Today’s been a rough day for feeling productive. And by today I mean the last several days, and by the last several days I mean the decade that’s been masquerading as the past month.
It’s not super original to be like ‘boy, quarantine’s kinda rough, huh?’ but BOY. Quarantine’s kinda rough, huh?
You can find any message you care to on the internet, but a lot of them are about how to feel productive and creative while in this space where time doesn’t exist and the world has gone sideways. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a Tweetstorm and been inspired to go make a list of things to accomplish while waiting this thing out; daily itineraries of productivity and creativity and aspiration; checklists of accomplishment that will let me feel like I got something out of all this. Brother, I’ve got notebooks full of inspiring to do lists.
And then I slump in bed and reread Agatha Christie books and scroll Twitter for three hours. I’ve literally been procrastinating on doing a free, no-stakes ‘just for fun’ dance class for four days. I can’t even commit to which Pixar movie I’m going to rewatch.
Things I have learned: I will never not laugh at Inspectors calling Miss Marple ‘my old pussy’. How to make a no-sew face mask. This one guy that ended up with 900 moths in his house.
Things I have written: About 200 words.
The brain’s just not doing the thing, fam.
For my last job, I used to do research on the sociology and psychology behind climate change belief. I learned that people have a ‘worry reservoir’, a given amount of their brain that is dedicated to concern. For most people, this is primarily taken up with immediate challenges that directly and tangibly impact them. Paying the rent, making the deadline, food on the table, the leak in the roof, that one friend who won’t text back, dad’s heart thing, the million crucial and minute challenges that throw themselves up against the average human. What was important for us to understand was that’s left over for worry about grand-scale problems like climate change is pretty damn limited. What I’ve realized is that this worry reservoir can overtop, and when it does it can flood out not only the ability to care about seemingly distant problems, but also a hell of a lot else.
We’re existing with a baseline of crisis that has our reservoirs spilling over, and things like creative output? They’re in the floodplain.
My father-in-law is a water engineer, and thanks to him I know that reservoirs have spillways designed to take in water, drain-like, and once the reservoir is filled to capacity, shoot that excess into a river on the other side of the dam. And this thing is called a glory hole. Which I love almost as much as an inspector’s old pussy.
So I guess if we’re going to go with this generative metaphor of our mental capacity being flooded with the existential fear and anxiety of a global crisis, what I want to know is: Where’s the glory hole?
What can I crank open in my brain that will let me write again? What lever can I pull to drop the levels and let me get my head above water long enough to write a few hundred words about a Bigfoot falling in love with a podcaster? Failing that, what lever can I pull to make me stop feeling bad about it?
If you figure it out, let me know – I’ll be in bed, reading Agatha Christie and scrolling Twitter. There’s a cat that sounds like a pigeon.