Pandemic Pivot: Searching for Structure

Line drawings on a blue-lined yellow paper background. Various sketches include: a globe; a whiteboard with the equation e = mc squared; a treble clef; an apple; a soccer ball; musical notes; books; depiction an atom; the comedy and tragedy masks; paintbrushes; a computer mouse; a curved pencil writing 1 +1 equals; the numbers 1, 2, 3; and the letters A, B, C. Source: https://www.tes.com/teaching-resources/blog/visual-timetables-all-ages

I was in the middle of something when it happened.

We all were, really, when COVID-19 really made itself known. If COVID is the dragon in our fairy tale, that makes all of us the princess, and perhaps the government and leaders are cast into the role of the impotent king who tries to boost the economy rather than hire an army to battle the evil creature. But I digress.

Specifically, I was working on a filming project—interpreting Homer’s Odyssey into American Sign Language. In the end, my partner and I filmed almost 20 hours of footage in two days, just before the campus shut down, and we worked to complete it with 500 miles between us.

Once that was finished, I sort of signed off YouTube, shut my laptop, and sat for a moment in silence (technically it wasn’t really silent; I just couldn’t hear my brother yelling at his friends during virtual combat). I thought, “Well, damn. Now what?”

I am very aware that, having anxiety disorder, my human need for daily structure is heavily compounded. If I don’t have structure, I tend to get cycles of depressive episodes, which is never fun. Zero/Zero recommend. If I could give no stars for that review I would.

Upon returning to my mother’s house in Arkansas in the midst of shutdowns, I was at first optimistic that the quarantine would be over and done with—but unfortunately I severely overestimated people’s ability to transcend individualist ideologies and just be kind and considerate of others. The first thing I did was rearrange my bedroom. Once that was done, I somehow had way more books on my hands than before I started. The lack of shelf space disturbs me.

But there’s only so many times you can rearrange your room before you start channeling Marie Kondo, which isn’t going to work in a house that has a hoarder-in-training.

My usual hobbies, reading, writing, and drawing, haven’t necessarily been panning out well for me. It’s not structured or purposeful enough for me in general, especially when I don’t have anyone to talk to about it. Zooming with friends isn’t quite accessible for the deaf (no captioning software is accurate enough), not to mention that I’m in a very rural area with low reception for both cell and Internet.

I became highly motivated to volunteer on Twitter and Facebook, typing image descriptions, especially for Black Lives Matter content. That helps me immensely to structure my life. I spend at least one hour every day on Facebook making sure posts and pages sharing memes, screenshots, and photographs have descriptions. This type of volunteering to increase accessibility is both meaningful and purposeful for me.

But what do I do when I’m not writing image descriptions or wallowing in self-pity?

Lately I’ve taken up reclaiming the skill of writing with my left hand. I’m one of those strange people who are right-hand dominant, so when I’m signing or writing, my right hand is doing most of the work. But when I’m sketching, I use my left hand, and later my right will take over for the control-based task of outlining and coloring. In the past I was able to also write relatively well with my left, but over the years, I neglected that hand, and the skill was lost.

For 20 minutes every day, I copy a passage from whatever book I’m reading—and this is highly motivating because I don’t want to copy the same passage more than once, meaning I have to read at least a little every day as well.

Check out my progress:

Yes, I have a box of 500 stickers and I self-congratulate. Try it!

So, if you’re searching for more structure in your daily life, I highly recommend learning a new skill to help focus, distract, and rest from other issues. You can add structure to your day by writing out to-do lists and setting time limits for an activity or chore. You can find something that you feel is productive and worth spending a lot of time on, whether that’s reading, writing, organizing, arguing with strangers on Facebook, taking a walk, brushing the cat, origami…Really, just find a bunch of different things to do and set time blocks for each!

Stay safe, stay kind,

Leigh Ann

Published by modcasters

We’re a group of graduate students studying English Literature and Language on a mission to discuss literature, provide access to those on the deafness and/or blindness spectrum, and rock mustachios.

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