Need-Shame and Staying Home

I went on a bike ride today!

That felt really good, especially because it had been at least two months since I’d been on my bike, and I happened to squeeze my ride in that sunny spot between our ubiquitous grey skies and a sudden afternoon hail!

On my ride, I had to stop at Krispy Kreme’s because, well, it was there! I’ll admit, it was a little scary handing over my $5 bill to the guy in the drive-thru and then receiving back change. I vowed afterward not to do it again, as clearly, Krispy Kreme donuts are not really an essential part of life during this coronavirus pandemic. Or are they? My dad might have argued this one with me.

During my time out of the house, I was also able to speak to my ARNP, Karen Johnson, who has known me for a decade and a half now. She’s kind of like my mother at this point. She had called to ask me about filling out a form for my unemployment request. It was a huge relief to hear her voice when I called her back.

“I wish I could have talked to you two weeks ago when I was freaking out over this virus and needing to know if I was actually a high-risk person or not!” I said, trying to keep the tears and last week’s wash of panic out of my voice.

When I told her I work at a group home for teens, she said, “Say no more. That’s enough. You are definitely a higher-risk person, you have a pulmonary disease and this could be worse for you than for other people, so I’m glad you’re taking this seriously.”

I laughed. And then I almost cried because finally someone was validating me and my fears. I shouldn’t say finally. Plenty of my friends have been very validating, and so have my therapists (yes, I have two at the moment!). One of them told me that I have “need shame,” meaning that I have a lot of shame around just having needs, and then taking them seriously. I think a lot of people have this “need shame.” (I bet a lot of people I work with in social services have it, too, which is perhaps partly why at least one of them is still working with a compromised immune system, even though he should be staying home!)

What I should say is, finally someone with medical knowledge who also knows my medical history could confirm that I’m not making this up. That this is a legitimate medical concern and I should indeed stay home. I still have this nagging voice in the back of my head that says, Well, maybe you could/should go back to work. Maybe you’ll have to if you can’t get unemployment.

But I’m also so confused at how this is supposed to work. I hear different stories from everyone. My roommate was denied unemployment twice now because her employers (she had 9 last year) didn’t record her hours properly for her gig jobs working in theater lighting. My friend Allison is getting Standby Unemployment and is already receiving unemployment, no questions asked because she works for a boating company that had to close.

So I figured, Oh, I’m supposed to apply for Standby. But when asked the question, “Are you able to work?” I said yes, because I figured, Well, technically I am physically able, so that would mean yes, right? No. I didn’t get it. Then I applied this week and my application looks different again. Ha. Oh well, maybe that doctor’s note and letter will help things along.

Meanwhile, I’ve been doing a lot of yoga, a good amount of reading and journaling, and an obscene amount of television watching. I’ve also been meditating a little bit, playing a bit of music, learning more about Tarot cards, and I even started an essay about Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin (OMG it’s so good you guys!!!). I’ve cooked food a bit, I’ve watched James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke which I love, caught up on WestWorld, began watching Tiger King with my roommate and even watched Aquaman (I don’t really watch movies). I’ve also contemplated beginning Game of Thrones, because I had previously refused to watch it for feminist reasons. Still haven’t gotten to that, though. Could be that damn feminism standing in the way!

Last week, as you can see, was pretty good! But it was also my first week of not working. I was on a pretty good roll of doing yoga, meditating, tarot, reading, and journaling every day.

But then (dun dun dun) I made a wall chart.

I think it was the wall chart that was my undoing. (Or it could also have been the sore muscles from all that yoga.) On Sunday I didn’t do any of those things! In fact, I stayed up until 4am watching TV episodes and that movie! I missed a 10am online appointment, and never really recovered.

I did go to bed earlier last night, but I still managed to miss another 10am online appointment this morning. I feel like my life went off the rails for a few days!

Hence, I had to get outside and take a bike ride. It has made all the difference today.

I also read a few blog posts today that are a good reminder at any time, to slow the fuck down, calm the fuck down, and stop trying to achieve so damn much. I’ve been following Jema from Half the Clothes for a few years now. She writes about travel hacking, but also about life-hacking in general, and one of her things is spending more time on your “inner inbox.”; slowing way down to spend more time on the things that really matter to you. This involves saying no a lot more.

And right now, you don’t even have to say no to people! It’s already built in!

Right now, I can just be a human and I don’t have to worry about my best friend asking me to hang out or needing to fit writing time in around my grueling 40-hour a week work schedule. I don’t have to worry about some random person asking me to hang out or get a beer at the exact wrong time because I should be home practicing for that show that keeps sneaking up on me.

It’s a gift from the universe! But of course, it got too overwhelming all of a sudden. When I put that wall chart up, thinking, I want to do all this stuff! it suddenly turned into, I have to do all this stuff. The sunshine turned into hail.

So today I took the wall chart down and left it behind my TV (that takes DVD’s and that I use primarily to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer). If I feel like filling it in later, I will. But most likely, I won’t.

I think this is the problem I have with all of those countless programs that promise you that you will become a great writer and finish your bestselling novel, or whatever else you’re trying to do, if only you do it every. single. day. and “don’t break the chain”. Poppycock! The only things I do every single day is eating, shitting, sleeping (most of the time), and irrigating my nose. Oh and taking my stay-happy pills. Oh wait, there’s tons of things I do every single day. I also drink coffee every single day without fail. And most days I brush my teeth, but only before bed. That morning time one never stuck.

I do not shower every day. Neither do I change my underwear every day without fail. I mean, I do most days, but there are a few days here and there that I don’t really see the point. Like, if I showered the night before and put on clean underwear? Why? Just why? Deodorant, maaaybe.

I have started a pick-a-tarot card every day practice. That’s been fun. But if I miss a card once, I don’t stress it. I think the freedom of those first three days last week was that I wanted to do those things, and I felt absolutely no pressure to do them! I played music for over an hour one day and went through most of the songs I love to play and I felt good in my body, in my psyche! I felt elation and gratitude for this gift of time! I felt the gift of the universe smiling down upon me. And then I made it into a capitalist time machine of have-to’s, of productivity, of achieving, and then it killed everything for me. (I could also blame it on the nihilism of WestWorld that got to me and bowled me over.)

This last week I’ve been thinking just that. That this is what life would be like if we weren’t under capitalism anymore. We wouldn’t be forced to work this arbitrary 40-hour work week that saps our curiosity, our creativity, our very souls, even if we happen to do work that feels meaningful. Well, almost. I guess, there’s that guy at the Krispy Kreme’s drive-thru who might still be forced to work because people like me feel more connected to our dead fathers through donuts. J/k! Idk.

But seriously. The people that don’t have to go to work right now are starting to do things they love again and things they maybe haven’t done for a long, long time. On that note, the animals are coming back, pollution is rolling back, the earth is breathing a sigh of relief because the earth’s greatest pestilence, aka, humans, are staying inside, instead of wreaking undue environmental havoc. In this article from Global News: “Fish can be more-easily seen swimming in the now-clear canals of Venice, and air pollutants have dropped noticeably in China, Italy and New York.” NPR notes, that in China, the air quality difference was so renounced during lockdown that it seems tragic to go back to the way things were before the pandemic. But it’s already on its way back to previous air pollution levels.

Some people are going crazy staying indoors, sure. Some people still have to work, sadly. But lots of people are being creative with their time and maybe even beginning to rest and reflect, work through that “inner inbox” as Jema says.

I know that’s what I’m gonna do.

And keep working on that long list of other stuff I also wanna do. Such as:

Ok, but maybe not every day.

How are you choosing to use your time during this Covid-19 Quarantine craziness?

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