How we’re living right now

I think about productivity a lot. Getting shit done. Or not. Mostly not. That’s real. I had a little time and decided to put down some raw ideas. I’m not trying to offer advice or position myself in any particular way. I’m just a person reacting to the times.

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Productivity during this time hasn’t meant meeting writing quotas, sending stories out, editing, reading, all that. I also haven’t been working on any photography, though I will get out all the gear every so often and not get anything done. I have enough of a process I can tell when it will feel good to sink into the project and lose a few hours—and also when it will not. Lately, I’ve felt like it will not feel good or produce anything worthwhile.

I put all that stuff away to deal with the other things. I think if we’re sensitive and intelligent people, how we come out of this is going to be important. Creating art requires a certain amount of selfishness, and I want my family to come out of this OK. I want them to know I love them and have been present, even if at times I might get depressed or angry. Feelings we’re all allowed to feel. But meals need to be made. Bathrooms need to get clean. Kids gotta get dressed in the morning (or early afternoon or at least change into fresh pajamas before bed). Bills need to be paid. Shit needs to get done.

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We’ve been sheltering in place in Austin, TX since March 15. My wife has asthma and I had pneumonia that put me into the ER a few years ago. I work at home, and she has that option. Our kids are young (the oldest in in Kindergarten). So we fully shut things down here what feels like it was a little earlier than most in Austin but is probably average.

To thrive and to come out of this without feeling like an asshole, I figured the rules and routines must change. Figure that out first. Help get my people in an all-right place that feels sustainable. The government and corporations aren’t going to save us. We’re on our own. Healthcare workers, grocery store workers—they will save us.

When the parks and the stores and the airports open back up, which will be too soon—we’re still not going to be safe. Hunkering down, what I’m doing right now, that’s going to be going on for a while.

And I’m fortunate to do that for as long as I can. I get that. I tried to accept that early. I’ve been mostly OK.

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The first week of sheltering in place, my Uncle Dennis passed away. Unrelated to COVID-19, he’d had health issues and was at home in Ohio, fell and hit his head, and never regained consciousness. The first time I used Zoom was for a funeral.

For a few weeks, I couldn’t process any of this and decided to compartmentalize my grief and deal with it later.

And I think with daily stress, homeschooling two kids while working full time and making sure my wife could also work full time—I broke a lot sooner than I expected. Turns out you can’t swallow your feelings forever. It was good to get it out and try to deal with it so I could start to move forward. Someday the family will get together again properly.

It’s going to be a long time from now, I think.

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This week I was hit with the grief of my daughter not going back to school this year or my son not going back to his daycare—a place we love and are loved back—for a few more months, and possibly ever, depending on economics. My kids are small and resilient and happy. Bored sometimes. Not getting anywhere near enough exercise. Managing their parents’ moods, which I’m sure can be difficult to understand. I need to protect them through this and that means being engaged.

We’re all here together and I take comfort in that. I have no idea what the next week will be like. I have work, and I’ve lived through times when I had no work—so I understand how fragile that security can be. Gotta work. This is America. Gotta work to have healthcare. Gotta work to afford things. Gotta work to be allowed to exist in late-stage Capitalism.

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We went on a walk in our neighborhood the other day, and there are more and more people wearing masks out. We live in South Austin, right off a major thoroughfare that cuts all the way through the city. Along that road, I see a lot of people in masks. In the neighborhood, it’s a bit touch and go, and I think that’s probably fine.

Wearing a mask feels weird and awkward and my glasses always fog up, so yeah sometimes I’ll take a walk without one. Still, if we’ve gathered together our whole pod, I think it’s a helpful thing for us adults to do—it’s telling your neighbors that you give a shit about them in a time when you can’t be as close as you’d like.

If I’m on my bike, I’ll wear a bandana around my neck so I can pull it up if I’m zooming in close to people. On a hygiene level, I know that’s not how masks are supposed to work. But it’s symbolic, really.

Symbols have meaning. And if the grocery stores won’t let you in without a mask, you gotta listen. I’ll wear one of the actual homemade masks then. Does it help? It’s not nothin’. And the grocery stores—especially H-E-B down here—have done more than the federal government in this situation.

Respect.

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Sheltering at home, avoiding busy places, keeping our shit together, wearing masks out in public (which feels weird and awful sometimes)—these are the things I can do right now. It’s a way to try to be helpful. I care about my neighbors and want them to get through this.

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How can you be productive right now? I don’t know. Do you have to be?

My son wandered over to watch me writing this and asked me what it was about, and I said—I don’t know but I’ll be done in a sec.

So that’s my cue to wrap this up. I think it’s coherent.

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Being productive means getting shit done. Taking care of yourself so you can serve the others that rely on you. Building a new routine so you can find new ways to think. Today, for me, was the first day in a long while when I felt like I was ready to start getting shit done again. The writing shit. The art shit.

I might not have time to do any of that today or tomorrow and that’s going to be fine. Other shit will get done.

So, productivity.

Get shit done. Ten minutes at a time, if you have to do it that way. Five minutes. If it’s useful, you get it done. If it’s meaningful to you, you get it done. If it’s not, you fucking leave it be.

Take care of yourself. Take care of your people. The rest of it will come.

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That’s all I got.

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