Thursday, April 30, 2020

Pandemic vs. anxiety

I'm in a weird headspace nowadays.  I realize that's probably true for most of us, given the pandemic, but it's generally not a bad headspace.  It's just, like, the feeling that this kind of situation is why anxiety hasn't been eliminated from the gene pool.  This is why it survives.

So one of my primary anxiety mitigation behaviors is over-preparing.  Pre-searching driving directions to new places, looking at the street view to see what the building looks like, figuring out where parking is.  Looking at menus ahead of time to not get hit with the surprise of not wanting anything to eat at somewhere I haven't been before.  The whole mom-purse thing without being a mom.  I mean, heck, you can see it in my D&D characters' inventory lists.  It's like taking the Boy Scout motto to the next level.

When the first news reports indicating community spread in Washington state hit, I made a meal plan for four weeks' worth of food and added it to the weekly grocery list.  I already had a spare jar of yeast because I was running low before, and I'd been making brioche buns (so tasty) already so I already had a decent amount of flour.  We bought a second chest freezer partly because we were running out of space in our existing one and partly because it seemed like a good time to do it.  The meal prep I had done a couple weeks before (8 nights' worth of meals frozen that were supposed to make Wednesday nights easier for me) suddenly became potential back-up food.  My husband already buys our paper products and soap/detergents on sale and in bulk, so we were already well-stocked in that department.

Then our fridge died again, and the second chest freezer came in really handy.  We bought a smaller backup fridge (now living in the basement next to the second freezer) because it was getting too warm to keep food in bins on the back patio, and it was several weeks before we could get the main fridge repaired (under warranty still).

We are super privileged, and we're not even rich.  We're just comfortable.  We don't have kids and we have (usually) two incomes.  I've got health insurance through the state.  So far my job is safe (although who knows how academia will come through this and if tenure will mean anything when it all shakes out).  I've got a sewing machine and a small stock of cotton remnants amassed over the past twenty years that are finally getting used, and I learned enough sewing between my mom and my gramma and home ec and 4-H to work my way through a mask pattern (even if they still take me about an hour and a half a piece).

And then there's the whole working from home four days a week thing.  I'm super introverted, generally self-motivated, and used to working independently.  I've been raiding in World of Warcraft since the spring of 2006; I can function with what is basically voice chat and Slack for communication for the most part.  I am used to either teasing nuance out of or ignoring imagined context in text chat.  (I did not expect years of guild drama on message boards to actually have practical work applications, but here we are.)  Hello, yes, work from home, thank you.  I know it won't last forever, but it's nice in the meantime.

I miss going to walk at the mostly-dead mall with my husband, and half the restaurants we visit for weekly date night are closed, so we can't do carryout from them, and I miss those.  But we really didn't do much outside the house.  The movies I was looking forward to have mostly been pushed back, and we at least got Billie Eilish's Bond song to tide us over.  Our Monday night D&D moved to Discord and will probably switch to Roll20 when we change DMs.

The initial pandemic anxiety response manifested mostly as sleeping - I took a lot of extra naps during what used to be my commute time.  And I haven't had the energy for much exercise.  I've done some extra reading, and I've done my standard garden prep, including the annual determination that I'm really bad at starting tomatoes from seeds and will probably need to figure out acquiring a couple 6-packs of Romas in a week or so.  Getting back out into the garden will be nice.  I've got a second shed now, so the car gets to stay in the garage year-round.  (His and her sheds.  We basically have his and her sheds.)  I'm going to try growing popcorn this year, which is why I've started pumpkin seeds and need to make a scarecrow.  I have been writing (fiction) a lot less than I would like, but that time and brainspace is still getting used by the class I have a paper for due next week.  So maybe after that I can get back to that.

So yeah, it's weird.  There's a virus floating around out there that could easily kill most of the people I care about, but this pandemic isn't driving me to pick up any new hobbies.  I already have too many hobbies.  I'm getting to use all of them in turn in practical ways (there are brownies now), but other than guitar and Latin, and I don't have anything new on the back burner that I'm wanting to learn.  (I have added Latin to my Duolingo but am torn between finishing the new Spanish content and starting it, and the Idiot's Guide to Playing the Guitar is on the side table by my chair.)  I have talked myself out of building a quilt frame (no room), let go my trumpet aspirations, and managed to hold off on a ukulele (I already have the guitar).  I think I've managed to preemptively abandon more potential hobbies than vice versa.

On some level this pandemic does have me impatient for it to be done.  Making plans being an anxiety coping method generally requires you to be able to make plans, and the ones I would like to be making at this point are mostly future vacations.  They'll happen at some point, but I'm not sure when now.  We only had loose plans for this summer (Boston maybe) that are are hold now, but the bigger plans (London again, Monument Valley, Pacific NW) are more uncertain as to when in the future.  I'd rather make plans than a bucket list.

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