The Myth of a “Productive” Quarantine

I’m sure I’m not the only one out there who feels like they are living in a nightmare they can’t wake up from.

In fact, I have nightmares within nightmares. There is the metaphorical nightmare of the situation gripping our country right now, and then my literal nightmares — every night, a variation on the same dream where the students at my school are suddenly recalled to the building, only to become exposed to the virus and carry it home with them.

This dream has repeated so many times that I know when I’m dreaming — and in the dream, I think, “I had a dream this was going to happen! Wait. I think this is a dream, too.”

Yet, I can’t wake up from it. Because when I wake up, I’m still in this world, where so many have lost so much.

My name is Amelia, which means “industrious and striving.” I have always been hard working, always doing something, striving for something, working on some kind of project. When this started, and the reality of it hadn’t really set into my brain yet, I was a little excited. “Finally,” I thought, “I’m going to get SO MUCH DONE!” So much writing, home repair, gardening… anything and everything that my busy 40-hour work week and full time mom position had prevented me from doing.

I dived right in. I went up and emptied our storage garage, I went to my aunt’s and helped haul off things she didn’t need anymore, then set about digging out a garden and beautifying my house, while editing my teen necromancer novel Retinue of Lost Ones. At first I was happy enough. When someone asked how I was doing, I’d say, “Well, I’m getting paid, and I have so many projects to work on. I don’t know what these people are saying about being bored at home during quarantine.”

And I worked. I worked and worked and worked, and I cooked and cleaned, and homeschooled my daughter. And then, I burnt out, and I burnt out HARD. I started snapping at my family and avoiding the few social Zoom meetings I was invited to because I thought I was “too busy.” I was gripped every day by a threatening cloud of anxiety that accused me of “not getting enough done” and “not taking advantage of this time off.” I resented anything and anyone that got in my way of “progress.”

Then, at last, my husband sat me down on the couch with a glass of wine, and made a space for me to talk about what was going on with me. I talked myself through it with him, and realized what I was doing. I was running from my feelings and fears about COVID-19, running away from my disappointment and my sadness, denying my anguish. I attempted to patch up the dam of emotion with lots of hard work and accomplishments. Well, the dam broke. And I’m actually glad it did.

Now I take each day as it comes. I do my best to sit down and just play with my daughter, or linger over a cup of coffee. I video chat with friends and go on walks. If I feel like working on something, I work on it, but I don’t make it a first priority, or hold myself to some rigid, unattainable standard of industry.

We HAVE to be gentle with ourselves. If keeping busy truly, truly makes you happy, go for it. For me, I have found I need a mix of idle enjoyment and usefulness. Volunteering once a week at the community center to pack food bank orders does wonders for my mood and soul.

That being said, I am working on a few writing things 🙂 I have finished Retinue, as I said, and I have several AWESOME beta readers working on edits. When they’ve finished, I’ll get on that. Setting it aside for now feels good, though. I’m also working with my trusty writing group “The King’s Madmen” to edit Cultbreakers, and that process has been and will continue to be incredibly fun and helpful.

That’s all for now. Please, I’m begging you, TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF!

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