The most excellent thing about having flu A last week: I had very few worries about Covid-19. I knew about it and vaguely considered the ways it impacted my family, but my nervous nervous system was subdued by flu.
This morning was the first day I awoke feeling truly like I had overcome the flu. Yay! And cue the nervous nervous system.
My stomach clenched. My chest ached. I could not breathe or function. What was happening? Was the flu back? No. Just plain old stress as usual.
Only it’s not plain, old, or usual. It’s fancy and new and, dare I say, novel. These are strange times with zebra worries. But that doesn’t mean I get to ignore the plain, old, usual workhorses of worry. The things I’ve always worried about remain. Notable exceptions: I don’t worry about school shootings currently, which is amazing; I don’t worry about my husband’s commute, as he doesn’t have one; I don’t worry about the ordinary school worries, as my kids are home. But my low-level anxiety over my kids, husband, extended family, community, and self continue for the most part.
Additionally, the zebra worries. What if Covid-19…No, but really, what if Covid-19…What if the vulnerable people I love contract it? What if we all contract it? What if people lose their jobs in droves? What if we have a New Great Depression? What if?
Zebra worries are a sort of bread and butter for writers. The propensity to generate those what-ifs grants a writer a powerful tool to explore ideas. Left unchecked, zebra worries become an ever-growing stampede of anxiety that can and will kill.
So it’s time to get back to checking the zebras. And back to work and managing the workhorse worries.
Last night we sat down with our boys and explained that this is our new normal: We are all at home for the foreseeable future. We each have jobs to do. We each have work stations and schedules and responsibility to keep to them. I said, “Do not make this a possibility in your minds. Make it an absolute. This is happening right now. Absolutely.”
We will have bumps, like any group of people working in close quarters. The kids will need sufficient guidance to follow any sort of home education program three-quarters into the school year. Among us we have a mom, dad, preteen, and two teens. We will need to build in breathing room.
What’s my point? Those are workhorses. Not zebras. Consuming myself with zebras I can do little about [but seriously, follow the CDC guidelines], carries me further from situating my workhorses of time management, household management, mothering, education, and creative work.
If you’re feeling a little zebra-focused, bring your eyes back home. Where your workhorses are. Make a plan and work the plan. And we will, inasmuch as is possible for each of us, all get through this together.