no shrinking violet

words by e. spalding

I don’t know the answer to that question, honestly.

I’m an American living as a permanent resident in Canada; I feel a bit like a goldfish in a cracked aquarium looking through the glass at another aquarium as it hemorrhages water.

I’ve got four separate blog posts drafts in my drafts folder about some incredible audio drama podcasts I have been following, and getting myself into the correct headspace to finish any of them is proving to be a real trial when every day I check the news and encounter another grim portent about COVID-19. I’m doing everything that a person can conceivably do to help flatten the curve: I’m working remotely, I’m washing my hands constantly, I think I’ve left my apartment twice since last Wednesday and then only to walk around the block for some fresh air. I spend a lot of time with my cats, and my husband, mourning the loss of a sense of normalcy while finding gratitude for the ugly truths about our society that this crisis has forced even the obscenely wealthy to confront. It’s been an emotional roller coaster, and it’s only been one week.

At the moment my key takeaway from this experience is that individualism and our society’s near-sighted fixation on individual wealth accumulation (“my money,” “my success,” “my net worth,” “my choice to choose my insurance,” “my company”) over the health and well-being of the collective is directly responsible for how unprepared we are to manage the spread of this pandemic. I knew it when the Federal Reserve hurled $500 billion into the markets and the Canadian stock market collapse made headlines, all while public health ministers and experts beg for more hospital beds, more ventilators.

It is all just so much. So much to take in, so much to process, so much to wrap my head around daily that I have been forced to limit my news intake, my engagement with social media discussions around COVID-19, to a couple times a day. The limits help; so does grounding myself in hugs from my spouse, in fussing over the cats, in doing what I can to check in with the people I love to make sure they have what they need, in meeting those needs where I can and showing empathy when I can’t.

This all leaves me with so little strength and energy for creativity. But writing my way through trauma has always been my best means of coping with the long-lasting consequences of that pain, and I need it now more than ever before to help process this overwhelming sensory and psychological experience. And I would like to help others do the same.

So, if you want to, if you feel able to: please share with me some piece of writing, of art, of some kind of creative work, that you feel most proud of. It can be a story, a poem, a knitted shawl, a photograph of your cat, of your breakfast–I don’t care what form it takes so long as the making of it made your imagination sparkle a little bit, and the finished product brought you some joy.

Here, I’ll go first: photographs of my cat’s toes.

Take care of yourselves, friends.

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