Presenting my fall pandemic schedule.
“This was my pivot point, my moment of self-arrest. Like a climber about to slip off an icy peak. I drove my ax into the ground…I recommitted myself to being healthy…having children had changed my regular routine. …join[ed] a girlfriend for a 5:00 a.m. workout…This new regimen changed everything.”
So explains Michelle Obama in her memoir, Becoming. In the face of Barack Obama’s demanding travel schedule, she decided to face her own needs and create boundaries and schedules for herself. She was working full time and caring for two small children.
I read this with great interest, as I had recently listened to Rachel Coonce on the Inner Loop podcast “Negativity to Creativity” about how she schedules time for writing. Rachel has some really useful advice.
Participating in this “Quarantine Inspiration Series” is helping me rethink exactly how I will juggle work, writing, self-care, and at least some primary family duties going into the fall. My closely guarded 9 a.m.-3 p.m. time slot for writing is no longer viable with four people home in a two-bedroom apartment, complete with jackhammers whirring due to external building renovations.
So here is what I am doing to moor my boat. (It’s a work in progress.) I’d love to hear from you about how you’ll move into the next phase of the pandemic.
- REST! I’m getting lots of rest and daily time away from my family so I can make it through what will be a demanding fall. Are you getting time to rest? Can you somehow get away safely?
- RESET EXPECTATIONS! I will reset my expectations between August and November. Following Rachel’s advice, I plan to write or edit every day even if it is for five minutes, because that is my primary joy. But I have decided that unlike in “normal times,” I’m going to put writing off into the latter part of my day. That way, I’m not setting the wrong expectations for myself when my kids need something during online school. I will do my consulting job in the mornings, and my kids will be my “other” work colleagues during the school day. Then I will do my writerly work.
- EXERCISE! I’ll exercise at home or go outside every morning; some days, even a six-minute workout will do. I built myself up to do this one when I want to really sweat, but it is very demanding, so don’t jump right in, please, and hurt yourself. I will spend a few minutes in nature in the day, even if it is a walk in the garden. Thanks, Dan Knowlton, for reinforcing that!
- FIND YOUR SACRED SPACE! I’m going to be rigorous about going to a specific space to write. In my case, I am currently using a generous friend’s apartment while they are in France. On a video call with Rachel Coonce, I found her office very inspiring. I think we should all aspire to such a sacred space as a necessity and not a luxury. Remember A Room of One’s Own?
- GIVE BACK! Have you found a way to involve yourself in a cause? I plan to work on weekends to get out the vote.
- JOY! While all this is going on, I’m going to notice my body and observe my emotions. Am I suffering? If I am, maybe it means I’m tired or need exercise or a nap. I work with an amazing team of co-learners led by Jade Duggan. I’m discovering that my life is not a crucible of suffering or “not coping.” I make my choices. I write my destiny. One of the questions I’m asking myself is, “Am I feeling joy and connection?”
I have no idea when groceries, cooking, or cleaning will happen, but we’ve adapted our household into an all-hands-on-deck model — my kids plan meals, cook, and clean (if you are particular, this model may not work for you). My little one asks, “Why do you have to clean up, Mom? The queen isn’t coming over.”
Right. Thanks to covid-19, I’m off the hook, but kiddo, you still need to pick up your banana peel off the floor.
As I sign off, I’m listening to the musical “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” Here, Hedwig is singing “Wig in a Box”:
“On nights like this, when the world’s a bit amiss, and the lights go down…I feel on the verge of going mad. Then it’s time to punch the clock. Put on some makeup. Turn on the tape deck. And put the wig back on my head.”
Enjoy getting back to work — the work you love — and keep punching that clock.
Leeya Mehta’s new collection of poems, A Story of the World Before the Fence, is available here.
Like what we do? Click here to support the nonprofit Independent!