Cookies and Creativity and the Quarantine Slump

Okay, at this point of quarantine, you’re in one of two camps:

#1: You are a person who’s settled into this “new normal,” and are content and calm. You’ve weeded the flower beds, laid down fresh mulch, and are considering a fresh coat of paint inside your house. You’ve set yourself and your family on a flexible-but-calming schedule, and have a routine for sharing the laptops for work and school. You’re the parent who organizes the Zoom playdates for your kids.


#2: You’re the person who’s finally realized that this could go on forever and the kids eat all the food and the carpets are so dirty and who can freshen up their landscapes when they’re too worried about catching coronavirus if they leave the house for the garden center and you miss restaurant margaritas and your friends and you really should be decluttering the closets/finishing the book/organizing the family finances/making sourdough starter but you can’t, you just can’t, because you are tired of it all. You are a desperate for a routine but also for someone to tell you how to make one. You are the parent who checks in late to the Zoom meetings.

It’s real, friends. It’s real now that we’re in Spring in the northeast and about to face a summer of steaming days and no pools and the kids inside because outside is too hot and there’s nothing to doooooo and how come we can’t get a pool?

It’s real, friends. Mom is declining rather rapidly now and sitting with her is strange and sad because it’s not the same (she’s not the same, nothing’s the same). When we left her house the other day, Cian said, “I miss Grammy.” He looked back at the house. “I mean, she’s there. But I miss her. I don’t know.”

It’s real, friends. I hate hearing people chew and somebody got sparkly nail polish on the couch and I haven’t kept any of my first grader’s completed papers organized. I have to-do lists that I lose so I make new to-do lists but then I shut down upon viewing the to-do lists and sit down to eat cookies instead. No one’s allowed to have bubble gum in the house because if anybody smacks their lips together so help me I will lose it. I stay up too late at night because it’s the only time of the day I don’t have to hear my beautiful family members asking for–or, Lord help me, eating–snacks or help with Google Classroom or can you please help us paint our nails again, Mom, because somehow the glittery polish smudged on this finger and I’m not sure where it went? I love these people so very much, and this gift of time with them is the absolute best but sometimes I wonder how I became the captain of a ship stuck out in the middle of an ocean when I don’t know my stern from my aft.

It’s real, friends. Netflix has replaced exercise, wine has replaced water, and frozen pizza has replaced fresh salad and grilled chicken.

We are in a quarantine slump.

BUT. My mom still calls me “Sweetie.” The kids are making plays and writing “books” and reading books before getting out of bed in the morning. My mom still craves her morning coffee and lights up at the first sip. The kids are walking the dog and doing the dishes and their laundry. My mom still asks me about the children and tells me she loves them. The kids are learning how to cook and bake and mop floors…and they actually like it.

It’s real, friends. And if you’re in Camp #1, I respect you and admire you but don’t think I can be friends with you anymore. (I doubt the #1s are watching Schitt’s Creek at night with a stack of Oreos on their laps?) I’m still firmly in Camp #2, as you guessed about 500 words ago.

BUT. I began writing again, like somebody flipped on a beautiful dusty switch in my brain. I’m almost fifty pages into the rough draft of a new novel. After a solid year and a half of apoplectic overwhelm, I’ve begun to be able to start sifting through the thoughts bouncing around this nervous head of mine and put them to use. David’s work is very busy, for which I am very grateful. But we aren’t redoing the landscaping or painting the house or making sourdough starter at the moment. We aren’t hiking or knitting sherpas or Instagramming homemade masks, but we are walking nature trails and making Nutella crepes and dancing in the car on the half-hour drive to my mom’s. As comfortable members of Camp #2, family is the priority, the work is the outlet, and my mom is the hinge on which our schedule and attention rests.

And now you know the only way I’m showing up for any Zoom get-together is if somebody else schedules it first.

I’ll bring the cookies.


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