During this sudden shift in our behavior and focus, and in the midst of our collective concern about the health of ourselves and those around us, it is easy for us to dwell on the things we suddenly CAN'T do. I would encourage everyone to instead make a detailed list of all the things you CAN do. While so much of our daily routines, interests, careers, and responsibilities have been halted, what we now have is time: time to support the workers in our family by keeping the home clean and the siblings fed, time to do the things at home you always wanted to do but never had the time to do, time to engage in deep, meaningful self-care so that you can be the healthiest version of yourself that you can be, both physically and mentally. As artists, especially, many of us are so wired to go-go-go and create at a fast pace, but the artist must also create personal balance and find rejuvenation in moments of stillness. Moreover, artists are the great connectors in our society; the storytellers, the poets, the dancers, the painters, the sculptors --MENTAL and EMOTIONAL and SPIRITUAL healthcare workers of the human race-- and when obstacles and roadblocks to connection are put in the artist's path, the artist does the necessary, brave, and important work of finding a path forward.
My brother-in-law, David Bagby (the IT point person for the University of Nebraska- Lincoln's College of Fine Arts), recently had this to say on the subject: "The arts are physical experiences as well as mental preparation. Art is mind and body, hands and feet and eyes; teeth, tongue, lungs and lips. Art is heart and spirit in all senses of these words. IN-spiration -- breathing life into being. How do we learn, train, grow and express all these in the face of separation? Finding and creating meaning and connection has always been artists' work. We're up to this."
We are indeed up to this. Fellow artists, this crisis is not merely an obstacle to our art; rather, this is the very challenge we have been training for all this time. Artists are among the hardest hit by this sudden shutdown, but we are also among the most equipped to invent and create new ways of connection. While scientists and healthcare providers are the true heroes on the front lines of addressing the pandemic, artists are meanwhile doing the work of figuring out how to help people stay truly socially connected in this period of physical distancing.
Now, as we start to wrap our hearts and minds around that puzzle, we must keep ourselves energized and sustained. We must maintain our own strength so that we may share it with others, even if only remotely via the internet for now. In my kitchen, I have a list of daily healthy habits I turn to each day:
1) Drink lots of water
2) Exercise and/or go for a long walk around the neighborhood every day
3) Wash your hands and don't touch your face, yes, but also take showers
and baths regularly
4) Reach out to and connect with at least one friend each day who might
5) Get plenty of sleep
6) Cuddle with your real and/or stuffed animals often.
We will all learn a great deal of valuable information about ourselves through this process, as people and as artists. There will be times when we will call for help and times when we will be called upon to help. I encourage you to keep a diary and write about your experience and observations. In your journal, write down things that happened that were both good and bad, and also write down a goal you have for tomorrow. Then, when you wake up tomorrow, attack that goal. Keep caring for yourself and those around you, and keep creating, now more than ever. We're up to this.
--Paul R. Coate
Actor (AEA), Vocalist, Director, Educator