as demonstrated by this chart.

This section was me getting used to the routine. Imperfect but steadily improving… developing the routine, breaking a couple of unhealthy habits.

This section was the routine at its best. I am a super-achieving, productive person who can totally work from home (after all, I spend lots of my life working from home, it’s not THAT weird).

This section here is a full-on breakdown.

My mental health is pretty good. I’m lucky in that I’m not prone to illness and I don’t have a ton of trauma to process. I have pretty well-developed resilience strategies and support systems. Even in situations of shared stress, I tend to be able to take care of myself and still have space to help the people I love. So this took me completely by surprise. It was a flattening of everything, a total absence of joy. How could anyone feel joyful, ever? It was uncontrollable crying, triggered by nothing. Weeping in the shower. Taking breaks from cooking so that I could howl. Crying until all that was left was silent screaming. I’ve felt like this once before – only once – when a close friend died suddenly.

It’s grief.

We are bereaved. Of our jobs, our social supports, contact with our friends, our freedoms, our sense of safety. I was, and am, in mourning.

The boxes I was able to mark off in this section are either thanks to my remaining support system (in the form of my partner, who heroically did not lose his shit while this was happening even though he’s never seen me go through this before), or to this actual freaking checklist which reminded me that I could do small things that will help me feel even a sliver better, like brushing my teeth or walking around the block. And once I was able to name the feeling, and to allow myself to feel it, it started to be easier to move forward.

This section is my partner’s birthday. When a person you love and live with has a birthday in the middle of a global crisis where the best thing you can do to help the world is to stay in and not speak to anyone… you don’t spend that time at your computer, checking things off a list. You bake a giant freaking chocolate cake and you spend the next 4 days eating it. You make pancakes. You watch movies and listen to records and eat chips and play games and read and share space (safely, because you’ve been locked in together all this time).

And this section is the last couple of days… and the checklist is still helping me to keep on track. But it needs a few amendments, based on some realizations I have had, or internalized, in the past couple of weeks. For example:

  1. Turns out there are ways to participate in society as it exists right now that don’t involve being on the internet.
  2. Too much blue light in general, and social media in particular, is really super bad for me.
  3. My responsibility as an artist is not to churn out content for the consumption of others, but to engage with myself. Others may be invited to consume that content, later, if and when I feel like it.

Furthermore, my circumstances are not the same as they were 3 weeks ago (and I expect them to continue to change, since the only constant thing is that everything is always changing). For one thing – and at the risk of stating the obvious – I have a routine now. When I made this checklist, I had to include things like “eat a vegetable” (as in, one single vegetable) because I had been treating the mass cancellations and instructions to stay at home like a snow day. Or, several snow days in a row (we in St. John’s have a bit of practice with that). But this is life right now – actual, real life that we are really living – so I had to get myself out of that rut by setting goals that were achievable at the time. I can do better now.

Also of note: in the last few days I have come to the end of the work I am being paid for. Now, and for the foreseeable future, the government is paying me to live (for which I am unbelievably grateful), and I everything on my to-do list is now a thing that I am doing for free because I want to do it (except my taxes). So crossing stuff off the to-do list is no longer a major reducer of stress (except taxes), and no longer has any business on this checklist designed to aid my mental health. It is now encompassed in a catch-all category that I have labelled “make something.”

(When I do file my taxes, I will reward myself some other way. Maybe I’ll make a myself mug cake. And then give myself a star under “make something.”)

Here’s the new list. And you can download it too if you think it’ll help you.

That last line is new on the list. But I think it might make all the difference.