Acceptance in a zombie apocalypse (and other stories)

I always thought an apocalypse would be fun. High stakes. High adrenaline.  The mere fight for survival taking priority over all other things. Like rent. Laundry. And earning a stable income in the creative arts.

I have, at times, secretly prayed for a zombie apocalypse.

The opportunity to test my survival skills (which I suspect are nowhere near the level of the cast of The Walking Dead), unleash my pent up anger on lifeless human-like beings with impunity, and perhaps snag a handsome, smart, ruggard hero in the process, seems so romantic.

But because this isn’t TV, and this isn’t really an apocalypse, what I’m left with – and I’m sure I’m not alone in this – is a lot of fear around health and future economic stability. With no real end in immediate sight.

The light at the end of the tunnel seems a long, long way away right now. For us all.

Now I’m mostly at home, with just me, my head and my cat. Which as I’ve previously mentioned, is not always great for me. On one level, I am used to it – I’m a writer and I mostly work from home, so I’ve got a few tricks in dealing with it.

Honestly, one of my favorite things to do is wake up, reach for my laptop and write in bed – before I even shower, eat, check emails or brush my teeth. I seem to write better when I’m dirty and smelly.

But this is Stay-At-Home/Quarantine thing takes it to a new level. In the past couple of days, I’ve gotta be honest, no matter how much I love working from home, it’s gotten a bit rough. I’ve mostly got a handle on how to avoid mindlessly snacking (except when I don’t), I’ve got a fairly good routine (except when I don’t), so what I’ve mostly been left with is the FEAR.

How am I going to pay rent next month? How am I going to continue to progress my career? What should I focus on? What about my future? My head wakes up roaring with fear and anxiety. And what that looks like for me is often a lack of focus, or putting my energy into the wrong things, and then later in the day, exhaustion and self-berating for not getting done the huge list of things I set out to accomplish that day. The more anxious I get, the less productive I am, the more un-productive I am, the more anxious I get.

It seems weird that I can burn out when I’m just kinda knocking about the house and not accomplishing a lot, but I assure you I can. And I have.

Fear, worry and anxiety are exhausting. And for me, counter-productive.

They’ve stopped me from being honest, from following my gut instincts, from taking the right action, from focusing on what’s important and they would (if I let them) continually corrode my self-esteem and productivity.

So now I’m stuck in my house and head – how do I combat my anxiety?

ACCEPTANCE. I focus on acceptance. This is the situation right now. I can’t change it. Wishing it was different, being worried about what’s going to happen, isn’t going to help. I need to accept it. Along with acceptance comes the realization I’m not alone. A lot of us are in the same boat. I have people I can call. I have people I can Zoom with. I can go for walks and runs.

STAYING PRESENT. Most of my anxiety and fear is based in the future. The events I’m most afraid of haven’t even happened yet. So I try and focus on staying in the present. It’s hard to trip about the future, if your brain is where your hands and feet are. So sometimes, if I’m really, really anxious and I don’t want to wake the cat, I will literally talk to my hands.  Out loud. What can you see, Jo? A window. With blinds. A slightly dirty laptop monitor. Where are your hands right now? On my keyboard.

Getting my brain back in the present, stops the cycle. 

GRATITUDE. I go for a walk in the morning and I look around. It’s a beautiful day. The sun’s shining. There are some really pretty houses. When I get home, my cat’s sprawled on the grass, dozing. He purrs when I call his name – before I even pat him. He’s happy. I’m happy, he’s happy. Right now, in this moment, I take some time to be grateful for what’s right in front of me. Even if it seems tiny, simple, and furry.

I get out of my head by helping someone with theirs.

REACHING OUT. Some of my friends are more anxious than me right now. I can’t take away their reasons, but I can be supportive. I can reach out. I can ask what I can do to help. I can text and call them and let them know they’re not alone and there are people who care about them. I look for opportunities I can be of service (added bonus: I can do it without necessarily having to put on pants).

I even have a sticky note on my laptop to remind me.

Seriously, how can I?

My daily reminder

THIS TOO WILL PASS. It will. I have to remind myself though, or I’ll forget.  But one day soon, the doors to all our houses will burst open, and we’ll swarm like spawning salmon to the parks, beaches, streets and restaurants to reunite with loved ones. Until then, I got things to write. See you on Zoom.

Writers that Zoom together, write together – with @ardenpryor