Don’t feel bad about being busy during a pandemic.

I understand the intent behind those “reject productivity during a pandemic” memes and posts. I think that’s probably a really important message for some people to hear.

If you need to hear these things, please hear them! I’ll back you up to anybody who needs to hear it from someone else:

  • You don’t have to make your kids do every single elearning assignment.
  • If you’re a teacher or a professor, you can be more lenient in your grading than you usually are.
  • Be kind to yourself during this time; this is chaos and trauma and uncertainty, and it’s okay to move slower and accomplish less.
  • If a little bit of mess doesn’t bother you, it’s okay to be a little messy right now.
  • You don’t have to go to Zoom church, Zoom happy hour, Zoom game night if you don’t want to.
  • You don’t need to learn a new language, pick up a new hobby, work on a side hustle, or re-invent your self. (Or re-start your blog, Liz.)

All that said, I worry that there’s another message that has gotten lost in all of the “don’t be productive” commentary: it is okay if you’re really busy right now.

With all this encouragement to slow down, rest, and try to take this time to re-center and rediscover your love for your family and so on, it’s also good to acknowledge that some of us have a WHOLE LOT OF STUFF TO DO.

I have college students who are depending on me to provide clear, consistent instructions and feedback on their work.

I have bills that need to be paid through my freelance work as a writer and an Outschool teacher.

I have kids who need help coping with this new situation we’re in and will continue to be in for the next several months, from what I can tell. They don’t see their friends, everything they love to do is cancelled, their cousins are at once a mile and a world away, and they need structure and some activities and one-on-one time.

I have a yard to take care of and a garden to plant. I have weeds to get rid of and honeysuckle to try to eradicate. I have a brush pile that needs to be burned. At the start of this, I had chickens in the garage who needed a new, safe run outdoors and I had to finish it before they could move out.

I think better when my house isn’t a total disaster, and now, with 4 of us home all day, every day, the work load of keeping things picked up has skyrocketed. Laundry still exists. I gotta figure out the grocery situation every week. Everybody needs to eat.

My husband is chronically ill, so a lot of day-to-day responsibilities fall to me.

I don’t have the luxury of rejecting productivity right now.

And I bet a lot of my friends don’t have that luxury, either.

So if you are someone who needs to hear that it’s okay to relax your expectations of yourself and turn down opportunities that are overwhelming right now, please make sure you do that! But if you’re busy and overwhelmed, and you feel like there’s nothing else you can give up, that’s okay, too.

You’re not a failure if you’re not thriving in this new schedule that some of your friends say is awesome. You’re not screwing this up because there hasn’t been a rediscovery of your inner person while in quarantine. You’re not a traitor to your own well-being by staying on top of your responsibilities during this time.

You’re awesome. You’ve got this. Embrace the lessons you need to embrace right now, and remember that some of the advice out there is not targeted toward you, and so you can read it and set it aside.

Grocery Shopping in the Age of Isolation

Quick backstory, for those who don’t know us: My husband is 38 and has several chronic respiratory diseases, including some severe ones. He’s on 24/7 supplemental oxygen, so we are taking isolation guidelines very seriously.

Questions you ask yourself while grocery shopping during isolation:

  • Why are some things from Aldi so good, and some things are so terrible? (Good: cheap brie. Bad: the granola bars that made my 6-year-old come to me one day and say, super sweetly, “Mom, will you promise me somping? It’s that will you promise me not ever don’t buy those granola bars from Aldi ever again? Please?”)
  • Why does Meijer up the prices just to let me use Instacart?
  • Is it ethically acceptable to shop with Instacart right now when they’re not taking care of their workers? Yes, as long as I tip well?
  • Is it ethical to let someone else take the health risk for you by paying them to do your shopping?
  • Why doesn’t Aldi let me shop the fun aisle through Instacart? Do you know how much I would buy from their fun aisle right now? It’s SPRING! They are probably stocked with planters and gardening clogs and interesting seeds and yard decorations and fun summer kids’ toys!
  • What am I going to cook for the next 14,000 meals? Probably just more spaghetti and burgers.
  • Why are there reports that the Muncie Wal-Mart parking lot is packed with people, and that the Muncie Lowes is full of families, no observations of social distancing, no limits to number of people in the stores? Don’t people realize what this is going to do?
  • Am I contributing to that by placing my order TODAY? Should I place my order tomorrow? Next week? I made it 10 days without needing to re-stock, but there are definitely some things we’re running low on.
  • Why do I miss grocery shopping so much?
  • Is it really okay to skip the disinfecting process for groceries? Reliable sources say it’s not necessary, but I remember what it felt like three weeks ago when I was convinced for two hours that my allergies were actually COVID, and how I tried to think of what else I could have done to keep Ben and the kids safe, and if I get peace of mind from cleaning the groceries, does it matter?
  • Why does it make me feel like crying to pick between a few different candies so that my kids can have a fun little treat during the week?

Dear Boring-As-Shit Pandemic Diary:

It’s not your fault that you’re boring now.

I used to journal about falling in love.

Going on adventures. Traveling the world.

Committing random acts of colonialism around the world as an ill-informed teenage missionary. (Yeah, sorry about that.)

Getting married & moving across the country.

Coming to terms with my husband’s countless respiratory diseases and what it means to be the healthy partner in a marriage governed by chronic illness.

Having a baby!

Moving back home and getting my dream job of being an English professor.

Having another baby and trying to get him to sleep through the night. Then he’s a toddler and trying to get him to sleep through the night. Then he’s a pre-schooler and trying to get him to sleep through the night.

Then he’s a kindergartener and have you ever been so tired in your life.

Those sleepless nights added up, and it became years of sporadic diary entries, a half-hearted attempt to document some important moments: a summer of hospitalizations for my husband, the first time I took the kids on a solo road trip, the time I took my daughter to the Women’s March to protest the inauguration of a disgusting excuse for a president, the time my mom and I took the kids to France for a month and spent the summer hiking with a donkey, playing in castle ruins, watching plays in French, and cheering at the Tour de France.

Yes, my diaries used to be exciting. ‘Cause I’m a stupidly lucky person with a stupidly lucky life that is full of love and good conversations.

And now, poor diary, you are a spiral-bound notebook with lines (my high school self would be MORTIFIED), and your entries look something like this:

  • Today I taught some classes.
  • Today my kids took some classes.
  • We went on another walk again.
  • I saw some ducks.
  • We cleaned the living room/kitchen/bedroom/garage/bathroom.
  • Nobody yelled at each other much.
  • I made spaghetti/leftovers/chicken tenders/salad/pizza/burgers.
  • Running low on boxed wine.
  • Ben slept most of the day; it’s spring time. That’s normal.

But then I posted something on Facebook. I wrote down the things that had really happened lately. The things that hadn’t made it into my Pandemic Diary:

  • I ordered deodorant online and it says it’s arrived but I’ve never found it. Do I care? Not sure.
  • My coffee filters haven’t arrived either and I DO care about that.
  • Phantom of the Opera starts live streaming at 2pm EST today, if my brain is still working and I’ve converted the time correctly.
  • Oscar says he’s out of clean pants and is wearing tiny Hawaiian shorts that are shorter than his boxer brief underwear. Which are too small for him.
  • I need to help Ada feel excited about something, so I bought her some fun Wings of Fire and John Wick tshirts that she can earn by meeting whatever goal she wants to set, even if that goal is something absurd and silly.
  • My third and last box of wine is almost empty. God help me. (yeah, I drink box wine. IT’S A PANDEMIC.)
  • I dreamed last night that the president of our university convened a Zoom faculty meeting to discuss the importance of not swearing so much. Debbie from work was asked to go on CNN to talk about swearing on college campuses, but I don’t remember what she said, just that she made us look good.
  • My new chickens are dumber than my old chickens and I’m not sure how to feel about that.

And at the end of my list, I felt better.

I liked what I had written. And my friends liked what I had written. And a bunch of them asked me to write some more. And Marci Rae Johnson said I should blog again. When Marci Rae Johnson tells you to do something, you really don’t have any other choice.

And so today, diary, I dusted off my old blog, archived all the posts, tried to learn the new WordPress site editing system (not sure I like it), and sat down to write it all down.

So, Marci, here goes. I’ll either thank you later or blame you.