Adjusting Never Hurt Anyone

It’s funny how things happen sometimes. I sent a message to a (non-academic) friend yesterday that I had told her was “BIG NEWS” on the personal front. Later that day, another friend sent me this tweet and a few hours after that, the tweet showed up in a COVID parenting group I belong to. In other words, I think the universe was shouting “YOU ARE DOING THIS RIGHT!” to me and so, I’m sharing it all with you.

So, Dr. Aisha Ahmad tweeted about how many of us are talking about hitting the wall and how exhausted we’ve been throughout September. I mean, I have. I feel like my brain has just given out. Process thoughts? No thanks, I’d rather watch Cobra Kai (oh, c’mon, you know you loved every second of it too). Keep track of my to do list? No, I’d rather procrastivity-ly collect articles for my next project, which will only happen after I wrap up these projects in motion. But, as she points out, it is almost hard to believe that six months has passed since the pandemic began.

What have I been trying to do over the past three weeks? Oh, yeah, ram my head through the wall. And it is exhausting, mentally and physically. I can’t begin to count how many naps I’ve had in September, how my give a damn is busted, how many stupid arguments I have gotten into on social media because I don’t want to deal with what is right here. I’m *really* great at procrastivity: I look busy but it’s because I don’t want to do what I really want to do. So, if I’m facebook fighting with my county commissioner, obviously, I can’t read a book related to my research. If I’m writing my first novel, obviously, I can’t finish a project I’ve been planning for ages.

Oh, you never knew I was writing a novel? The truth of the matter is… I did, last summer. And, last fall, I shopped it around to agents and entered Pitch Wars, a contest where I would have been paired with an agented author who could help me revise my manuscript. Interestingly enough, I had a few agents (and one PW mentor) ask for my full manuscript, which I’m told is a good thing, but… no one liked it enough to pick it up. I got some feedback from some starting authors (Denise Williams is so generous with her time… be sure to get her debut novel in December!) but between my actual job, being a mom of two, and then the pandemic, well, nothing happened. Last week, I opened up my manuscript for the first time since March and decided I was going to enter Pitch Wars again. I honestly think I gritted my teeth and said “I’ll show them!”

Oh, wait. One of my goals is to stop caring what other people think and live the life I want. I had a goal to live without fucks by the time I turned 40, but it’s still a worthwhile goal to pursue. So, who was I going to show? The $6 billion romance industry? Academia? My own little gallery of haters? That’s a big old nah. That thought set me back on my heels. I also heard the voice of Patricia Sung, the host of one of my favorite podcasts, Motherhood in ADHD. Look, I don’t think you need to be a mother or have ADHD to take Patricia’s advice. She’s doing a series on executive function and last week’s episode hit me so hard when I was listening to it in the car during my grocery pickup time that I went home and actually took notes.

Patricia talked about how, for ADHD’ers like me, everything feels big and important because we can’t distinguish what truly is important. That makes prioritizing impossible because of our executive function disorder. She said “I used to tell myself how I didn’t get enough stuff done and I had to stay up to reach this ideal level of productivity.” Um, hi. It me. I have my fingers in way too many pies right now, not to mention this constant buzzing in the background of living through a global pandemic. So, Patricia advised her listeners to ask themselves: “Is this my priority right now?” By doing this, I should be able to get rid of the distractions in my mind.

Usually when folks think about ADHD, they think of hyperactivity– outwardly. That’s not me. I can be hyperactive but not in the “oh my goodness, she’s unstoppable!” kind of way. The Facebook page, More than One Neurotype, shared this a few weeks ago and I forwarded it to both my mom and my husband. Their reactions were the same: it fit me to a T.

Anyway, one of my ADHD superpowers is that I am an idea generator. I am incredibly creative and I have always wanted to be an author. I specifically chose not to go down that path when choosing my career, but that shouldn’t mean that dream is gone now, right?

But, is this dream a distraction? Why can’t I ever be fully present with my kids? I’m always thinking that I should be doing more 1) actual paid work and 2) writing fiction. I also find myself sinking into social media and getting upset over stupid posts. So, after listening to Patricia’s podcast, I have tried this week to be more aware of ideas that try to grab my attention as well as hyperfocus on something that isn’t important. Like, something will pop into my mind and instead of saying “OMG, I need to do that right now,” I can say “Hi friend, not now. Maybe later.”

Back to my novel: I spent a good two hours on Tuesday night writing up a draft for this year’s Pitch Wars (that writing mentoring competition) where I was going to submit my manuscript from last summer again. But honestly, I don’t have the time or the focus to write. I should be prioritizing other things that will make my life better, like family time and self-care. So… I think I’m going to set my “ooh, I really want to be a successful author” goal aside. Right now, it’s just a distraction. Also, when I look at other authors I adore, a good bulk of them either 1) don’t have kids or 2) don’t have outside jobs. And those that do are just plain old unicorns.

For years, I have had this high expectation for myself to be the best at everything I try and then I get frustrated when I’m just juggling way too much. Also, I’m trying to make self-care a priority. I’m trying really hard to exercise three times a week. I want time to relax… and actually relax not do some other work (ahem, writing) that is not relaxing. I want to be present, which is a good goal to have, because a lot of times, I am just NOT there, even when my kids are sitting beside me. I’d say this week has gone a whole lot better than I expected once I had that realization. But it’s going to be tough and it’s going to be a journey. I don’t expect to get there all in one week.

Considering The Effects of Our Choices

Last night, I was really upset seeing those photos of WVU students not social distancing or wearing masks downtown. I went to bed angry, and I felt that anger rising in me this morning. Instead of indulging the anger like I did last night, I wanted to share some thoughts, not blame.
No one is enjoying this pandemic. No one wants the anxiety, worry, anger, or just plain sadness that has ruled our lives for the past six months. This is not a vacation for anyone. But, when I hear folks call the virus “fake” or “just like the flu”, I cringe. It is a brand new virus. We’re learning about it right now as we go along.
We don’t know the long-lasting effects of this virus. Is it like the flu? My kids get the flu, are miserable for a few days with a high fever and then bounce right back. We know that isn’t COVID-19 because it takes people months to feel normal again, if they recover fully. Is it like the chicken pox? So many of us have had the chicken pox as children… and that virus stays dormant until some of us develop painful shingles in adulthood that rise up due to physical or mental stress. We don’t know. This virus has only existed for nine months. We literally do not have that data. So, when you repeat some stat about who dies from COVID and who doesn’t, remember, death isn’t the only outcome that many of us are worried about.
I don’t want to take school away from our children. I don’t want to take sports away from kids. My kids are missing ballet and karate, but when I ask them if they want to do it in person. with masks and social distancing, they forcefully say no. Maybe you will say that I raised my kids to be scared of everything. I’ve given my children age-appropriate explanations of COVID so they understand what is going on in our world and why we’ve been home for so long. I need to respect their feelings. Feelings are real and you feel what you feel. Tell me and others that we’re taking away from your life is creating more divisions. Mutual respect for one another is so key in this pandemic. (I admit that I have a hard time respecting people who dismiss my concerns… empathy is also key in getting through this pandemic.)
The divisions in our society are so apparent, not just among right and left, science vs. alternative views, but also those that have resources vs. those that do not. I’m tired of people saying they don’t want to talk politics. Friends, *everything* is political. Politics is literally the study of the division of resources and who has control over that distribution. Politics isn’t just who you are voting for, your core beliefs on societal issues and rights, but how we live our every day lives: does everyone have access to a good education? Are some schools better than others? Why do some of our students have to work 2 or 3 jobs where others don’t? Why do some of us have healthcare and others do not? Why can some of us choose to keep our kids at home while others do not have that choice if they want to keep their jobs? If this understanding of what is political offends you, well, then, I don’t know what I can say to get you to understand a basic fact about how politics touches your every day life. You may not read the news, but trust me, every day, you are leading a very political life.

So, these students who chose to go to whatever bar downtown last night did not consider your right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, because they can claim that they *needed* social interaction. But the ramifications are far reaching: How many in the WVU and surrounding Morgantown community will get sick? We saw this happen over July 4th, when COVID positive numbers jumped up in Morgantown. If the university shuts down again, how many students will return to homes that are abusive? How many students will deal with the mental stress of social isolation? (I’ve had these conversations with many students in the spring… it is hard. Our hands are tied. You just need to hope and pray that they reach out to the therapist you suggested they see and not turn to drugs or alcohol or some other option to numb the pain.) How many faculty and staff will be laid off from WVU if we close? If bars shut down again, how many service industry workers will not be able to make rent because they have no income? When this is all over, what will High Street look like? Morgantown?

 

You’re right. I can’t make you stay home. I can’t make you wear a mask. I certainly can’t make you get a vaccine when a safe one is available. I keep telling myself that I need to focus on my own circle¬†, what I can control, but it is so hard when the blame game persists.¬†We are all dealing with the mental health fallout of this pandemic and the concurrent social distancing/isolation. All I can do is ask you to think about the far reaching effects of your individual choices and actions.