A few tips for limping along through deep focus/creative work if you too find that life in 2022 has made a chiffonade of your brains
Tip #1: it's okay to just not do that kind of work right now. (I do have some ideas for trying to do it, though, if you're determined to do so...or you just need to.)
In a plot twist that no author save perhaps John Waters could get away with — the ludicrously tragic, the tragically ludicrous — I was diagnosed with Lyme disease yesterday.
(It’s fine. I’ll be fine. I got the antibiotics in plenty of time. But you can coo and pat me on the head reassuringly if you want.)
The tragicomic bit isn’t that I have it; it’s how it happened. Three weeks ago, a friend and I went glamping in a beautiful treehouse. The express goal was to rejuvenate our burnt-out, cortisol-soaked brains.
At some point during that single-night trip, a deer tick crawled onto my head. I found it latched onto the nape of my neck three days later, pulled it out, flushed it down the toilet, and forgot all about it, even when my joints started hurting (which they sometimes do, because I’m old!) and exhaustion seeped into my skull (it often does that!).
Not until two days ago, when a dermatologist told me “pfft, this isn’t skin cancer on your scalp, it’s a tick bite. Have you felt unusually exhausted or achy lately?”, did I realize that something untoward might be afoot. And then my left eye clouded up and started weeping because the spirochetes had apparently chosen that eyeball as Party Central. At that point, I went to urgent care and finally figured out WHAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN GLARINGLY OBVIOUS FROM THE GET-GO.
Why did it take me so long to put the clues together? I mean, I am not the best putter-together-of-clues in general, but this was like flubbing a jigsaw puzzle for toddlers. Embarrassing. I thought I had skin cancer.
Here’s why: first, I have been so stressed out by work and time debt for so long at this point that I’ve basically forgotten I have a body at all, let alone one whose clues I can interpret. And second, of all the symptoms I’ve been experiencing in the past two weeks, the brain fog has beenby far the worst.
I’ve felt like someone’s slithered into my core processors and smeared peanut butter all over them. I’ve had the working memory of a sand flea and the verbal recall of a wizened parrot. (I mean, when talking. Not as much when writing.)
It suuuuuucks. It’s taken my already-reduced 2022 bandwidth and constricted it even further at precisely the time I to be doing the exact opposite. It’s on the mend now, but not quite mended, and oh yeah, there will still be all the distractions of contemporary world catastrophe and mass trauma to deal with when I’m better.
My one comfort is that many of you appear to be in the same boat.
It’s both wonderful and horrible for me to see how many people liked this thing I tweeted yesterday. Life really is a disaster right now for us all in one way or another, isn’t it?
That’s the first gift I want to pass along here: knowing you’re not alone.
If you’re struggling to concentrate on deep work right now — more than at perhaps any other point in the whole arc of the pandemic — join the club. We have snacks and sympathy tears.
Here’s the second: