L.A. Kennedy

Beyond the story

By Valerie C. Woods

As someone who writes for a living, I have to say the funniest meme I’ve seen during this shelter-in-place era has included the line: “When you find out your normal daily lifestyle is called ‘quarantine.’” Sheltering in place is what I do, especially when I’m working on a script.

Not that I’m a hermit or an introvert. Well, maybe I am an introvert. I mean, being with people is not a problem. Leaving my house is the problem. Once out I’m good and enjoy myself. Usually. A meal with friends, going to the movies, out for cocktails, cultural events. Working in a television writers’ room pre-coronavirus was an invigorating creative outlet. Plus, snacks and, of course, ordering in lunch.

When we were asked to shelter in place last month, our working process easily shifted to a virtual gathering. And our network continues to cover home-delivery lunch costs.

Yes, every day I offer gratitude and appreciation. Sheltering in place allows me to be in my happy place, which is my home, and to make a living, which is great. Food delivery and online shopping? Check. In-unit laundry? Check. I’ve been able to ease into social distancing with barely a hiccup. Advertisement

But something about sheltering in place did change my daily routine and perspective. Previously, I enjoyed my intermittent hermit tendencies as hard-won periods of rest and self-care. They were respites from the constant activity of meetings, traffic, social interactions, crowds, vigilance, anxiety about lateness, odd smells, excess sound.

Sheltering in place has given me a heightened awareness of how rejuvenating it can be to savor what is close at hand rather than grasp for outside distractions.

During the last few weeks, sheltering in place has supported me in being able to slow down and breathe. Now, I’m usually in bed before midnight and wake early without an alarm. Although I’m still working, there’s no commute. I don’t have to rush through breakfast or make a coffee run on the dash to work. It’s a short walk from the kitchen to the dining room table. In the evening, I can shift from work mode to personal time by calling friends, watching a movie or spending time in meditation.

It’s time to myself that I’m able to explore fully. Years ago, a dear friend shared with me how she managed to keep mind, body and spirit flourishing when her political activism led to prison and solitary confinement. In that space, she said, you are unavoidably confronted with your mind. With yourself. During her incarceration, she discovered meditation and hatha yoga. She was able to survive by recognizing the need to become friends with her mind; learning how to be friends with herself. There’s a rewarding reckoning there.

Because of a full schedule and several writing projects in development, my meditation practice had become sporadic. It was often only five or 10 minutes grabbed whenever I could. I had to get to work. I had to meet a deadline. I had other stories running through my mind that needed a resolution, plot twist, fresh dialogue. Now that I’m not rushing out of the house, allowing time for all those minor but essential details to consider when out in the world, I have extra time to relish sheltering in place.

This led me to consider what exactly those words meant. I frequently look up definitions of ordinary words I think I understand. Often the layers of meaning are quite enlightening. The definition, per Dictionary.com, of “shelter” in verb form is: “to find a refuge.” Further, Merriam-Webster defines “refuge” as “something to which one has recourse in difficulty.”

During this crisis, the only thing to which I have “full recourse in difficulty,” where I can truly shelter in place, is to first find refuge in the inner space of my mind. Sheltered in that place, I’m fortified by the stillness and can carry forward to outer circumstances calmer and with kindness and compassion. To summarize another meme I read, we stay at home not from fear but from love.

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