Day 12, 27 March 2020

Living in Absurdistan

There is something very surreal about the life I live now. I am fully aware of the Covid19 crisis, and how it’s not getting any better, in particular here in the US. Yet today felt in many ways like a normal day. In these circumstances it’s absurd to say I had a very nice and enjoyable day, but then we now collectively live in Absurdistan. (Incidentally that was also my dad’s name for Belgium. Try not to understand Belgian politics. It’ll make your head explode.)

I taught a class at 11.30am, in the same way I laid out the pattern for my Tue-Thu classes in yesterday’s post. Students had again done stellar work in the discussion section on Canvas. A few wanted to ask questions about the final project, and just like in regular classes they hang around for a bit afterwards to chat. Then I fixed a quick lunch, and zoomed in to our Virtual Writing Bootcamp. There’s just the three of us at the moment, but it is enough accountability for me. We chat for about 15 mins, and set out our goals for the session, a few hours later we reconvene for 15 mins of debriefing. It was simple for me: figuring out where I left off a while back with one project, and how I am going to get it back on track and how long it will need; and doing my daily pomodoro on my manuscript: doing 25 mins of whatever it takes to move the manuscript forward. Today that was reading an article, and so my streak is now at 642 consecutive days. ‘Rona won’t get my streak if it’s up to me! (Although it’s been tough a few days this week, with a late night “Oh sugar! I haven’t done it yet!” followed by a sleepy pomodoro, but it keeps me chipping away at the elephant, bite by bite.)

I really enjoyed my afternoon of planning with my calculator and trying to figure out how much writing time I would get this summer, now it looks like nobody is travelling anywhere. While that reminded me of the pandemic, it strangely did not leave any emotional imprint. My summer plans to go to East Asia went out of the window around spring break, and my plan to go to the Eide Center in Florida instead went the same way shortly after. I don’t even know if I’ll get to go home to Belgium, or under what circumstances. Instead, I just counted the weeks, and calculated the hours I could conceivably put in, and then held that against Wendy Belcher’s “Estimated Article Writing Time Flow Chart” in her Write Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks. It’s a real reality check. I should know this by now: there is a huge gap between my aspirational writing, and what I actually can get done. (Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt, it also flows through this other instance of Absurdistan where I spent quite a bit of time…) But it means I have gained a little bit of control over something in my life, at a time that feels hard to come by.

Before all that, I had started kneading bread, and let it proof while I did my Writing Bootcamp stuff. Bread went in the over right after we were checked out from Bootcamp, and then it was time to fire up Zoom again to join the Africana Studies book club organized by my colleague. I need to read more fiction, it’s good for me. I enjoy it, and it makes me feel connected to humanity; but I get overwhelmed by what I should read, so the book club offers an easy choice of what to read next. And with the current stay-at-home order none of us is going anywhere, so I finally could participate. We’re reading Edwige Danticat’s Breath, Eyes, Memory. The discussion was really good. And it was fun to hang out with friends and meet new people. Zoom is starting to feel like a normal place for socializing.

It was past eight when we finally signed off, and after a bit of jigsaw puzzle time I went for an evening walk. I smelled the most amazing flowers on this bush; its fragrance wafted all the way across the street. All in all, this was a very enjoyable day. May these soon return for all of us on a very regular basis.

I keep forgetting what these are called, we don’t have this in Europe.

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