How are you doing, really?
I asked that question on Instagram on Monday. I was having a hard day, at the end of what had been a pretty challenging nine-day stretch on the personal front. So I think I asked in part because I do genuinely care how my internet friends are doing, but also because I think I needed some comfort that day.
Some reassurance that even though we’ve been quarantining for a while, out of our normal routines for a while, that it’s OK to have still not fully come to terms with what’s going on. To still feel really out of sorts. Scared. Anxious. To have basically gotten no work done over the past month. To truly love this quality time together at home, but to also be so exhausted by like 4 PM each day that it becomes a countdown to bedtime, both for Annie and for myself. To simultaneously miss human connection so much and to want to crawl into a dark closet, alone, and hide there for a week. To be desperate to go to the grocery store because it means getting out, but to also be terrified to go to the grocery store.
It’s a lot to feel. A lot to feel all at once. A lot of emotions to wrestle with!
And I know that it’s OK to feel those things. I’m actually doing a pretty good job giving myself a lot of grace right now. I’m not trying to do anything perfectly. I’m focusing on the present, and I’ve spent less time scrolling and keeping track of the ever-rising numbers, and that helps.
But it does help to be reminded that everyone is feeling things right now.
“Hanging on by a broken thread.”
“Struggling and scared and missing my mom.”
“Okay and ready to handle this, but also not great, TBH. It’s lonely, scary, and weird.”
“Depends when you ask.”
“I’m starting to crack, even though I feel I have the right to be struggling.”
“Not great. Tired of being told I should be thankful for what I have. I am. It still sucks.”
“Honestly, it depends on the hour.”
“Depends on the day.”
“Every week is a roller coaster.”
“Terrified, but also numb.”
“I miss shopping. I miss the grocery store. I miss coworkers I don’t even like.”
These are just a few of the many, many responses I received to that Instagram question. The responses were mixed, as you’d expect, but the vast majority were similar to the ones above. Some people are thriving during this time! Which is great! But if you are struggling, you’re not alone.
I’ve been wrestling with all the usual stressors and emotions that I know are so, so common right now. Losing clients. Losing jobs. Being so excited about things that are no longer going to happen. (I had finally started making actual plans for my big, exciting thing this year — my sweatpant party! — and now not only is a big, in-person event not going to happen, but who wants a sweatpant party after spending months in our sweatpants?! Right?! Life is one big sweatpant party right now!) I’m stressed about money, I worry about my family’s health, I worry about my cousin who is a nurse in the ICU at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey (where Annie was born!). I worry about Susan. I worry, a lot, about everything. I know worrying isn’t productive, but it’s hard to avoid.
And I feel guilt. Guilt for worrying about anything or being stressed about anything or putting any unproductive energy out into the world, because my life is, honestly, fine. I am healthy. Annie is healthy. My family is healthy. We are OK. We’ve lost jobs and clients, but for now, we are OK. Yes, we have a child to tend to 24/7, and it can be exhausting and it means getting work done is tricky, but that’s OK. I feel so so so fortunate for what I have right now, I really do. And that Annie is 18 months old — that feels like the best possible age to be going through something like this. She’s not a newborn, and thank goodness, because we all know I was a mess during the newborn days. But she’s also not old enough to need true homeschooling and education during this time. She needs to be loved, fed, and entertained. I am very, very lucky to be going through this at this time. To be the one who gets to do those things for her. For that I am tremendously grateful. (To the parents of newborns, the parents who are educating their kids while also trying to work: I think you’re amazing. I really do.)
My anxiety has gotten significantly better over the past few days. Scrolling less helps. Less news, fewer updates, that helps, too. Changing out of pajamas in the morning helps. Showering daily helps. Being present, as much as possible, helps. Getting out for a run, if I can, helps. And trying to accept that I just can’t control this time right now helps. It’s not easy! I love control! But that little shift helps.
I’m striving to get to a place of acceptance with all this. Accepting that this is the reality for us all, for an undetermined period of time. Instead of constantly wondering when this will be over, when we’ll go back to normal, just trying to focus on where we are now, and being OK with it.
The uncertainty of all this is hard, but knowing it’s hard for the entire world helps, too. I hate that we are all in this together, but I also find comfort in that. None of us have been through this before. None of us have a guidebook for how best to cope during a pandemic. I’m doing my best, and I know many of us are. This time brings out both the best and the worst in people. I’m trying to put forth my best, every day. Or at least my most optimistic and positive. (Trying doesn’t always equal succeeding. I’m trying.)
This time has been hard on my job. The career I’ve worked so hard to build over the past few years, and in a blink, I’ve seen so much feel like it’s slipping away. The clients and sponsors who don’t want to renew their contracts. The events I was supposed to work, announce, do live shows at — canceled, and unpaid. It’s both an emotional and monetary blow. And the downloads are down, significantly. It’s hard to see. That slope that was going up, up, up, isn’t quite as up. People are still listening, and for that I’m grateful (THANK YOU!), but podcast numbers are down universally. People aren’t commuting, people who normally listen at home no longer have the luxury of doing so. It makes sense. But it’s tough to see.
One thing I keep coming back to is how much I actually feel somewhat prepared for this period of uncertainty. As much as it is totally unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, the not knowing reminds me a lot of Crohn’s disease flares.
I’ve always said that if at the beginning of a Crohn’s flare someone could tell me, “OK, Ali, you’re going to be really, really sick for six months. But then, on the first day of the seventh month, you’ll be better,” then I could handle it. I’d have a time frame. I’d be able to plan. I’d be really, really tough for six months, and then I’d have some relief.
I think about that a lot right now. That if someone could tell us all how long we’d be living like this, we’d probably be more OK. We’d know. We’d understand. We’d suck it up, we’d crush the quarantine, and then we’d go back to our lives.
Of course, in neither scenario is that in any way possible, realistic, or ever going to happen. Uncertainty is hard. Some people thrive on it. I am not one of those people.
I remember when I went to Unleash the Power Within with Tony Robbins — during the worst Crohn’s flare of my life, actually — he talked about what he has laid out as the six basic human needs. We did an exercise where we identified which ones we most relate to, need, or crave. Uncertainty, for me, was dead last. (The six human needs, Robbins says, are certainty/comfort, variety/uncertainty, significance, love and connection, growth, and contribution. I am all about five of them. Just get that variety out of here!)
This is a lot of emotional unloading here. And a lot I’m still holding close to me, not really wanting to share. This feels like a very vulnerable time. And right now, more than any other time in my adult life, I’m wanting to keep things a little more close to the chest.
I’ve received some hate in the past few weeks. Some very personal hate from very anonymous people. (Always anonymous.) And that hurts. It always does. But I’ve also witnessed compassion. Kindness. Selflessness. And that’s what I’ll cling to.
I’m doing my best. That’s all I can do, and all I can keep doing, for myself, my family, my community, our world. I’m trying, every day, to do my best. I promise to keep doing just that.
Whatever you’re feeling during this time — happy, sad, frustrated, anxious, depressed, alone, exhausted, overworked, stressed, energized, connected, scared — know that you’re not alone in what you’re feeling.
So to answer my own question, in this moment: How am I doing, really?
I’m OK. And I’m optimistic.