Like most Americans, our staff are spending most of their time at home now. Some busy themselves with spouses, children and pets. Some with their art. Some have salaried jobs and easy transitions. Some do not. Here, they share their home lives and concerns.
Being mostly retired, my life has just not changed that much. There is more quietness and less rush hour madness. In some ways, it’s like what happens after a heavy snow storm. It’s an effect I enjoy. Like many people I have been spending a lot of time on ZOOM these days. On Tuesday evenings I have a Re-Evaluation Counseling Class that I attend. We look at areas where we are blocked in our lives and actively seek to disengage from those areas of blockage (i.e, acknowledge that the blockages are not who we are and we can let them go.) I also have a monthly Black Men’s gathering of All Souls Church members that had been meeting in person. We had our first ZOOM meeting this past Sunday. I have also been using FACE APP for conversations with family and acquaintances.
This feeling of doom surrounding this pandemic does remind me of the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. At least people can’t be excluded from insurance for pre-existing conditions, as people diagnosed HIV positive were back then. This is not the worst of the pandemic so far. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. I am afraid of what will happen as we become aware of more people that are infected and as more people start dying (and they seem to die quickly after infection – at least if they don’t have the health care that wealthy people have access to). I am afraid of what happens as more people become afraid and begin acting out of that fear. I have discovered that I am old and many younger people around me don’t want me to go out to – anything.
In the meantime, I have painted my bathroom a dark green enamel: a task I have procrastinated on for a long time. I am starting spring gardening. (I have planted some arugula and put up something for the clematis to climb on. The clematis and the daffodils seem so enthusiastic, which is a great contradiction for the anxiety I have been feeling.
For me, it’s been a whole semester of learning to be okay with the unknown – from working on a musical that dealt with that exact theme (The Boy Detective Fails at American University) to how I’m living right now. I’ve moved back home to New Jersey because AU moved to online classes and kicked everyone out of the dorms. I‘m not sure when I can come back to D.C. before next school year and I have no idea what my summer is going to look like now. I find that no matter how much I face the unknown, it’s still the unknown. But I can’t let it get me down, and for now, I’m taking it day by day. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been finding the joy in the little things: weekly FaceTimes with my best friends, family dinners, family game nights on Sundays, free time to jam out on my piano, starting new “artist projects” like The Artist’s Way, the joy of seeing classmates and discussing theatre over Zoom classes even if we can’t all be together in person. Despite all the darkness that could consume me (and that did consume me at the beginning), this is a time of healing for me.
“Can not” are the words most people would use to describe our present situation: “I cannot go to the coffeeshop, I cannot go out and have dinner with friends, I cannot go to the library, the bank, the craft store, the movie theater.”
Yet I find myself, selfishly, thinking and doing the things I now can do with the time we’ve all been gifted: find a recipe that uses what’s in the house and cook it; set the garden to rights, sew tablecloths, make jewelry, read and read some more. And, so far as I can, look at the news just to update myself but not to wallow in it.
And I find myself thinking of the future in more concrete ways: no longer what’s written on the calendar, to be either anticipated or agonized over, but working towards a certain golden day, date unknown. I clean and decorate the house for that happy day ahead; maybe it will be a barbecue with friends, maybe tea in the garden, maybe we’ll all take tours of our newly refurbished little paradises. Maybe we’ll hug each other as before.
Everything, for me, boils down to the juxtaposition of the can and cannot. It would be easy to sleep too late, to put off things til tomorrow because we seem to have so many tomorrows ahead with little written on them. I choose to look further ahead, to polish the silver, hang a birdfeeder, finish that quilt.
I prepare myself for the day when normal is not this.
I can sum up my life at home these days by addressing a Sondheim song to COVID-19 (with one alteration):
The sun comes up, I think about you.
The coffee cup, I think about you.
I (don’t) want you so, it’s like I’m losing my mind.
The morning ends, I think about you.
I talk to friends, I think about you.
And do they know it’s like I’m losing my mind?
I walk the dog. I do a little vegetable gardening. I read (rereading Toni Morrison and a Vietnamese memoir by Ocean Vuong.)
I have just watched all 15 hours of Robert Lepage’s production of the Wagner’s Ring Cycle on MET Opera on Demand. I set myself the task to deepen my understanding of writing, especially writing of opera.
On a small screen, not only is one both awed and appalled at the $16 million “machine” of a set which became the primary character, but I am confounded as I pick through the dramaturgical lacunae in the story.
As a writer, when it comes to opera I have so much to learn still. I thought I knew what the whole thing was about having studied the work and sat through –all TWENTY-ONE hours (including intermissions and dinner breaks? — at Washington National Opera. Yes, we knew Siegfried the hero was as dumb as an ox and as rude as he was fearless, but really, only a new “potion” reminds him he’s married Brunhilde? And why introduce 3 new and somewhat confounding characters in the last opera who play key roles in the plot, but we don’t really care about any of them as they all have ill motives? — it’s just bad dramaturgical writing. Keep Hagen, jettison the rest, Richard. Then there’s Deborah Voigt as the powerful goddess who redeems the opera — I mean the world! I’m always shocked and saddened by Brunhilde’s gullibility and participation in Siegfred’s death. What happened to her all-knowing wisdom? And why didn’t she get rid of the ring when asked? It would have saved our derrieres at least 2-3 hours and perhaps Valhalla and all the gods as well?
What else? I call friends, especially people whom I know might be alone and vulnerable. I meditate, do yoga, and practice gratitude games. There is much quiet and good in the world.
Take away a teacher’s classroom and the ability to interact in person with students on a regular basis. Now what? This is my most burning question, as a public school educator. Along with my millions of colleagues across the country, I am having to digest new ideas, unfamiliar technology, and the new reality of distance learning all at the same time. As a high school theatre arts teacher, the challenge is forcing me to open myself up to fresh, creative ideas. It is daunting, but I do love a challenge.
Luckily for me, my wife and I face these same challenges and we can talk over our new teaching reality together. So far, the other aspects of socially distanced life are going well for us and our two adult sons. Fingers crossed (and sanitized) that we all stay healthy.
As a theatre maker: there have been bouts of fear, gratitude, and jealousy. I have watched friends’ projects crumble into nothing before our eyes. It has been hard to see their grief. I took some time to be still with them in the beginning, out of solidarity. And I recognize that capitalism continues to destroy and ruin the sacredness of what we do, knowing full well that it is capital that often allows for what we do to continue. The catch 22 of capital in art creation has only been illuminated more from this experience. And I am praying that the work I’ve set to do in April into the summer remains, capital and all.
As an artist: where do I begin? These past two weeks have felt like a free-for-all. I’ve watched good ideas become modes for retail consumption. I’ve watched folks overtly talk about their fear of fund loss. I’ve watched communities galvanize to offer aide to gig workers from musicians, to actors, to waitresses. It is a beautiful thing to watch community restructure into the virtual realm. It gives me hope that we will continue to take care of each other.
As a multidisciplinary artist, I get bored fast. If the work is not actively giving me goosebumps, I’m usually out. But this time has allowed me to tap into arts that take time in new ways: culinary arts, make-up arts, beat-making arts, social media arts. My curiosity is high and I have the time to fuel it, even procrastinate from it and do it later. I am grateful for this time.
As a person: at first, after piling on the groceries and cleaning my house, I was in love. Time for me to do literally whatever I want?? Fantastic. More of it, please! And then more of it came. And my eyes began to water from the constant screens. My skin began to ache from lack of human-to-human contact. And I’ve had to recalibrate what schedule means to me in a profession where your entire life shifts with the project. Now that there is no project, what is the routine of this life? I am still grounding in this question and finding my way. The new moon made it very clear that the wave of “oh my god, unlimited time for Netflix” was as unsustainable as I’d expected it to be. And I’d hope this would be over by now, as today is our two week anniversary of quarantine.
But you know, and I was talking to a friend about this yesterday, there are folks who are living in this quarantine with no end in sight. Folks who are stuck in isolation within the prison system, folks who looked around when orders of “go home” came and found no place.
I am lucky. And I am grieving. Especially as an artist, my purpose is deeply connected to how I serve my community physically. And they–the virus/the government/the internet–have barred me from one of my outside places of worship: the theater. So it’s hard. But it is very possible. And this is what I keep in mind.
I can’t help but think about what this means for the Earth at large. Is She healing? Is this helping Her too? Will we as humans beings learn our lesson when the arbitrary holidays/means of distraction and dissociation have shifted so drastically around us that going outside for fresh air in the park is a luxury? Time, as they do, will tell.
After my kids were born, I took a step back from work, taking a part-time job where I could work from home. At first, this change was stifling. I found myself driven from my house on a near-daily basis by pangs of loneliness and boredom. I began working in parks or coffee shops just to surround myself with the comforting thrum of other people. Over time, that changed. After a morning of mayhem- my husband and kids scrambling for breakfast and packed lunches, sports equipment and sheet music, that work project he “left. right. here.” – I would drop the kids at school and return home to a house transformed. Turning my key in the front door lock, I would breathe in the near-deafening hush and feel my shoulders drop, relaxing into what had become my private sanctuary for a few hours each day.
Coronavirus has meant a lot more family time at home. My husband works from home every day; my kids have “virtual school” (which, thus far, takes only an hour or two a day). I love having this time with them: we can sleep in a little, I help them with their school work, we do one of the “science kits” we’ve been receiving for months and throwing in a closet. When the bickering gets too heated, we walk the dog for fresh air, ride scooters in the park at a safe distance. We play a board game. The kids take every cushion off every couch and build a fort. Phones and other devices are secreted away and I am forced to hunt them down, pry them from little hands. I look at the clock and it’s only 11 am. I know full well that I will look back at this found time together as a true gift, received at a time when I am ever more often struck with pangs of anxiety and fear over how fast my kids are growing up, how much longer they’ll let me hug them and beg me to sleep with them at night. This time together has brought us personal triumphs: my son can ride a bike without training wheels; my daughter has rediscovered the piano; both kids have spent hours happily playing together, remembering that they really ARE best friends. My husband is helping more and more around the house and gaining insight into what my days–juggling work, kids and the million little details that make our life “work”–really looks like. So I forgive myself for the moments when I feel like my family has invaded “my” space, my precious hours of solitude. I talk deep breaths and go on long exercise walks, alone. I’ve concocted elaborate gardening projects that force me outside into DC’s chilly spring sunshine and send my children running for cover, lest they be asked to help. I dig feverishly and wrest roots out of the ground to make way for new flowers and plants. I don’t need music or podcasts; just a little time in my own head and the physical labor to chip away at some of the frustrations that come with this new family landscape, and the anxieties of what coronavirus might bring next.
I previously worked from home, so my work day has not changed as much. My partner now works from home at the dinner table. I work from the couch. I’ve latched onto any remote or virtual social activities I can find (Molly Nevola’s Barre classes on Zoom!!) and try to recreate some of my favorite recipes from the restaurants I used to frequent. I feel like I’m more open and direct with my partner, now that I know there’s so much more of our days that we get to share. Making each other laugh is important, and that’s helped us get by one day at a time.
Working from home is something I could get used to again. I have a stay-at-home rhythm of waking up and tuning in to a morning meditation for 20 minutes or Patrick Stewart on FB reciting a Shakespearean sonnet a day. Then I take Sammy, my Boston Terrier (who is keeping me sane and loved) for a good walk, come home and feed him and turn on the coffee. My work day goes from 8:30 to 5 (sometimes later) and being in health care at Hopkins we are crazy-busy. Everything changes so rapidly that it is hard to keep up and communicate (which is my job). I check in with friends and my sister throughout the day to make sure they are hanging in there. I also try to support small local businesses by getting carryout or curbside delivery (Sammy loves car rides), streaming a yoga or other exercise class from my friends who have studios or practices (shout out to Maka Yoga and Movement Lab here in Baltimore). Sammy gets another good walk around noontime, where I delight in the new growth and springtime blooms and try to notice something new every day. He also goes out sometimes at 3 for a bit of fresh air. Since I am home he has a bladder the size of a lentil. My family has started a virtual happy hour around 5 or 6 and seeing their smiling faces and catching up and sharing what we are making for dinner gives me strength. Evenings are dedicated to dinner prep and eating while listening to the radio, Sammy walks and TV or reading, and last night I got completely sucked into Folger’s production of the Scottish Play directed by Teller that they did a few years ago. God, what a great production, the magic used so judiciously and powerfully. Everyone should take advantage of all the arts programming out there–it is rich and varied.
As someone who still has a job and frequently works online from home, this adjustment has been perhaps a little smoother for me than some. My family has carved out a basic daily routine, which helps us keep the peace and balance the workload with our energetic toddler. Still, it’s tough to keep a two-year old, who misses his daycare friends and teachers, happy and busy while juggling a full time job. I’ve rediscovered the fun of chalk drawings and make believe with my son. We are cooking more, trying out new recipes. I watch the news more than I should, but try to take mental health breaks. I miss live theater, going to the movies, meeting family and friends, and even simple hugs and handshakes. I worry about friends who are losing their jobs, and those with jobs that expose them to the virus. But I try to look to theater videos, music, movies, and history to put things in perspective. It won’t be pretty, but we will get through this time of trial, like many before us.
My husband and I are both at home, ostensibly working remotely while managing a very active 3 yr old whose daycare is closed indefinitely. We’re trying to put some structure into his day like he had at preschool, with limited success. We had a babysitter and a regular playdate, but with increasingly stringent CDC guidelines we are now pretty much an island unto ourselves. He understands that we can’t go places or visit people because of germs, and washes his hands dutifully, though he seems to think he’s the one who’s sick, and that’s the reason for all the change. We play in the backyard, scooter around the neighborhood, watch a little Disney+, and try to maintain our sanity. He no longer goes down for naps after lunch but will fall asleep in the car, so we alternate the afternoon “nap drive,” where I will occasionally indulge in some McTherapy. We stockpiled enough provisions that, apart from one Whole Foods delivery order and a friend’s trip to Costco, we haven’t had to go shopping. The hardest part of being homebound is that my father passed away and I wasn’t able to travel home for his service. There will be another one once this all passes, but not being there was really tough. Being able to snuggle with my son helps a lot.
I’ve worked from home for about eight years, so that’s nothing new (having my husband home as well during the day is less standard, but we’ve managed to stay out of each other’s way during work hours). My day job involves overseeing editors covering restaurant news in various parts of the country, so that means it’s an intense time filled with lots of editing and constant pivots as the news cycle evolves — I’m super proud of the work our team has done. Personally, I’m missing live theater, actually dining in restaurants (at least we can still support our local places with takeout orders), and spending time rehearsing with my local choir, the Alexandria Singers (which has experimented with “virtual” rehearsals during this time). My free time is spent on baking projects (like making sourdough pizza crust with my starter, Carby), at-home workouts (I have a 2020 workout streak going on, largely helped by our Peleton), Zoom happy hours with friends, and singing along to the live Facebook show tunes singalongs that Marie’s Crisis bar in NY is hosting. My mind is on my family a lot, which unfortunately isn’t local (sister in Pittsburgh, parents in Cleveland, in-laws in Jersey). My husband and I are planning to do a two-person book club, reading “The Glass Hotel” together (which we were able to get delivered from our local bookstore). I’ve made a list of activities that do NOT involve watching television (though let’s be honest; there’s plenty of that going on, too), from playing the piano to puzzling, that I can turn to anytime I’m feeling restless.
I already worked from home, so my actual day-to-day has changed very little, except the dog situation. Now, when I take my English Setter mix, Thalia, out for brief strolls, the side streets bustle with more homebound people also walking mid-day, usually with a dog in tow. Thalia loves it. There are also more noises outside my living room windows from people coming and going in the alley all day. She loves this too and spends half the day up on chair looking out. Now, right at 5pm, a handful of dogs (and owners) from our little community congregate in our community park and dog run. We humans stand, dutifully, 6-12 feet apart while our wild beasts come to life, chasing one another like hellions. Weaving in and out, and around us, like we’ve deliberately chosen to spend our evenings as a makeshift obstacle course for their pleasure. They romp and wrestle and roll in the dirt. Chase balls and fight over sticks. Thalia loves to climb the stone marker that dedicated the park many moons ago, crowning herself queen of the castle. Only three short weeks ago, when we did our evening outing, the park would be empty at this time. Now it is filled with furred friends, and we stay for hours. Her life is grand. I am happy to have wonderful dog-loving neighbors I can shout at from a safe distance. Around 7, Thalia and I trek back inside. We watch the evening news and then eat. I’m not cooking more or less than normal, but I am suddenly stress snacking (Milano cookies, gummy candies), making my coffee Irish, and eating bread. As Thalia passes out on the floor, exhausted from a truly full day, I get to writing something: a letter to an old friend, a few more words on a new short story, or another page on a “novel” I started eons ago. Now seems like a good time to try to finish.
Yes, life is more boring, but I find it more peaceful as well. I have cancelled my newspaper subscription (no sports, no arts, no need) and am trying to focus on more uplifting pursuits. I have read some enjoyable histories and mysteries (though I miss the public library), sought out arts both new and old (recently rewatched Brigadoon and Dreamgirls), and tried a few new restaurants and home-cooked dishes. I am trying to watch my weight, which is hard when trips for takeout food and grocery goods are my best excuses for getting out. Most of all, I am focusing on all of the many blessings granted to me.
Like many folks, I’m working from home in my day job. I have no choice; even if I wanted to go in, I couldn’t – my office has closed and we’re all teleworking. The law (and especially Federal trial practice) has become much more electronic, and I find that I can do almost everything I could be doing if I went into the office. Without theater, and without my customary three-hour daily commute, life proceeds at a much slower pace. Lorraine is much better company than I’m used to having, and that’s no rap against my office colleagues. There have been some minor inconveniences, but on the whole I’m not suffering.
My routine is pretty much the same each day. I’ve lost one of my restaurant jobs permanently, and the other temporarily. I spend several hours on hold with DC unemployment. I’m stuck with my lovely roommates, and we have plenty to entertain ourselves with; watching movies and TV shows together, cooking for one another. We play tabletop games, and I’ve been scheduling teatimes with my friends and loved ones via Google Hangouts.
I have had plenty of time to write, to work on my novels (Writing post apocalyptic fiction is both tittilating and worrying at the same time.) I find time to play DnD with my friends, which fuels my creative outlets. I’ve made a few projects with friends, and am continuing to look for both artistic and paid work that cai dn from the comfort of my home.
Before starting work, I turn to this reminder from Terry Teachout that love is supreme. As an editor, my days are busier than ever. My inbox, which last week held only show cancellations, now has news of how theatres are performing online. I check in with cable TV news just once a day. Trips to the grocery stores are less frequent, but I look forward to seeing familiar faces at the checkout counter. I’m creating new dinner combinations from foods forgotten in my freezer. (The sweet corn I cut off cobs last summer was fantastic). While I cook, there’s always Alexa to play WAMU, or music, or tell me some very bad jokes. Tim’s working from home; I enjoy wandering into his dining room office for chats. We’re falling into a schedule: visits, lunch, time for a walk, time to check in with our families, dinner and TV at night. Life is calmer and sleep is peaceful. I wake up with new ideas for DCTS and have a staff of writers ready to run with them. I have a greater appreciation for the blessing that is my life.
While I can’t help worrying about people in crisis, “Who knows?” is now my favorite phrase. It reminds me that infinite possibilities lie ahead. Far more possibilities than I can imagine.