My writing muscle has refused to flex for the last couple of weeks. I feel spurts of inspiration while I’m walking Marley in the morning, but by the time we get home where I could get things down, either my ideas become ghosts, indistinct and fleeting, or I am rushing to get ready for a day of teaching. I recognize my foe well; stress and anxiety, the plagues that never seem to roam far away for long, sapping my creativity and my peace.
I entered a false sense of calm and serenity about a third of the way through the extended holiday break between semesters. Oh, there was still plenty of work to be done, but I lulled myself into thinking that surely with all of the time I had to recharge that I would regain Super Woman status with no problem, that return to being so busy and productive that it’s difficult to feel anything. The great medicinal numbing of purpose.
In normal times that plan may have had success, but these aren’t normal times, are they? The cloud of fear that hangs over us with Covid, the stress of incredibly divisive politics, along with being isolated from the normal activities of life and career have placed us all in this surreal existence where every day feels like waking up to the same dream, one that never changes.
I am teaching from home until we are vaccinated, a decision that left me feeling both guilty and relieved. So many people have no choice; they have to face the risk of exposure to make a living. I miss doing my job in person, but even when I’m able to be with my students face to face, we have to be shrouded with masks and instrument bags, making the experience stressful for both student and teacher. I am grateful to be home, though, as I have been so afraid of bringing the virus home to Dan again, to the man who was just prescribed an inhaler because of damage to his lungs from his experience with Covid last April.
Every day, Dan and I rise with the sun. I head out with Marley for three miles or more, maybe kickbox, shower, dress in nice clothes, put on a bit of makeup, trade my slippers for real shoes and jewelry; anything to make me look like the professional I am- that woman who I feel like a shadow of right now. We have lunch, we work more, we have a quiet evening before turning in for the night. Instead of performing, traveling around the world to make music, instead of seeing my students’ and colleagues’ smiling faces in person, I live in the world of Zoom and email. I feel separated from a life full of purpose and activity, feeling like a part of me is missing, my musician self dormant until some magical day when we return to some version of normal. God knows when that will be.
We are all in this limbo, this strange place in history and time. I am grateful for the cocoon of peace that is home, but I know the time will come someday where this is all a faint memory, one where we’ll tell our grandchildren about the plague that visited upon the world and changed everything. A plague that marked us indelibly. What will we tell them? Stories of hardship? Stories of resilience?
I hope to come out on the other side of this experience better somehow; a better, more compassionate human being, a better teacher, a better friend and wife. I’m struggling to find the way except to put one foot in front of the other and soldier on. I feel fear of the virus and yet, in all honesty, I also fear of a return to normal. I’m becoming a hermit, content to live in my little bubble of peace with Dan and the animals at Chez Gainey, connecting with the world through technology. A broken connection, though, missing the complete picture of human interaction. A loss for all of us.
For now I’m doing my best to stay positive, to keep to my daily routine, to be careful and safe, and to look forward to everyone getting the vaccine so that we can all move forward to whatever our next step as a human race is. I know it will take time, such a precious commodity these days as we lose loved ones and friends and strangers by the heartbreaking thousands. However and whenever change comes, all I know is that I’ll do my damndest to be ready for whatever the next chapter will bring. We are all being changed by this experience; may it make us softer, more empathetic, more loving, instead of jaded and hardened.