So, that pandemic was something, right?
I mean, is something, right?
I don’t know how yours went/is going, but mine was not good/is better now. Maybe. Probably.
The thing is, I shouldn’t have anything to complain about. Not really. I was lucky. I kept my job, I had a steady income, two partners and three hounds to keep me company. A small circle of friends I saw on a regular basis.
But that’s just me being rational. Pandemic or no, rationality often flies out the window when our routines are disrupted, when we’re ejected from our comfort zone, when we face adversity. We all know that chronic complainer who probably experienced a garden-variety aborted lane-change on the freeway but won’t shut up about “That idiot nearly ran me off the road!” I mean, that stuff can be nerve-wracking and all, but rationally speaking, they have a car, probably a house, and they’re still alive, so they should count their blessings, am I right?
I’m not doing a very good job of explaining this.
I’m saying, that the past year+ was stressful and is stressful and even though none of my close friends died from the disease, none of my immediate family died, it was a lot. And I didn’t deal with it well.
My stress-management process usually plays out in one of two ways. If I can fix the underlying problem, I do. As a rule, I have no aversion at all to facing conflict head-on. If I were a character in a horror film about a homicidal maniac, this tendency would probably lead me to an early grave, but IRL, it serves me pretty well.
Alas, in this case, the problem was a virus, and as I’m not an epidemiologist or a vaccine researcher, facing COVID-19 head-on wasn’t an option. And so, for much of the quarantine, I followed path #2: distraction. I threw myself into hobbies and habits I could control.
Running was one of those hobbies. Normally, exercise would be a good thing, but coupled with some completely unnecessary food anxiety, it wasn’t so great this time around. I lost about 20 pounds that I didn’t need to lose. My clothes didn’t fit. I looked and felt skeletal. I’m eating more now, so most of the weight has returned over the past few months, but my body doesn’t know what to do with it yet.
Playing D&D with my friends was a second hobby. Unlike running, this was unequivocally a good thing. For a few hours a week, I could forget about masks and divisive political rhetoric and focus on leading a group of intrepid adventurers through a little-explored jungle in search of a WMD designed by…well, some of them read this thing, and 15 months later, the campaign is still going, so I’ll skip the spoilers. Let’s just say that I had no complaints about heading off to a fantasy world when I could.
And my third hobby was quilting.
Funny thing is, a week before the country shut down, I posted a photo on Instagram of my first-ever quilt, which I promised would be my last.
Ha freakin’ ha.
In my home office (aka the guest room), my desk sits at a right angle to my sewing table. And I found that when answering emails and taking Zoom calls and dealing with all that uncertainty became just a little too nerve-wracking, I could pivot 90 degrees, put the pedal down, and sew. And sew. And sew. Until I could breathe again.
My fervor for sewing grew in step with alarm around the pandemic. Mask mandate? Let’s make some binding! Hospitalization surge? Wind a few more bobbins!
My obsession was so complete that quilting became a sleep aid. I’d climb into bed, and against all advice from People Who Know Better, I’d open YouTube on my phone and conk out listening to quilting tutorials from Jenny Doan, Donna Jordan, Laura Coia, Angela Walters, and Karen Brown. (Look all of them up.) Their ease and confidence as they described foolproof ways to make half-square triangles and machine bind quilts relaxed me like a mouthful of melatonin.
By December, I’d sewn 18 new quilts. Most were throw size, and two were so botched that they became dog beds, but still: 18. The doctor is out on whether my obsession was healthy*, but I’m proud of the results.
And when I’d finished them all, I took the scraps I’d collected from the past year and made a quilt just for me. It looks like a sampler—and it is, in a way, but a sampler that documents a very trying year. I now sleep soundly beneath it at night.
* My actual doctor has been pretty worried about me and is convinced that I’ve suffered from a lot of undiagnosed depression. Maybe that’s just because I didn’t make him a quilt, but yeah, I should get checked out.