I have a list of tasks for today. It is a reasonable list and sits in a row with the reasonable lists from earlier in the week. Most days I do most of the things on my lists because I’ve manage to size my obligations to fit into my available hours under ongoing pandemic quarantine. All of it carefully paced to be sustainable over the long haul. It is smart. Yet this week I feel stifled somehow. The hours feel long and I keep shying away from tasks on my list. Some of that is the normal anxiety I feel in the few days prior to teaching an online class. I love the concept of this one (Networking for People with Social Anxiety) yet I worry that I won’t be able to do the topic justice, that I’ll fail to provide my students with sufficient value for their expenditure of time and money. Teaching the class also requires me to expose my own social anxieties. In order to teach I have to be vulnerable, and that is scary. Anxiety over teaching on Saturday doesn’t fully explain my mind state today though.
So much of my pandemic experience has been learning to focus on the short term because long term had too many variables in it. This week has forced me to face that same necessity through the end of 2021. This seems to be the week when events I’m associated with for late summer and fall are making decisions or announcing decisions about their format for this year. For example, Gen Con has shifted their date to late September and announced that they’ll be running a hybrid show with in-person, online, and pop-up aspects. In light of their announcement, I, as a vendor for the show, have decisions to make about whether I’ll commit my crew to attending an in-person event. I have to sit here in March and stare across six months of unknown variables relating to vaccination, Covid variants, public behavior, transmission rates, re-infection rates, international travel blockages, and the hazards I don’t even know to look for. Weighing all of those question marks, I have to come up with a decision that I can stand behind. Each variable has its own freight of anxiety, it’s own catastrophization tree of possible terrible outcomes. My anxiety gnaws at it all, and the only way to quiet the anxiety is to keep my physical life small, controlled. Which then leads to me feeling worried that I’m letting anxiety dictate my life. Perhaps I should be brave instead of safe. But facing anxiety is exhausting, and I know that need to decide upon a path that I can maintain for at least the next six months.
Looking at the decisions in front of me, I’m fairly certain where I will land. And as I write that sentence my eyes tear up a little bit for the losses. Last year loss was imposed. Everything was canceled and I was relieved to just flow along the choices of others. I could be sad without having to be responsible for causing the sadness. This year, standing in this week, I know I’m going to have to choose loss. I will either watch others have an event I stayed home from, or experience months upon months of frazzling anxiety which will interfere with my ability to work and feel happiness.
The general tenor of public discussion is cautious rejoicing because we’re reaching the end of the pandemic. I wish I could join in that hopefulness, but I remember how it felt when everything was canceled. I worry that some of these bright plans for Fourth of July events and fall conventions will have to be canceled. My instinct is to take much smaller steps into a wider world rather than rushing to reclaim as much as possible as soon as possible. So I sit here with my choices, and I grieve for what they will cost me, and I worry that my instinct for caution will prevent others from having their full reclaiming of life. Perhaps this year should be met with bravery instead of caution. Perhaps caution will save us pain, stress, and loss. We can’t know yet. And that is hard.