Marisa Guerin, PhD – June 22, 2021
I had forgotten, I think, what life used to be like in the “before-covid-times” when I routinely juggled multiple tasks, commitments, relationships, and projects.
One of the more interesting features of the desert landscape of the year of lockdown was the abrupt smoothing out of the calendar. All kinds of things just disappeared – lunches, committees, evening social engagements, volunteer work, performing arts, travels, family events. For long months, there were many days when what to do was entirely up to me. And what ended up happening was usually mono-focused and simple – perhaps a doctor appointment, or a grocery expedition, or a zoom with friends, baking or cooking something for dinner with Mike, or some hours here at the writing desk. Nothing more complicated, since my husband and I were lucky enough to be retired, not raising children, and able to shelter in place for a long period.
As the world around me in Pennsylvania wakes up to “vaccinated-times” there is a slow, gradual, but sure process underway that is populating my calendar. I am the source of it, of course -- it’s not being done to me by some unseen hand. Each individual calendar item is something I am grateful to be doing; most of them are long-awaited visits.
The calendar itself even looks prettier. In the interest of sharing techy-trivia, I use Google Calendar, which permits me to assign colors to appointments. For years now I have used a particular code: dark green for serious professional things, light green for work of other kinds that I commit to do, orange for appointments, blueberry-blue for family gatherings, yellow for birthdays, purple for writing time, red for reminders, etc. You get the picture! It’s fun, and I am better able to pick out what’s coming at a glance.
Sure enough, the calendar kaleidoscope is getting more colorful and more vibrant. That’s my signal that my life in public is getting back in gear. At the same time, I am starting to feel the challenge of tracking and following up on each different thread, switching channels, juggling simultaneous activities in my mind. I am aware that it is not easy. I'm probably not the only one.
There is no real reason to think I won’t get those multi-tasking “muscles” back, as I practice a more engaged life, but I am hoping to be relatively aware and choiceful as I do so. I am somewhat less physically able than I used to be, having been diagnosed last year with a chronic inflammatory condition that affects my joints (psoriatic arthritis). Now is a good time to put into practice the skills I have developed in saying a gracious “no” to overtures that I don’t feel are right for me, or whose time has passed.
At the same time, I am happy to recognize that there are new openings that I feel ready for, curious about, and energized to begin. There are green shoots popping up from within me, even as other blooms have faded. That’s a relief, actually, because so much about this time is unknown, unforeseeable.
There is energy at work deep within me, but it isn't easy to interpret. Since early May, my daily experience has become much more of a jumble than it was some months back – more emotional reactions competing for my attention: happy, sad, scared, adventurous, confused. More layers of life pulling my attention here and there: relationships, church, politics, neighborhood, family, professional connections. While I can write this description of my inner experience and in the writing, give it some coherence, the actual living of it feels far from integrated. Do not be fooled!
This disjointedness is a signal to me -- and maybe to you -- for two things: first, be very intentional about some quiet reflective time each day to let my heart sort itself out; and second, don’t worry about this. It is normal, and a new way of balancing will emerge, even if I drop a few balls now and again as I discern which ones I really want to be juggling in the first place.
Good luck to me and to you. It's a great moment for the maxim, "one day at a time."