10 weeks ago when the first cruise ship landed in San Fransisco with Corona Virus patients, I made the decision to work from my Oakland home and not go into my SF office to protect myself and the people I love from potential exposure to the virus. I could never have anticipated that 10 weeks later I would still be sheltering in place, back in Alabama, with my whole life turned inside out.
These days I live somewhere between acceptance and annoyance, between grief and gratitude, between feeling responsibility for our collective wellbeing and selfishly wanting to live the California life I worked so hard to create for myself.
Somewhere between week 2 and 3 of the virus getting into the U.S, I talked to my brother, who lives in China. He convinced me to go shelter in place where I would feel the most safe and supported before borders starting closing up. I didn’t think it would be that serious, but I decided to get clearance from my job to work from home in Alabama, instead of Oakland. I packed a small suitcase with a couple of weeks worth of clothes, only my favorite cant-live-without skin care products, books, and personal items. Fully intending to only spend about 3-4 weeks in my Alabama home with my family. Its been 2 months of being in Alabama with no return date in site.
Somewhere between week 4 and 5, I transitioned out my job. Turns out doing social justice law and policy work is excruciatingly more difficult during a pandemic when people want to rush to solutions without fully understanding the nature of the beast. It dawned on me that in the middle of a pandemic, my tolerance for stress was really low and my need to remove myself from any space that didn’t prioritize my emotional wellbeing was at an all-time high. Unfortunately this meant leaving my job. I was very sad to leave, but very proud that I choose myself. I started writing poems again, hosting virtual salons, calling old friends for long chats. Started to decipher what I wanted to do next with my life. Committed to replacing afternoon zoom calls with daily midday naps.
Somewhere between week 5 and 7, Spring transitioned into Summer. I realized I had no summer clothes in my family home and all my skin care things were gone. I began shopping for new clothes, decided to stop living out of my suitcase and realize that maybe I’m here for the longer term. I changed my mailing address on all my subscriptions things to Alabama instead of California, that made me sad. I bought some cute new summer clothes. Spent way too much money on makeup and exfoliants. That made me happy. On one random Friday afternoon when I felt really happy, I made my brother take pictures of me so I would have documentation that there were really good moments even in the middle of this pandemic.
Somewhere between week 8 and 10, I realized that living like I was on a perpetual vacation was not working for me. I decided to start incorporating routines and rhythms into my day. Step 1, have a bedtime that is earlier than 2-3am. Step 2: Talk to my therapist about the angst I’m feeling that I have no language for yet.
Therapist says I should make a list of all the things I’m missing from my California life and see how many of them I can incorporate into my current routines. It is working. I am feeling bit more at ease. More often than not accepting this new reality. Other times really annoyed to be living through it but committed to finding pockets of connection and shared humanity through it.
It’s the 11th week. I am the designated family grocery shopper. I am really enjoying spending time with my family. Wearing a mask out in public feels like second nature. I am finally putting together the pieces of what I would like to do for work. I feel ready to contribute in a substantive way to the healing and wellbeing of the collective, mostly because I’ve spent time tending to my own angst and anxieties around the virus. I am inspired by our resilience as a species, but I still miss being out at my favorite Afrobeats club in Oakland grinding up on somebodies son with my girls gassing me up. I look forward to being able to do that someday in the future again. 😁