Today marks the beginning of week two of self-isolation for the Tucson YAV house. Last week, because of COVID-19, none of us went to work. We all worked from home as best we can, but for me, it is difficult to do home repairs for others while I staying in my own home.
Because I have so much free time these days, my plan for not working was to do some reading, writing, learning new skills, and completing personal tasks that had been put on the back burner for a while. I was ready to have a “productive” week.
But what does that even mean?
I made a daily schedule. That overwhelmed me. Even though I had at least a week of time to accomplish my list, it felt like too much to get done. Also, what if one or two of the days I was tired and didn’t want to do what I had laid out on my schedule… What if this time didn’t accomplish everything I expected it to?
This year has challenged my idea of productivity. I have always thought of a productive day as one where I turn a to-do list into a to-done list. A productive conversation is one where there is a set outcome and action steps decided, right?
But that is a version of productivity that doesn’t work for me any more. Honestly, I think the modern American version of “productivity” is fake.
As a YAV house, we have weekly community check ins. Sometimes these meetings address specific issues: budgeting, community chores, schedules etc. But other times we take time to have conversations that are really needed, but don’t have a defined out come. We talk about how each of us is doing, how we are feeling about our community, work, and families. Some times there are lots of laughs during this and other times it is more serious. All of this is good. All of this is necessary. All of this is productive.
A few weeks ago, while building a ramp one day for a CHRPA client, we sat down for a lunch break. Usually this takes about 30 minutes, but that day, the client’s caregiver struck up a conversation and we sat and talked for close to an hour. He also talked to us as we were working.
Sure, this slowed us down, if we were more focused and worked faster, we could have gotten farther along on that days project. But every moment of that day was fruitful. We engaged shared stories and engaged in community building, which is always good.
But what about times where there is nothing that gets done. No conversations. No tasks accomplished. Just stillness.
My recent experience with that was a desert sojourn retreat. I spent 3 days and 2 nights camping alone in the desert with only a journal and a bible with me to keep my occupied. While I could have read the Bible the whole time or journaled for hours on end, I didn’t. Most of the 54 hours I spent alone, I simply sat and stared. I looked at the world around me. I took moments to just breath. Moments to appreciate how small I am in comparison to the world and to reflect on what my role is in the world. And I read the book of John. But that is all that I did in more than two days time! And it was wonderful!
So I am holding on to that now as I launch into week two of not going to work at CHRPA and not being able to leave the house much. I am going to check in with myself to know what I need. To try to get some things done as they can happen, but to also give myself a lot of grace in what is accomplished. And to have time to enjoy stillness and peace around me, even if it is just for a few moments.
I’m sure many of you are trying to be “productive” in this strange time too, but I hope that you will also consider what that means and allow yourself grace as well. And try to find some stillness in these crazy times. Stay well friends!
At the beginning of March, which in this time of COVID-19 now feels so long ago, my fellow Tucson Borderland YAV’s and I went to Cascabel, where we stayed in the canyon that hosts sojourn experience. These are experiences to be in solitude for an amount of time. We spent our first night together but once we woke up in the morning we headed out to our solo campsites for two nights and three days of solo time before returning to our group for one last night together to celebrate and reflect.
There was something unique about our experience, even different from the sojourners who typically come to this canyon for time of solitude. Though we still practiced solitude, this was something we were getting to practice while also in community. This was something I reflected on while in my alone time. As I saw each sunset, I wondered if Laura was enjoying it just as much as I was. As I shivered at night, I wondered if others were also having trouble sleeping through the night. As I drank my coffee, I wondered if Hannah was also enjoying a cup of coffee. As I journaled I wondered if others were processing what they wanted to in this time and space. I wondered if my community was sharing in the same joys of being surrounded by nature, I wondered if they share similar fears of being alone, if something were to happen. I wondered if they felt comforted knowing Alison was bring us water and checking on us by coming to the tree at the base of each of our camps where we’ve tied rags to signal we are ok. I wondered if they also felt empowered by being in nature and being able to have less pressure from the rest of the world, and the ability to only listen to the needs of their body. I ate when I needed to, I used the restroom when I needed to, I rested when I was tired, I returned to my tent when I needed to relief from the sun.
There were other powerful experiences during my solo time I could reflect on or share, but in three weeks time a lot has changed, as the world faces this global health crisis. But this experience of solitude in community, continues to resonate with me, as my YAV house, the YAV program, the city of Tucson, Pima County, the state of Arizona, the United States, and countries across the globe are experiencing this crisis, and members of all these communities are also being asked to isolate themselves from one another to keep each other safe. We are isolating as a community and for the community.
Though at this time it’s been easy to feel isolated and alone, I’ve found comfort in the ability to creatively feel connected and in community. As I talk to my parents and friends, I hear the different fears and anxieties we share. As I watch musicians perform instagram live stream concerts, I see many other fans tuning in, showing me there’s many other people like me wanting to connect with music during this time. I feel a lot of comfort being part of a program, with a site coordinator and board checking in with us and offering support as we navigate and process this, in the middle of our YAV year.
As a house, we have made jokes that our sojourn retreat has prepared us to sit around and do nothing. But really, at least for me our time at our sojourn retreat has given me ways to reflect and see the beauty of community that is not always visible or means being in physical presence or constant communication, rather the beauty in community is even in complete solitude or mandated orders to shelter in place, it’s presence continues to be powerful and felt. Also always wash your hands.