These are strange times we’re living in. In the last 100-plus days, I’ve seen my neighbors and friends clean out their garages and attics, house projects taken off hold, and productivity seemingly spike. At least based on the piles of old furniture sitting at the curb and the posts on social media. Working from home with a three-year-old for four months now, there haven’t been many of these projects for us. We’ve been lucky to just maintain the status quo.
In those first few weeks, we were all in isolation shock. We’d returned from Disney World and less than a week later our offices closed and the first stages of lockdown started. We kept our daughter home from school since we were both working from home though her daycare remained open. As the pandemic hit New York and New Jersey, panic set in. I felt trapped and anxious all the time. Sometimes the days felt so long it was hard to breath; how was I supposed to function? I hurt my back one day by simply going to the grocery store—a chore that I used to enjoy but was peak stress. Was there toilet paper? Hand sanitizer? Soap?! Did I touch too many things? How much do I buy so that I don’t have to come back… what if I have to come back?
After the back spasm, I took a step back, adjusting my work schedule, cutting out some social media and taking walks every day to clear my head and get some time by myself. Slowly, my sanity returned. Daycares closed indefinitely in April, and we knew we were in it for the long haul.
Knowing the situation we were dealing with wasn’t a stop gap, but our indefinite future forced me to turn to something, anything to get some reprieve from the anxiety continuous hounding me. My most beloved television shows couldn’t hold my interest; I had trouble reading books. I was so incredibly tired of walking the same three loops through my neighborhood. But, miraculously, I was able to write.
Every night, after bath time and cuddle time, while my daughter and husband laughed through pre-bedtime games and stories, I wrote. I’d had a goal of finishing my novel by June and I wondered if just maybe that was still possible. Writing gave me a sense of normalcy in an otherwise crazy world. Sitting down with my laptop and my characters, turning to a fictional world brought me solace. By the end of May, I’d crossed the finish line. The End. The best two words an author ever gets to write. One year after I’d started, despite a concussion earlier in the year and now a pandemic, I’d finished my novel on deadline.
But then, what did I do? Writing had become my haven. I needed it. More than I had before. I didn’t have a new idea yet. My novel was still too fresh in my mind to start something new. But I needed something. So, I turned to my first novel—my MFA thesis and the novel that landed me my agent. It hadn’t sold, and I had some ideas on how to make it better, but hadn’t the time. Except now I did.
While my just-finished novel was out with beta readers and my critique partner and percolating in the background, I delved into a revision of a novel I hadn’t touched in years. It was rejuvenating and exciting. I had so much fun pulling the pieces apart and sticking them back together. In six weeks, it was ready to go.
Writing, like it has so many times before, saved me. Numerous friends have said they can’t write, can’t find the inspiration or the motivation. But in the chaos, writing grounded me. It was the only thing that gave me a space to get away and the clarity I needed to find a routine. Through that routine I found balance. Through balance I found strength.