Sunday Reading: Change, Illness, Poetry

It’s April now. Spring getting its rhythm. The cruelest month. National Poetry month. I’m leaning heavy into this embrace. 

http://getwellsoon.labr.io — a project by Sam Levigne and Tega Brain

I’ve been following the work of Johanna Hedva for several years now and that’s what brought me to this project. They wrote an introduction, in a sense, and I found it to be really powerful and elegant and pointed and everything that I come to expect from their writing.

I Sit and Sew by Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson & Poem of the Week: The Idler by Alice Dunbar Nelson

Alice Moore Dunbar Nelson was an American poet, playwright, journalist, social activist, and an early published diarist. Her work is largely about being Black in America, a woman, and colorism. She was part of the Harlem Renaissance. These two poems by her struck me as being really timely. Probably because many issues facing us then are still a problem today.

Sometimes A Wild God by Tom Hirons

I read this years ago and was reminded of it recently.  I love the atmosphere of it, the imagery, and the way it relishes bodies, cosmic and otherwise.

Opinion: This is not home schooling, distance learning, or online schooling. by Maureen Downey

“Stephanie Jones and Hilary Hughes are University of Georgia professors in the Department of Educational Theory and Practice and co-directors of the Red Clay Writing Project. They say something today that needs to be repeated daily like a mantra: What is happening is not home schooling. It is not distance learning. It is not online schooling.”

I really liked seeing this article because I see so many people trying to behave as though this should be a “normal” schooling period and that the only challenges are the “at home” or “distance” or “online” part, which is simply not true.

Some of the best online poetry, as read by actual poets. by John Freedman

A really good collection. If you’re trying to read poetry and feeling stymied by how to read it, a great way to address that is by listening to poets read poems.

A Change in Lesson Plans: Homeschooling in a Pandemic by Emily Raboteau

I haven’t fully read this yet, but it appears to be a thoughtful consideration of how coping with a pandemic changes learning.

 

xoxo

On Being at Home… A Lot

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Since it became clear that social distancing would be necessary to slow down the spread of coronavirus and hopefully avoid overwhelming our medical system, there’s been a lot of advice circulating on how best to deal with this event. The advice tends to fall into two categories: optimistic “use this time to tackle that project you’ve been putting off” or anti-capitalist crossover self-care crowd saying “now is not the time for productivity, it’s time to rest”. This advice or validation is not wrong, depending on what you feel you need, but I do think as extremes on a spectrum of activity it tends to take the short view when this crisis is more than likely going to take a long time to be resolved. 

For those needing to make dramatic adjustments (and frankly having the privilege to do so), I have a few suggestions based on my 10+ years being chronically ill and experience as a stay-at-home parent. Obviously my suggestions cannot apply to everyone and I don’t pretend to speak for people who are unable to self-isolate at home. This goes out to all the people who have eaten fennel for the first time in their lives because it was the only fresh thing they could find at the supermarket. 

  1. Avoid trying to impose structure on yourself with big, meaningful plans. For example, “I’m going to re-establish my spiritual practices,” or “I’m going to write a novel like I’ve always wanted.” Instead, develop structure through routine. Maintain as much of what’s normal for you as possible, but don’t be afraid to embrace your relative freedom in planning your day. Maybe you’re not a morning person, maybe you are exhausted mid-day. Loosely plan according to your energy flow. If you can add the practice of something important to you, then do it in small doses. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
  2. If you were not somehow finding a way to carve out time to work at a big project or skill, you’re probably not going to do it now. Time does not magically create motivation or discipline. It does however afford you the chance to begin. Keep your goals and expectations low,  and instead deep dive into your curiosity, your desire. Avoid anticipating a particular outcome. 
  3. Find a way to move your body. Dancing, walking, yoga, low impact calisthenics, leg lifts in the bath. Whatever. You don’t need fancy gear or special training. No one gives a damn if you’re gassy or there are holes in your sweatpants. If you want to learn how to do push-ups, check YouTube for tutorials. We are not talking about weight loss and this is not a Hollywood prison montage. If you become Sarah Connor over this shit, you need to do some inner work.
  4. Be flexible. Access your body and your feelings regularly. Am I dehydrated? Am I not washing my clothes enough to have clean underwear? Am I feeling sad? Can I remove x, y, z tasks to give me more time to rest today? And listen, y’all. You need to shower. Other people seeing or smelling you should not be the only reason you clean yourself. 
  5. Don’t beat yourself up for binge watching shows or playing a lot of video games. Really don’t. It won’t help you make different choices later and the ability to make different choices later is what will enable you to find your balance. Nobody is out here learning calligraphy and harpsichord and six languages. I promise you. Just enjoy what you’re doing when you’re doing it and move on. 
  6. Try to notice when unchecked bias shows itself to you. For example, are you surprised (and maybe outraged?) by how hard it is to…. be the predominant caregiver? Stay at home with your kids? Educate your kids? Live with income uncertainty? Get your social and physical needs fulfilled with limited mobility and access? Remember this shift in perspective. Respect teachers, nurses, caregivers, stay-at-home-parents, single parents, chronically ill folks, and gig workers. Consider how we can show better support for each other going forward.
  7. Learn how to ask for help. Read The Art of Asking. Or like ANY Brene Brown books. Consider what kind of support has helped you the most in the past. Do you want jokes to make you laugh? Go ahead and let people know you need to see some funny memes. Do you have specific boundaries? You can talk about that, too. People may not reach out to you, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care. They might just need some sign from you.
  8. Generosity is nourishing, scarcity mindset is depleting. If you can give — listen to a friend vent their anxieties, offer toilet paper or diapers to neighbors, make masks for medical professionals and grocery store employees, buy a bidet and use washable cloth wipes instead of buying limited paper products, help someone pay their bills, share information on a small business having a sale, etc. — then it’s in everyone’s best interest for you to do so. In times like this it’s easy to feel like you have nothing to give. That is rarely true. Giving is so much more than money or labor. It’s a reminder that we can hold each other. 

And speaking of ways to give, I’ll include some links below to groups that I have observed doing some great work. Some are Denver based, some are in Tennessee or North Carolina. If you’ve got anything to add, feel free to do so in the comments. 

People who need things to do with little kids/tips for being at home (some are free, some are not):