Worth and Productivity

I came across a meme recently with an image of a half-full carafe of coffee that said, "Your worth is not measured by your productivity," wrapped around the brim and inside the coffee. During the early part of the pandemic, I found myself grasping at straws to find ways to prove to myself that yes, I'm still a productive person! I put a lot of effort into emailing. I mean, you'd think that my emails were the emotional equivalent of love letters, given some of the concentration and care I expended. I also made sure everything in my apartment was in its place. Looking back, clearly it was a bid for security.

Plus, there was guilt that I could work from home, when I knew some people could not and chose a paycheck over safety from the virus (understandably). Is it possible to have protracted guilt when you quit being Catholic at age 13? Seems like the answer is a resounding yes. It's odd how I picked that up, even though the most interesting thing in Catholic mass was usually the back of people's heads.

Eventually, as the weeks of staying home turned into months, I resorted to fluffing my few pillows every so often, which is absolutely not something I've ever found interesting or necessary. I never understood the pillow thing, anyway. Why do we need extra pillows if we're not going to use them to lay on? Spend minutes out of my day relocating pillows? No thank you. That adds up over a lifetime! I also went full throttle (this word always reminds me of Top Gun) into self-care. Over the years, the more "tools" I have to deal with particular thoughts and emotions, the better. I turn to hot baths, Curb Your Enthusiasm episodes, recovery meetings, jogs, stretching, journaling, or reading. Stepping back regularly from social media and the news really helps too. Sometimes media consumption feels heavy like an albatross around the neck, so I draw a circle around myself to gently say, "No more, thank you". Overextending yourself does no one any good at all.

I've come to the conclusion that it's ok to do nothing. It's ok to find that sitting still is difficult because your mind says: I must be productive. It's ok to not know how to be in the same way that we were pre-virus. Everything happens in good time, like muddied water settling. The context is different, so of course we're a bit (or a lot) different too. 

David Lynch in a weather report he gave on September 30th (yes, he gives weather reports and they're awesome) said, "The thorns on the rose bush right now are big. And there are many of them, and they're sharp. These are the poisonous thorns of negativity. But the rose is so much bigger. It's huge and beautiful. This is the rose of positivity, this is the rose of our future, and it is huge and it is beautiful. Right now, the thorns of negativity are making their last desperate stand. But soon they're going to wither and fall away. They're going to rot and disappear. So don't despair. Great times are coming for the United States and for the whole world family."

A few books I've read since March that served to comfort, inform, lighten, calm, and distract:

Heartburn by Nora Ephron (hilarious)

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King (creeepy)

The Age of Miracles and The Dreamers (reflective of our times and soothing all at once)

The Crying Book (mentioned by staff in a previous post. wonderful!)

Trauma Stewardship : An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring For Others (extremely helpful. includes suggestions for healing compassion fatigue/burnout within a variety of environments).

-Theresa Bird is a Peer Support Specialist at Lawrence Public Library.
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