The Despair of Doing Nothing

The Despair of Doing Nothing April 2, 2020

I haven’t blogged for the past few weeks. I’ve certainly had ideas for blog posts. There’s plenty to write about, none of which were related to the COVID-19 situation. I would settle down at my computer, surrounded by the clutter I keep telling myself I’ll put away someday. Tea or drink at the ready, my fingers would hover over my keyboard. My writing program was open and waiting.

My motivation was as dry as an Tucsonan stream.

I’m doing nothing, I would think as I messed around on internet browser games. I’m doing nothing, I would think as I washed dishes. I’m doing nothing, I would think as I cooked, as I cleaned, as I puttered around the house.

As if I were doing anything differently. I’m an aspiring writer. My days are full of ‘doing nothing’. Of attempting and failing to write, an endless cycle of always feeling my work is subpar or just short of ‘good enough’.

I go out for a run to alleviate the tendrils of this unnameable despair. We’re still allowed to exercise outdoors. I hate exercise, in all honesty. But this pandemic kicked up right as I began to get my life in a semblance of order, including exercising. As long as I’m allowed, I’ll try to steal moments in the sun. It feels like doing something.

My mind ricochets around. I’ve become unmoored.

Our cat settles into my lap, and the soft rumbling purr in her chest alleviates the anxiety.

Guilt

As Youtuber Folding Ideas says in ‘I Can’t Stop Watching Contagion(content warning, the video can be very depressing):

My daily life has not much been impacted overtly… But it’s too much. I’m tired all the time, I can’t pay attention to the news and I can’t not pay attention to the news… On one hand I am deeply privileged to be in a position where I am and can remain isolated.

On the other hand, I can’t even think about the other hand.

When I go for my run I remain the appropriate distance away from the few other people I come across. When I shop for groceries I am mindful of what I touch, how close I am to other people, about what exactly we need for the next week or two. I try to pick up everything we need in one go, and if something is forgotten – well, it’ll have to wait until next time. Guilt sits like a stone in my gut.

Am I going out too much? Going out at all is too much, my mind supplies. Every choice I make weighs heavier. What does doing everything right even look like?

The guilt swallows up the anger. Anger at people who aren’t taking the situation seriously, or who just don’t care, or who are making it worse. A bone-shaking anger wells up when I see it suggested that we should sacrifice ourselves at the altar of the economy. The guilt swims in and gnaws on the anger until I’m hollow.

Prayer

So I pray. I set up an altar in the same room as my computer and I burn incense and candles near-constantly. The prays roll over me and out of me and transmute the fear and despair and guilt into more bearable emotions. Hope flutters in my chest. But any semblance of stability I find seems shorn when I check in on social media. I try to limit my exposure but can’t help just one more look, just to see how people are doing. I regret it each time. Even the innocuous posts make me feel as if I’ve slipped toward some unending abyss.

Sarah Z describes this problem in ‘Rise of the Doomer: Why So Many People Are Giving Up‘. Social media is a place where we check in with our loved ones, where we go for relaxation, and where we find news and the latest issues facing the world. Our brains can’t settle. We skip from funny memes to serious issues without warning or preparation.

Some people are using social media in wonderful ways currently. Hosting live videos, talking with people, keeping our communities connected. I want to be that type of person.

I don’t know that I can. Not yet, certainly. I can just try to do something right.

The Point of This

There’s no point to the virus. It simply is. Our reaction to it, our response, the lasting impacts – those are all us. The meaning is what we give it.

The point of this post is to simply be there. A vulnerable record of what I’m feeling at the moment. Trying to write something pleasant or something disconnected from the trauma we’re going through hasn’t helped. I’m not like these other wise bloggers able to put out useful posts in this time of need.

I can try to be real and present, though.

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