I sincerely hope you and the people you care most about are safe and well wherever you may be. There are lots of posts and newsletters going around acknowledging what a difficult time this is. I’d call it crazy, potentially terrifying, highly stressful, and chaotic for most people around the planet. But hey, I’m never one to ignore an elephant if it’s in the middle of the room.
I’d like to thank everyone who contributed to my fundraising efforts for Jazz 91.9 WCLK’s membership campaign. The station did the right thing in postponing their campaign and Signature Serenade that Chris and I were set to guest co-host Monday, March 16. We hope they will reschedule when something akin to normal life resumes, and I’ll be sure to update you if/when we go on the air. Regardless, your contributions made a difference for the station and for the art form of Jazz, plus, at last count, Chris and I were in the lead! (If you meant to donate but didn’t and are still able, click here.)
As I write this, Atlanta is moving toward lockdown as businesses limit hours and public places like my beloved Fox Theater, Zoo, Atlanta Botanical Gardens, and most museums have closed at least until the end of March. There are fewer flights over my head (I’m 20 minutes from the world’s busiest airport), and the illegally speeding traffic on my street has slowed to only the occasional idiot doing 65 mph in a 25 mph zone.
And out of abundant and appropriate caution, my family and I have self-isolated for two weeks as requested by one of my husband’s municipal clients because someone at their City Hall tested positive for COVID-19 and is hospitalized. We wish this person and all affected by the Coronavirus to be well very soon.
So far, we’re fine! Still…Chris and I are in the high risk group due to respiratory issues. I’m working very hard at not freaking out. That whole liver/kidney shut down thing…been there, done that when my son was born. Not again, thanks.
Friends have generously offered to make deliveries, and one neighbor lobbed homemade rolls onto our front porch yesterday. Yum! (Thanks, Kim!) Anyway, we’re good as long as the chocolate supply and other essentials hold out (and, really, my fellow Americans who read this, the toilet paper thing…WTF?)
I was supposed to be preparing to leave for Las Vegas on Tuesday. Alas, this time whatever is happening in Vegas is “staying in Vegas” without me. Not really my scene, so I’ll get over it. Believing, prior to our lockdown, that we could sneak in a staycation was a nice alternative. Now “The #1 crisis lawyer in the state” is hard at it, albeit remotely, and I, who thought I’d get caught up on a lot of projects am working not to spiral into a disjointed stress-fest.
Funny thing about creative work, the balance point of tension needed to do it is as precarious as measuring the ingredients for a soufflé. The current wisdom for creatives is show up and do the work, every day, no matter what. Don’t rely on “the muse.” I show up probably more than I should, and I learned not to depend on the muse back in art school when projects were due, muse or no muse.
What few creative coaches talk about, however, is concentration. There’s tons on flow, even more on showing up and bypassing the perfectionism, but concentration? When everything around you is chaos? When you’re brain is screaming 1000 worries? When that news you usually ignore can’t be overlooked?
Frankly, even for this hyper-focused workaholic, it’s been exceedingly tough to concentrate and stay on task. Work I could normally do in my sleep suddenly requires more of my focus and just plain takes longer to complete. I know I’m not alone in this issue as others I’ve been online with this past week have shared similar frustrations.
Concentration seems to fly in the face of our fight or flight and tend and befriend stress responses. Perhaps our lizard brains are set to protect us from concentrating or seeking a flow state when it perceives that lingering over a bit of tasty gazelle could equal death by an unseen lion. Perhaps the antidote in these unusual circumstances lies not in the disciplined “showing up to do the work” but instead in the distraction of the solitary bucket-list tasks, those unread books I think I don’t have time to read or that online art class I really want to take but tell myself I have to check more off my list before signing up.
It doesn’t take long to get fully distracted from chaos and concentrate on something more fun and different, something I genuinely desire learning or trying (not just binge watching Netflix or endlessly scrolling on social media). The trick, I find, is getting myself to do those things in the first place. The sooner I can sketch or read after getting up, the less likely my day is to go to hell in a hand basket. Suddenly the stuff with outside deadlines feels more doable after letting my imagination wander first.
Yes, there are still total freak out moments when I check fact-based news sources and realize that the lack of or slow increase in the numbers of COVID-19 cases in Georgia is not because people don’t have it but because few have been able to get tested. Often when I finally re-focus, the dogs suddenly ring their bell to go outside, and I have to stop and start again. As my brain dissolves into frantic chaos once more I ask myself how I ever taught 13 workshops per year, published multiple projects, made tons of artwork, and finished massive commissions with a late green light to start and a pushed up deadline to finish, all while homeschooling my son right up to college.
I breathe, not taking that ability to do so for granted, forgive myself for getting distracted, remember I fired my bitch-boss earlier this year, pet a puppy, make a cup of tea, wonder where that last 20 minutes just went, and pick up a tool or brush and seek to get lost again.
Hang in there, my friends! You are not alone. Give yourself permission to do what you love that you can do in your own quiet space, and don’t forget to wash your hands!