Diary of a Cockeyed Optimist

Well, this sucks. Now, what can I DO?

That’s always my response when I have a problem. There’s a cycle: frustration or fear, depending on the cause, followed quickly by the search for a solution. Most of the time, that’s a good thing. My husband calls it Miss Fix-It mode. It’s fine if there’s actually something I can do. When there isn’t, helplessness and impotence, and sometimes anger, fill the void.

For the past few days I’ve felt helpless and angry with little bits of hope thrown in there just to keep my sanity mostly intact.

I’m used to working from home. Have been for twelve years. My husband is, too, and we’ve worked from home together for nearly our entire relationship. For almost a decade we’ve navigated being around each other all. the. time. Successfully navigated. We’ve even taken a couple of 31+ day road trips where there is truly no way to get away from each other. We’re fairly insular. Even when we have things planned, we often say “I know this is going to be fun, but…”

Social distancing, quarantine, isolation, should not be a big deal for us.

Except it’s not what’s happening inside our home; it’s what’s happening (or not happening) outside. I feel impotent. I can’t DO anything to fix this. “I can write,” I’ve thought. “I’m a writer.” Yet the words wouldn’t come out, stuck inside my skull like a ping-pong ball. I’d have random ideas, and then the frustration and the fear would send the ball on another ricochet and destroy any cohesiveness.

I’m scared. I’m scared for me personally. Not as much from a physical aspect. As I mentioned, I’m pretty good at social distancing and I’m healthy. It’s the professional and financial situation. I write about travel and Chicago, and when people ask me what I do for a living, I quip “I tell people where to go.” I make money when people book tours and hotel rooms, and when event promoters want a bigger push to reach my audience.

That’s gone, of course. Well, I also make money from advertising. I’d seize up every time I looked at Google Analytics. Saint Patrick’s Day was my lowest day. Only 155 people visited my site. I made $2.75.

What am I going to do? OK. I’m an author. I can sell my books. Except everybody else is in that situation, too. I’d already begun publishing my first book in serial format; people could read and I’d make a little money from ads. Little being the operative word.

I’m still writing in my journal every day. I set my timer for ten minutes and I let my thoughts go. There’s a pattern to that as well. I often begin with worry and end with optimism. I call my morning routine my “pep talk,” and it works. It’s my own rah, rah, sis boom bah and frequently ends with “YOU’VE GOT THIS” underline underline. It works. For years, it worked. Until the past week when that morning lift buoys me for a bit, and then I check Facebook or Twitter and spiral into impotence and fear again.

This morning I feel stronger. Part of it came from Tommy’s Sparkling Isolation. His transparency and honesty have left me with a feeling of hope, inspiration, and connection.

Part of it is because I have been making changes. I’d been focused on my fear, for my friends and family, for myself, and for the world. I’d been worried about what’s going to happen to my business, a business I’ve spent nearly two decades building. BUT, when I focus on me, I lose who I am.

So, what can I do?

I can write. I’m a writer. I can tell stories in the same voice I’ve always used, which is one of hope and, as one reviewer said, wide-eyed optimism. 

I can post pictures. I’ve got thousands and thousands. We may not be able to physically travel right now, but we can explore visually.

I can share what others are doing, people who also can’t make a living right now, but have come up with innovative ways to share their arts. The creativity and sense of community are uplifting.

I’ve got videos of me holding my phone and recording what I see through the windshield. Virtual road trips!

I cook. I’m not a chef, but I love cooking and it’s a stress-reliever. I can post recipes.

I can start live videos.

I can start that novel.

I can start my podcast.

I can have virtual cocktail parties.

I can clean my garage and start those craft projects that have been hiding in boxes for longer than I care to admit.

I can share tips on working from home.

I can offer advice on how not to kill your partner. (I did write a chapter on that, after all.)

I can write about my day and how I’m coping with…everything.

I can I can I can.

I have heard people rant and rave and bellow
That we’re done and we might as well be dead
But I’m only a cock-eyed optimist
And I can’t get it into my head

Rodgers & Hammerstein, “South Pacific

I am a cockeyed optimist, I always have been, and I’m not going to lose that now.