More Archival Notes on a Global Pandemic

by Leelee Jackson

Before mandated self quarantine, I was already a homebody, which can be alarming to most people because I come off very charismatic and social. I ask questions in panel discussions and volunteer for my work to be read first in workshops. I dance hard at nightclubs and sing loud at musicals. I take my food back when it’s not what I ordered and ask to speak to a manager when I’m not being treated well. After all, I am an Aries ram. A wall is nothing but a challenge, an obstacle I will run though headfirst (often with very little consideration). Energy is in me. And yet, that does not make me an extravert. I’m a hard core introvert. As I’ve gotten older, I realized that I prefer to preserve my energy alone. I went from throwing big gatherings (for no reason at all) to inviting two or three friends over to watch The Office and talk about books we’re reading. During undergrad and grad school, I’d be fully engaged in the lecture, only to rush home immediately after class to watch The Office. After wedding ceremonies, I leave right after the cake is cut, pretending as if I had some big project to complete but really, I’m just rushing home to watch The Office. I need time with great tv and solitude.

However, that is all I have been doing for the past five weeks. I want to see a play. I want to produce a play. I want to go on a hike and meditate on a rock bigger than my apartment with my good friend Alicia. I want to go dancing with my housemates and go out eating with my friends. Go on a date to a museum or the movies. But I can’t do those things no more. No one can. It wasn’t until week 4 that felt it – the longing for social inclusion. At first, I didn’t understand what I was feeling to be honest. I thought I missed someone or a sweetness I haven’t tasted in a while. But even the taste of nectar couldn’t satisfy this lull. I wanted all the things I could not have and did not cherish when I had them. Was the last time I had them even memorable? I don’t know.

In yin yoga, Alica (aforementioned friend and yoga instructor) has us do this thing sometimes where we work our bodies for a while. No big movements but subtle moves in our cobra or cat/cows that we hold a few minutes longer than the other poses, long enough for our bodies to feel it and sometimes even work up a lil sweat. However the sweat is not the goal but what happens after. When I work my body to the point where she feels as if she cannot move any further, when there is no other option for her but to fall, give up, it is then when Alicia says my favorite release, “Now you can go ahead and settle into savasana.” This is the part when we lie on our yoga mats for deep restoration. “Allow your body to take up space.” And I do. I spread my arms and legs off the mat as if my limbs were actually wings. I lie there on the hardwood floor, grounded with the earth who offers solace and refuge.

I decided I’d go for a walk the other day. I didn’t feel like it, but I didn’t want to do anything and that feeling made me nervous. I didn’t want to lie in bed or watch tv or write or dance in my room. So I decided I’d do the thing I wanted to do the least, which that day was walking. I put on my face mask only enough to cover my mouth, so the moment I stepped out of my apartment and was slapped in the face with a smell so sweet, I could have gotten a sugar rush had it lingered even a second longer. But it sped by me so fast as if the sweet smell was also excited to be out of the house, too. It was familiar but I couldn’t even remember what kind of sweet it was. Vanilla? Citrus? Cinnamon? What was that smell and where the hell was it going? I continued, wondering what else I’d get to experience. This is a technique my therapist has been getting me to do lately. Acknowledging my senses and surroundings in order to stay grounded in the present. I walked south which is the path that is less than desirable. Hills to and fro. Unlike walking north, which is flat. Or east which is only a hill walking there, but walking home, I have to stop my body from being pushed by gravity to run home. My favorite path is walking west. It’s challenging enough with the hills and merciful with flat pavement at the exact right moments. But my senses led me south, where I spotted the prettiest white lily hiding in a bush. I took in her smell and was greeted with a kiss right on my nose. Prior to the introduction we had only seen each other in passing, not acquaintances or even strangers, yet now we’re friends. The sun was going down and I wanted to go home before cops started looking for trouble. But water called me. It was such a tease considering the fence that separates us but still, I gave the little creek my attention until the sun left us both.

What did it feel like now? Looking down on that pond and feeling the sun disappear, setting west down my skin? To now have to lean on the universe more than ever before, beckoning for energy I couldn’t muster on my own? The sun, the water, the smells and bugs I once swatted away, all still there with total integrity and the best of intentions all met me with grace and released me with energy when I needed it most: savasana.

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