I wake up groggy, lift my head to decipher the red glowing letters across the room. 7:37 am. I roll over a few times, but I am awake, internal alarm clock reliably sounding off in this same 30-minute interval most days. Compared to the strict 6:00 am schedule I’ve been keeping, waking up naturally feels like a luxury. It might be my favorite part of this pandemic.
Less than a week ago, we were just beginning to realize the impact of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, in america. Only paranoid family members from big cities seemed genuinely concerned, although already masks and hand sanitizer supplies were dwindling. Universities began to announce virtual classes and even cancellations. Then suddenly the momentum of this slow-rolling boulder shot off, and we realized we were all in its path.
Self-isolation and distancing moved from suggestion to imperative. At my university, classes were moved online for the next two weeks, then a couple of days later, for the rest of the semester. Spring break was extended by a week even as I cancelled my spring break plans. And now, it seems, we’re all left with nothing to do but wait.
When I wake up now, I carefully take stock of my physical body. My head is heavy – is it because I couldn’t fall asleep until after midnight or because of that extra glass of wine? My throat is scratchy – will some water take care of that? Or a hot liquid? I’m feeling vaguely unwell – do I need to sleep it off? Or acknowledge my stress?
I’d like to claim these questions are a form of heightened self-care, which they may be, but of course, I am acutely monitoring my health in the context of this pandemic. It is as much out of worry as it is care.
Beyond the additional monitoring, I stick to my morning routine because I enjoy it. I set my gooseneck kettle on the stove as I brush my teeth, apply two layers of skincare after I’ve washed my face. The water boils, and I put away yesterday’s dishes as I wait for the water to cool just a bit, to a more optimal coffee-making temperature. Nothing looks out of the ordinary. But my mind in visual form is like a ball of harsh scribbles. A stray thought makes me teary – but I can no longer remember what it was – and I take deep breaths before pouring my coffee.
It feels like late-stage grief, when I feel fine until some unexpectedly strong emotion reminds me that I am still healing. But then I return to normal, settling at my desk with coffee, a book, and my journal. Since this all began, I’ve been all about processing and accepting my emotions, but today I resolve to be strong and do the work that’s important to me. In my graduate student mind, that includes my research, which I enjoy, as well as the nagging deadline I’ve now missed.
I sit down in front of my laptop to do some academic writing but remember that Tuesdays are laundry day. And yes, I do need to do laundry. Besides, I’ve found that laundry cycles work well as a naturally occurring Pomodoro method. I get ready to have a 30-minute and 1-hour interval of productivity.
I don’t remember what happened. Maybe I made the mistake of opening my email. Maybe I checked Twitter. No matter what pulled my attention away, I am disgruntled. I close my laptop and listen to a podcast while I fold laundry. The topic of today’s podcast, of course, is coronavirus.
Laundry folded and done, I feel a little better. I remember another routine – it’s watering day. And so with a glass vase and little squeeze bottle, I make my rounds. Not too much for the sansevierias or succulent arrangement with no drainage holes. (I know, shame on me. But it’s survived for three years.) A full watering for my alocasia and croton who are just thriving. And I’m delighted to see that after months, my monstera is growing a new leaf. In fact, several plants have new leaves, the sun is out, and I’m reminded that spring is coming.