Sunday, March 29, 2020

Fear, Unfinished Art, and COVID-19

Work-in-progress collage (untitled)
Hey all! I hope you're staying healthy, safe, and sane during these strange times...

For well over a month I've been working on a large, colorful collage of sunflowers and bunnies. A few weeks ago I wrote up a basic first draft of the blog post I planned to share when it's finished... It's mostly about my mental health and how good this year has been so far, the symbolism of sunflowers and bunnies, good stuff like that.

The problem is, everything changed in the past three weeks. 

A few weeks ago, COVID-19 was a distant concern for much of the world. For those like me, living a quiet life in the midwestern US, it was barely even a headline in the world news. 

For the first two months of this year, my mental health was the best it has been in years!

I was happy, my depression was creeping steadily backward, my anxiety was the lowest since I don't even know when. My few anxious days each had specific causes, easy to address and move on. I refocused my relationship with God, I was spending more time with people I care about, I had a lot of new and exciting things happening, I was happy and healthy and doing so, so well. The happiest I've been in a long time.

Since COVID-19 developed into a full-blown pandemic, anxiety and depression began rearing their ugly heads once again.

I'm not all that concerned about getting sick (although maybe I should be? We can debate that later). My feelings about the illness itself are more of resignation than fear. I'm washing my hands, taking care of myself and my family, staying home. If I get sick, I get sick, there's nothing more I can do about it. All I can do is pray it would be a mild case. If any of my loved ones get sick, my prayer remains the same. My prayer remains the same for everyone across the world.

What's really caused me anxiety is the social upheaval and uncertainty over the future.

In a matter of days and weeks, businesses closed, restaurants closed their dining rooms, people became afraid, and most days social media seems to be more guilt-trips than anything else.

I felt guilty when I wasn't able to work from home, I feel guilty when I go to the grocery store, I feel guilty for cracking coronavirus jokesbut I need to make money, I need to eat, and I need to laugh in order to cope.

Now I'm off work until April 6th at the earliest, so at least I don't have to feel guilty about going to the office. Instead I just get to think about how long my paid time off will last, compared to how long this pandemic could run... fun thoughts, amiright? And as someone whose mental health thrives on routine, these ever-changing, uncertain times are rough

On top of everything else, I've had a mild cough lingering for the past month, slowly and steadily improving. I feel guilty every time I have to cough or clear my throat in public, worried that my innocent cough is spreading fear and panic. 

Work-in-progress collage (untitled)
Everything feels strange and surreal. On one hand, we're in the middle of a worldwide emergency, a deadly pandemic. People are sick, dying, or losing their jobs, suffering from deep depression exacerbated by loneliness and fear. Businesses are struggling. My heart breaks for those suffering, and I fear the long-term effects this will have on the economy and society. 

On the other hand, the sun is shining and spring has arrived. My 25th birthday is in ten days! I'm making art, writing, baking cookies, exercising. Life goes on, strange as it may be right now.

However, I'm beyond thankful to say that my mental health is holding strong. The week of the 15th I was filled with anxiety and dread. I couldn't paint most of that week because I was too anxious.

This past week has been a different story! I'm still anxious and I dread the turmoil and loss in the coming weeks and months, but I've felt enough peace to paint, and that is truly a precious gift to me.

I've continued working on this collage I started long before COVID-19 was a pandemic. Today I'm doing something I wouldn't normally do on this site... Today I've shared only work-in-progress photos, because the collage isn't finished yet.

I'm hoping to complete it sometime this week, and then I'll edit and publish my other blog post draft sharing the inspiration behind the piece. That is also when I will reveal the title of this piece. I've chosen a title I think we all will be able to connect with...

For now, I hope you enjoy these progress shots. Just as this bunnies and flowers collage is unfinished, remember that this pandemic is not the new normal, this is not the end. This is temporary, and in time the term "social distancing" will become a memory.

Until then, this collage has become my prayer. I pray you remain healthy, safe, and happy. I pray illness, stress, financial struggle, loneliness, and boredom stay far away from you. I pray these bright sunflowers and blue bunnies can brighten your day a little. I pray you enjoy baking sourdough bread, sewing masks for hospitals, binge-watching Netflix, or whatever you're doing while quarantined. I pray you learn new things about the world, yourself, and your loved ones during this time. I pray that we all learn to value our relationships more, and learn to treat others with an extra dose of kindness... especially those workers who are so often mistreated, but are truly essential to keeping our society going.

I pray you remain healthy and safe.


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