A Good Night’s Sleep

Photographer, writer, editor, and publisher, Rick LePage, wrote an essay a few days ago that I’m just getting around to reading. He starts off this way:

Good sleep is a questionable endeavor these days. It is understandable, given the pandemic, with the lockdowns and quarantines, and its associated fears and anxieties. Drinking is up, exercise is down, and anger and frustration are often at the forefront of my brain. Add to that the raw polarization of our society today, and it is altogether far too wearying, but not in a way that helps sleep.    It is, quite honestly, hard to fight it all. There is a reason that Monday seems like Tuesday, which seems like last Thursday, or Sunday. I can’t — and don’t care to — remember what happened then.

I have not been sleeping all that great. I bet you haven’t either. Even though my life has not been completely turned upside down, it has changed. 

The information overload is almost too much to bear, and I’ve had to pull back from the news considerably. Beyond the basics that people are dying, so stay inside and stay safe, I can hardly process the rest, nor should I have to do so. I don’t work in healthcare or the government. I’m not an expert on anything that would be worthy during this time. Honestly, there is nothing I can do to help fight this pandemic other than stay inside, wash my hands, and stay safe. I’m not going to fact check everyone’s opinion or spend time researching credentials.

There is no amount of news I could watch, read, or research that would change the basics of “people are dying, so stay inside and stay safe.” It is the only way I can make an impact. There is nothing else I can do. I decided instead of drowning in information; I’m drowning it out.

While we may be more connected as a society, my impact on the world is small. I do what I can: stay home, socially distance if I have to go out, wear a mask, and be there for friends and family who are feeling scared or sad. My family limits the time outdoors for food or other supplies. I can walk the dog and get fresh air without putting myself or others at risk.

Spending time on the news of the day outside of headlines is a waste of time and energy. If something is important enough, it will bubble up past these self-imposed barriers. 

It is mentally exhausting to follow the constant stream of announcements, advice, memes, news stories, blog posts1, and social media swamp. I try to stay calm, find distractions, find the new and be creative. Spending time doing practically anything else is wasted time.

To rest my brain and not feel so overloaded, I take time to enjoy the things I like. I realized early in this political landscape that I could not take in the tsunami of constant bullshit. I stopped paying attention to social media. I reactivated my Instagram and started to follow photographers and artists unconnected to the news and the world. I curated my Twitter feed, and I unfollowed many, many people across the board. It’s quieter.

I found blogs and newsletters that are creating amazing things. It inspired me to reengineer this site and make it something worthwhile and representative of me. I cut down on the noise and found a bit more peace.

Of course, I’m just as worried and anxious about the coronavirus as anyone who’s paying attention. I think about what I want to happen over the summer so that some sense of revised normalcy might happen. If and when the world comes back to some semblance of the “before times,” what do I want to do? Where shall I sit and enjoy a meal? Who will I hug first?

I dream of St. Louis Cardinals baseball games and Fighting Illini football and basketball. I think about traveling again to Arizona, California, and Florida. Eating my mom’s cooking and hanging out with my brother’s family and my wife’s family and… and…

And then I remember The Wizard of Oz and Dorothy, who said, “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it, to begin with.”

My backyard is looking better and better every day.

The family is approaching 60 days, staying at home and staying safe. We binge watch new shows, we read, we find new creative projects. Staying at home has not been a burden for my family, and we are incredibly lucky in that respect.

Despite this pandemic and everything that has happened since, life does not stop. We might be calling this The Great Pause, but pressing the pause button on many of the things that make life enjoyable like movies, concerts, dining out, and sports, life goes on. We keep going on, and so does everyone else. Spouses, kids, the family dog, mother’s in law, and friends, all need us. Some need us to make them dinner or listen to them rant and rave about our messed up politics. Some need diapers changed, and water bowls filled.

Nothing is over. Life finds a way to quote Jurassic Park. We have to keep going.

Even if you want to scream into the void or at that asshole not wearing a mask at the grocery store, we have to remember everyone has invisible burdens and pressures. Be kind. Don’t be so hard on yourself or others. We will get through this together.

This pandemic is like a slow-motion 9/11. I mean, you can make the argument that this presidency has been one too, but with COVID-19, we are seeing actual numbers and deaths equalling one 9/11 every day is… checks notes… not good. We are all trapped in quicksand trying to move forward. We are inching our way, wondering when we will find solid ground. It will end someday. We just have no idea when that day will be. 

You probably just want some peace and quiet and a good night’s sleep. 

Me too.

  1. Just like this one.