When life as we knew it spiraled into oblivion last year I began searching for ways to keep my mind preoccupied. Though running Theatrik is a full-time job, I stumbled upon a little side hustle that admittedly I am not proud of…that of a doom scroller (it’s only part-time, though I’ve been putting in a lot of overtime these last couple of weeks). I’m not sure why I’ve chosen this second occupation. It certainly doesn’t pay well, the hours are terrible - sometimes I’m scrolling long after I should be asleep at night, or as soon as I wake up - and frankly, my boss (uh, me) just doesn’t know when to back off.
But I can’t bring myself to quit.
The world is burning down. At least, that’s how it feels sometimes. And apparently my thumbs have a pressing desire to scroll through my phone and learn just how high the flames have risen. Our phones provide what seems to be the only outlet for connection, especially during this time when we’re all cooped up in our homes or workplaces without much human interaction, and nearly all activities and events are held virtually. I’ve lost count, but I’ve already checked my phone at least four times in the writing of these last two paragraphs. And the thing about the doom scrolling is that NO GOOD CAN COME OF IT. It can lead to so much anxiety and depression, yet it is so hard to stop. One day while talking to my therapist (side note: therapists are amazing and EVERYONE should have one) I mentioned my doom-scrolling gig. It went a little something like this:
Me: I keep reading all the horrific news and it’s making me feel super anxious.
Therapist: What do you usually do when you start to feel that way?
Me: Well, I usually try to distract myself by scrolling through my phone.
So you see my dilemma.
I know I’m not the only doom scroller out here. Horrific news is in no short supply and there is a constant demand for other scrollers like myself, which begs the question: How are you holding up? Are you making a conscious effort to put away your phone? Are you treating yourself to small luxuries now and then? Are you doing some sort of physical activity each day?
Are you still making art?
As artists we have an innate need to create. Creating helps us work through our emotions and provides a better understanding of the world around us. But with theaters shuttered indefinitely and many productions shut down (though many tv and film shoots are back in action full force - in the middle of this pandemic - and that is a topic for a whole other day), finding that necessary outlet is challenging, to say the least. So my next question is this: Are you creating? I’m not talking about the “work” kind of creating, where you set unrealistic goals for yourself and force yourself to write a play or produce a podcast or pen a novel while in quarantine. I’m talking about the carefree, “play” type of creating, where you scribble down random musings, doodle in a notebook or make up songs while you cook dinner. The type of creating that’s just for you, that keeps your mind active and allows you to have fun. It’s the kind of mental health check-in we don’t typically recognize as self-care, because perhaps it seems frivolous or unimportant. However, playing is vital to our well-being.
Listen, I’m all for coping in whatever ways it takes to get through this. Want to eat ice cream all day? Grab a spoon! Feel like staying in your pajamas for three days straight? Who cares? Plan on spending an entire Monday watching all eight episodes of Bridgerton? That sounds like a pretty great afternoon and evening to me. But I also know how important it is to maintain some semblance of a “normal” routine, whether it’s keeping up with your workouts, reading consistently to keep your mind active, or completing household tasks that perhaps you’ve been putting off. And as artists, creating is also part of your routine, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant that creative activity might be.
The news is terrifying, there’s no debating that. And I fear what might transpire in the days ahead. But it’s important that we don’t completely lose ourselves. So this is just little ol’ me, checking in on all of you, and looking forward to the time when we can once again attend plays, and run into each other outside of a casting office, and go out for a drink after a show. Stay safe, wear your mask, wash your hands…and play.