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Voices scream out of glass screens. Clamoring. Arguing. Demanding to be heard. Facts, half-truths, blatant lies? It depends on who you ask, but you needn’t bother. They’ll gladly tell. Why you’re wrong, why they’re right, why you should go to sleep afraid tonight. Never listening, always speaking, and in fear, in the certainty of righteousness, we pull ourselves open to hear more, be more, consume more until we fray apart. But there is truth in silence, in time and contemplation, in the shaping of the years. And if we wish to be heard, perhaps we should listen to ourselves.
Social media has been on my mind lately. Not because I am using it, but because I am actively trying to avoid it.While I don’t have anything against social media in general, the constant barrage of information in conjunction with all the additional stressors right now has taken a toll on my mental health. Writing with pencil and paper instead of on my phone and limiting screen time has helped me take an emotional deep breath and improve my creativity (i.e. it feels easier to create).
Social media is such a great place for communication, and I am grateful for the ease with which we can stay in contact, especially in times like these when we are worrying about our friends and family, but we have to realize that these types of interactions are not natural for us. Especially on platforms like Facebook, we are talking at each other through a wall of distance and mental filters, and while to some degree that is always true, I think the lack of physical cues exacerbates it. Is this kind of communication quality, or are we speaking more to hear ourselves than anything else?Combine that with the sheer volume of information we’re absorbing daily, and it’s a wonder our poor brains can function at all.
The irony of discussing this on a blog is not lost on me. If nothing else, take this as a friendly reminder to practice some self-care today; maybe log off for a while and take a deep breath.
So, you’ve been washing your hands diligently, your home office is set up and ready for the next month, and your metric ton of toilet paper is arranged in neat piles around the house. Now what?
I’ve already been quarantining for almost two weeks due to the nature and flexibility of my job, so here are three things I’ve found to be the most important in helping me stay sane and centered. I hope they can help you find some security and stability in these overwhelming times.
1. Take It Easy On Yourself
I know you might be thinking you have all this extra time at home now. You’re going to be so productive! Write the next award-winning novella! Learn a new instrument! This is just an extended vacation, right?! IT’S NOT. This is an extremely stressful time, and you may struggle to match even your normal level of productivity. Your entire schedule and normal way of life, that you’ve probably been following for years, just vanished. You may feel fatigued, and existing conditions like anxiety or mental health issues may be exacerbated. You might even have some physical symptoms of stress: headaches, stomachaches, etc. That is okay. It’s okay! Let yourself experience those feelings without adding guilt into it. Realize you are carrying a lot of extra stress around with you, and be kind to yourself. Don’t be a slave driver. Give yourself a few hours to zone out in front of the TV if you really don’t have the energy for anything else. Don’t let that be all you do, but give yourself time to relax.
2. Find New Ways to De-stress
My usual way to de-stress is retail therapy. Grocery shopping is one of my favorite activities, and if I’m feeling overwhelmed or depressed, I’ll just go wander in the store and look at food. Unfortunately, that’s no longer an option. You may find that your normal ways of de-stressing are no longer viable or safe. Get creative and find new ways to de-stress. If you’re a social person, find ways to be social online. Set up Skype parties with friends or join a group. If you’re a creative person, find a new hobby. Look up a YouTube video and cook something new. You will need to alter your life patterns. Personally, I’ve been drinking a lot of hot tea and taking my dog for jogs.
3. Stay Active! Get Fresh Air!
Go outside! Do something! Anything! Open those windows and circulate that stale air you’ve been breathing. Even if you weren’t an active person before, you probably walked to your car, walked into work, walked around the grocery store. Now your longest trek is from the couch to the refrigerator. The past few days I’ve been getting headaches. As soon as I go outside, they vanish. Your body needs movement now more than ever when you’re carrying so much anxious energy. Move, and let it out. Take deep breathes, and let your body relax.
Everyone’s situation is different, and you need to find what works for you. Just remember, it’s all going to be alright. Yes, our lives are going to be very different over the next few weeks. Accept and embrace that, but above all, be good to yourself.
There are many people out there who are struggling from loss of income or difficulties finding food. Please look for ways to support them through the organizations and people in your community who are going above and beyond to help. Even a donation of a few dollars can make a huge difference.
~ R. E. Rule
What are some ways you’ve been coping or taking care of yourself lately?
**I in no way believe this is actually the apocalypse. That being said…as a socially awkward introvert, if I was going to experience the end of the world, on my tush in front of the TV would be the way I’d want to do it.
I’ve been participating in a March Writer’s Challenge on Instagram and decided to post some of my responses here. I don’t have the brain for creative writing today. If you want to join me on Instagram and follow along, look for inthewritingstudio!
Warning: brain dump ahead.
1: Currently Reading
I’m currently reading “The Left Hand of Darkness” by Ursula K. Le Guin about a planet of androgynous beings who have been contacted by a society of other planets/species/races. Within the story, she explores how being androgynous might or might not change how a civilization functions and what they might value, plus how any civilization or government might react when learning they are not alone in the universe. The chapters of the main storyline are interspersed with planetary lore or folktales. It is definitely not a ‘white knuckle’ read, but the world is immersive and complex. I particularly enjoyed her thoughts on science fiction at the beginning of the book.
2. Writer Humor
I try to utilize humor in my writing, but it is not my intention to be comedic. Witty humor wins over slapstick every time for me. I prefer that the characters find humor within their situations, even if the story is dark, or that the reader understands a situation is humorous even if the character does not. Below is an excerpt from one of my WIPs.
“It’s empty,” Pax sighed as we rejoined Kerith by the door.
“There was an engineer here. Maybe there are hidden panels somewhere.” Kerith started running a hand along the wall, examining the cracks carefully for concealed entrances.
“There’s no sanitary station,” I pointed out. They both stared at me clearly missing my point, and I felt Pax preparing to snap at me that I should have gone before we left. Clearly this place wasn’t meant for human occupancy. The poor engineer had gone to empty his bladder and was about to find his way-station cleared out and his guards dead.
“We may want to wait for him to come back, unless we really want to catch him with his pants down.” I promptly started laughing at my own joke. At least someone could appreciate my humor, because it wasn’t going to be Pax and Kerith, and it certainly wasn’t going to be the man who had just appeared in the open doorway, staring in horror at the bodies on the ground, their blood frozen into the snow.
3. What I’m Working On
I have two ongoing drafts I am focusing on.
The first one is a fantasy epic about a woman locked in a tower. For as long as she can remember, she has lived there scrubbing floors and sleeping on bare rock. The arrival of a mysterious prisoner leaves her curious about the unreachable outside world. She begins to wonder if what she perceived as normalcy might be more sinister when she realizes she has no idea who she is, why she’s there, or what the silver collar around her neck actually does.
The second one is a science fiction story set approx. 3000 years into humanity’s future. Humans have spread out across space colonizing what planets are terraformable, but these pods of life are disconnected from each other, separated by the vast expanse of space. Isolated in harsh conditions with sparse resources, a hierarchy quickly forms and the familiar patterns of corruption and poverty that dominated old Earth re-emerge. In the remote and desolate deserts of ER5, a young dancer who wants nothing more than to be reunited with the only family she has left, finds herself entrenched in a fight between the capital and a mysterious rebel leader.
4. Current Word Count
Tallying a total would take forever. Between both my drafts and a few other ongoing projects, 200,000+ total.
5. My Hero
He’s not a hero per say but one of the biggest influences on my life (writing, taste, etc.) is J. R. R. Tolkien. I don’t think he’s a particularly outstanding writer, but his ability to create a world of such depth and detail always captivates me. That is the goal I always hope to achieve in my writing. Other authors who have had a formative influence on my writing would include C. S. Lewis (particularly for The Chronicles of Narnia), Edgar Allen Poe, and Lucy Maud Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables).
6. Writer Struggles
My biggest problem is I get tired. I work multiple jobs, so some days, like today, I just don’t have the brain power to focus on writing. I am also a perfectionist and sometimes struggle with the state of my drafts. They aren’t good. Not because the story is lacking or because I can’t write well (I don’t think…), but because they’re just drafts. I am still writing the story down and haven’t thrown myself into shaping the prose. Consciously I know that, but it can be discouraging when I write a section that I’m proud of only to re-read it ten minutes later and think, “wow, this reads like a Dick and Jane book. Give up, loser!” So like every other human on the planet, I suffer from feeling insecure. I’m sure that’s not news to any of us.
7. Main Characters Personality – I’m skipping this one. I have a lot of characters and am not ready to release more details about them.
8. Characters I Love
I LOVE ALL OF MY CHARACTERS EQUALLY, BECAUSE THEY’RE SMART AND BEAUTIFUL AND PERFECT. Actually, I have worked hard to make all my characters deeply, deeply flawed. Finding their pain, their darkness, and watching them bounce off each other trying to heal/ignore those wounds, that’s the real story…
That’s it for now! Hopefully my brain recuperates, and I’ll be posting more stories soon.