Life and Dreams in Limbo Due to Covid-19
August 23, 2020 8:17 PM   Subscribe

I am stuck and unable to make any progress in my life and dreams. How do I cope?

When Covid-19 happened, first of all, I had to shutter my retail business and it is not possible to re-open in the near future for good reasons. I turned to freelancing to make ends meet. I didn't make much but I survived lock-down.

Now my freelancing is drying up. I have been applying for other opportunities but have yet to be accepted. The employment market has totally cratered where I am though we have come out of lock-down. Local forums are full of people complaining about not getting call-backs for jobs to the extent that I think I have to stay off them for my sanity.

I posted this earlier in the year.

How to deal with deprivation while saving up for a lever harp?

I am not going to be able to buy a harp this year. Or next year. Under current circumstances, it's impossible for me to find a job that pays enough for me to save up for one. I have enough trouble even feeding myself.

I want music lessons so much. I would try to buy a cheaper instrument if money comes in but even that's not guaranteed. I'm getting so depressed, I'm having trouble concentrating on my freelance work but I don't get paid unless I finish my project. And I need to get paid because I have to buy groceries.

I had other non-music hobbies before Covid-19 but they don't give me any joy anymore. And I've put on a ton of weight due to not going out (it's mandatory to wear a mask outside and I hate wearing them, no matter what kind).

I've had so many losses this year, both financial and otherwise, that I'm having trouble coping.
posted by whitelotus to Grab Bag (9 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Is this life and death to you to not be able to do any kind of music? Will literally NOTHING BUT MUSIC WILL DO or else you will die inside or get suicidal or something? Are you already there now?

I don't know what a lever harp is, but clearly that's not doable. You said you used to play guitar. Will ANY instrument that's cheaper/easier to get make an improvement in the situation? I haven't the faintest idea about shopping in Asia, but if you could try to get some smaller/cheaper instrument to try to get your music on instead, that might be a more reasonable goal. Like I got a guitar at a flea market and used to do guitar lessons off If you could shoot for say, taking some instrument off of some mom's hands after her kid grew up and quit playing, maybe something like that could do. Maybe a ukulele? Violin is pretty easy to learn as well. If there's any way in Asia to find some other musical instrument that isn't brand new pricey from the store, see if you can do that.

I suspect you will say "No, I don't want to sing," but singing in your home is free and musical, so that's another possible option.

(Note: as for the exercise, I literally just make myself walk around the house while listening to things/watching YouTube off the phone to not think about my surroundings. Seems to work at a bare minimum, at least.)

Beyond that....well, I know what I want in life and I absolutely categorically can't get that any time soon or far either. I have been moping around the house crying about it this weekend. But really, what can you fucking do? Literally every human on the planet can't get what they want right now. EVERYONE. We're all going to have to figure out years of limbo and wanting what we can't have and can't do anything about, and accept that there is nothing we can do about it indefinitely. We have to get used to the idea instead of railing against it.

The harp isn't going to solve all your problems and be the one and only thing in the world that makes you happy. What I want probably wouldn't do that either (though it would certainly help). We need to find and focus on what we CAN get in the meantime, to at least be able to think about something else other than what we want. I know you've lost all interest in everything else in the world and only music will do, but if for whatever reasons all forms of music are utterly not doable for you, then try to find some other thing to do even if you're not that into it. Or try new stuff that you can access.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:49 PM on August 23, 2020 [17 favorites]

My advice goes in two opposite directions:

Faber & Mazlich in their parenting books say "You can't let the good feelings in until you let the bad feelings out". You said "I've had so many losses this year" This is true loss and you are entitled to feel grief. You have had so many things - tangible, intangible, real, hoped for - all disappear on you. You need to permit yourself some space for grief. I don't know what would make sense to you - writing a message and burning it, watching a sad movie and crying, breaking something. Also if there is anyone that would get this loss, can you reach out to them and complain/cry/grieve together? I had a long call with my cousin today. It sounded like a total pity party but we both know that we are strong women and when we hang up we will go back to dealing with what is but for that hour we could indulge in letting out all the frustrations without judgement or consequence.

The second part is to help you focus on moving forward. It may be weeks or months before things get better in a big way but in the meanwhile, it might really help if you train yourself to notice the small things that are OK in your life. The best way to write them down - say, three things each day that you can be glad that they happened. (If "happy" or "grateful" feels like too much, just "better it happened than it didn't) Also small things count as along as you actually felt them positively. So, today I'm actively grateful for air conditioning (but while I should be a grateful for a roof over my head, I wasn't feeling it so I wouldn't count that) Instead I would add that call with my cousin and taste of chocolate from my secret stash.
While you are making this list, you should also make a second one of things that you are can say "thank you" to yourself for doing for you today. They can be related (Thanks to me to texting my cousin to see if she would talk, thanks to me for buying that candy for myself) or unrelated (Thanks to me for taking care of those dirty dishes that were starting to oppress me) Just getting in the habit of doing little things that make your life better and then appreciating yourself for doing them.
posted by metahawk at 11:04 PM on August 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

Hi. I am so sorry that you are feeling this way and that you are among the many who are also going through hell because of COVID and depression caused by COVID. This is not your fault, and there is only so much a person can reasonably do to cope if other parts of your life have been hit with equally stressful things. Of course you feel stuck and in limbo! Who wouldn't? Who doesn't!

But, there are ways forward, and other people will mention them and give you good advice.

Here is mine: I think you should make a GoFundMe campaign so people can help you get towards your goal to fund the purchase of a new instrument, whether it's the lever harp or something else. Music drives you forward. Let others know you need this, and let them help you get there.
posted by Kitchen Witch at 11:13 PM on August 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

jenfullmoon: I am dying inside.

I spent 2019 dealing with the financial, emotional and physical consequences of serious illness in the family. The sick family member is still alive for now but no longer able to work and we lost his income permanently. Another of us quit working to care for him full-time for a period of time. We lost her income as well during that period of expensive hospital bills.

His condition had stabilized by the end of 2019 so the one doing care-giving returned back to work. After the hell of 2019, I thought that I could spend 2020 concentrating on making money and working towards my harp then Covid-19 happened.

It's like life keeps giving me one sucker-punch in the guts after another and whatever I want is forever out of my reach. I can't take it anymore.
posted by whitelotus at 3:12 AM on August 24, 2020

It’s difficult right now, and a lot of us have times we hyper focus on what we can’t do...and it’s ok to honour that.

For the harp, I would call local schools who offer harp and let them know your situation and ask if they know of any students or harp owners who would be willing to barter for use of a harp. You could help with translation for example? You might be surprised, as often people do have instruments around that they would just like to have played. The harp is a particularly tough one as it’s so expensive, but you never know. Once you have a few more funds, you could look at rentals or rent to own rather than buying.

For feeling better, sometimes you have to grieve. But then often one of the best ways to start to feel better is to help others. It might be a good time for you to volunteer - I don’t know enough about your area or culture but here some new food banks have sprung up due to the pandemic and I have been picking donations up curbside, also due to the pandemic. It’s not quite the same in terms of camaraderie as it was, but every time I do a run I am struck by the generosity of people and the variety of pickup locations, by our volunteers on bikes, etc. During the big shutdown, people in my community mobilized to bring donations to seniors’ doors. Maybe there is something you can find that even involves music.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:43 AM on August 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

I don't have many suggestions about the broader problems, except that it might help to have someone to talk with about your feelings on a regular basis. And that if there's one thing this crazy world makes clear it's that you can't really count on forever, not for good situations and not for bad ones. The idea that the things you want are forever out of reach is just a belief, not any kind of concrete truth. Maybe it's not a belief that's worth holding.

But about instruments specifically, as someone who doesn't have the funds to buy many of the things I want, I recommend looking for and following freecycle-type sites, forums, or other social groups where people give things away for free. Maybe it depends on where you live, but in every place I've lived I have been happily surprised by the quantity, range, and quality of what people give away. On some sites you can even make requests. The likelihood of finding a harp that way is low. But in your previous question you wrote "I used to have a guitar but it was accidentally damaged by a family member and now I have nothing to play. I miss making music so much, even the simple tactile sensations of the strings under my fingers", so I'd suggest hunting for any locally available instrument to give you an outlet for your musicality. Sometimes you have to track these sites for a while until what you want comes up, but that can be enjoyable in itself and feed the feeling of looking forward to something that it sounds like you're currently lacking.

If you can't find any sources for free instruments, then look at second-hand sales of instruments you can afford. If there's nothing good on offer right now, that doesn't mean there won't be anything in the future, so keep an eye out.

(Using these two approaches I've wound up with some wonderful things, including a very unaffordable hobby-related item that I had to keep an eye out for for around two years until a free one was listed in a location I could reasonably get to and wasn't given away to someone else first. And I check the forum that I got it on from time to time and in the two years since then I haven't seen any other listings for that item. I'm saying all this because "rarely" isn't the same as "never". If I'd just concluded I'd be forever unable to own that expensive item I wouldn't have kept looking for it and wouldn't have ended up finally obtaining it. "Forever" isn't something we can predict.)

Also think about working out at home, both for the weight gain (only since it sounds like that bothers you) and for your mood in general. There are a lot of types of exercise you can do in a small space, and if it doesn't sound appealing you might consider at least committing to some regular exercise for a few weeks and seeing how you feel at the end of that period.

We're in an unusually bad and unpredictable time right now - all of us around the world. I don't know how things will be a year from now, or even two years from now. But 5 years? 8 years? Life can be an unending series of setbacks, like you said, but to the extent we can predict anything I'll go ahead and predict that between any set of setbacks there will also be good periods that let us take a few steps forward. If you're going to believe in something unprovable, it might as well be that.
posted by trig at 5:19 AM on August 24, 2020 [6 favorites]

Hi, Whitelotus. I was you about four or five years ago - that feeling of "Why can't I ever have nice things" sounds very familiar. I was underemployed and underpaid, trying to throw pittances of money at a debt and balancing that with rent payments in New York City. I almost never ate out, not even at a freakin' McDonald's, because it was too much money. I almost never went to movies. I sewed up the holes in my socks because even spending $5 on a pack of tube socks from Target was too much. Any extra money I had went to vacations, because I desperately needed travel and I would scrimp and save there to afford even just a few days' vacation.

The first thing that helped me was - oddly - thinking of the movie The Martian at an especially low point. I had managed to save up for a vacation in Yosemite, renting a car and picking the bare-bones-est Airbnb's; and on my very first day of my trip, while I was stopped inside a coffee shop asking for directions, someone broke into my car and stole all my things. I had my wallet and my credit cards, my iPad, and the clothes on my back and that was it. The rental place paid for an Uber to take me the rest of the way to where I was staying and said they'd deliver a replacement car the next day; I spent that first night in the Airbnb feeling very alone, like "God, I can't even have JUST THIS ONE THING go right."

But the next morning I woke up and thought of a couple of scenes early on in The Martian. If you haven't seen it - it's about an astronaut who accidentally gets left behind during a mission because they're all trying to abandon the planet, and there's an accident and the rest of the crew thinks he's been killed so they leave him there. But he's not dead; just injured. He gets back to the base and treats his injuries, then figures out that he's been left there. He checks out how much food there is left, and how soon another ship could get to him - it would be another two years or so before someone would get him, and there isn't enough food or water for him to last that long. He records a video message saying that he was actually alive, and that he's probably going to starve to death before he gets help. Then he spends a minute or so sitting around and thinking about that - but then after that, he suddenly sits up and says "no, dammit, I don't want to die." The next video message he records, he talks about some ideas he has for how to fix some of the problems he's facing - including coming up with a way to grow potatoes inside the space station - and adopts a new motto: "I am going to science the shit out of this."

I thought of that during that morning after getting robbed. I'd allowed myself some time to feel that grief - but then when it passed, I got stubborn and said "no, I'm not going to let fate take this away from me - I just have to figure out another way to get there, or at least to hang on just long enough for things to go right. Or just right enough." And I came up with a plan to "science the shit out of things" and figure out what I needed and how I could get it. And - the trip not only went just fine, and I still had a good time, I replaced almost everything that was stolen and even got some of it returned (a good Samaritan found one of my bags and turned it in).

I kept using that kind of "I am going to science the shit out of this" thinking whenever I had another challenge - and that kept me going long enough until I got a much better job (finally) and that got me out of things for good. Five years ago I couldn't have forseen the job I have now - just like the astronaut in The Martian couldn't forsee exactly how he could be saved. But he focused just on "what can I do in this set of circumstances to hang on just long enough to give me a bit more time." And so did I. And it paid off.

It's important to grieve for what you thought you could have first - and you're doing that now. And when you're ready, then the next step is "okay, what can I do to get me closer to what I want?" For instance - maybe you can't pay for music lessons, but maybe you can ask at a music school if you can do some work for them in exchange for lessons. Or maybe ask on Facebook if a friend or the friend of a friend can give you occasional lessons. Maybe someone has a harp they are letting go for super-cheap. As for exercise - there are a ton of youtube video workouts you could follow along with.

And I'd suggest an attitude of defiance - like, "okay, fate, you thought you could stop me with a pandemic, but I'm gonna figure out a way to get what I want anyway, so there." You may have to "science the shit out of this" to get there, but it will at least keep you going long enough for fate to swing back your way.

Science the shit out of this. Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:20 AM on August 24, 2020 [47 favorites]

I am so sorry you have had such a bad year and are dying inside. These are really trying times for all of us.

Something that has helped me get a sense of optimism back, re-vision and achieve my dreams in new forms, and lead a more creative and fulfilling life is.... The Artists Way.

Ignore the God stuff if you need to. But the synchronicity she describes, like journalling about needing a harp and another musical instrument falling onto your lap, or being annoyed about weight gain and then finding a new form of exercise that does wonders for your mental health: it really DOES happen.

Sorry it's so woowoo but it really has helped me. Start small. Plant the seed in your brain that joy is around the corner. I am rooting for you.
posted by athirstforsalt at 7:23 AM on August 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

Where in Asia are you located? I am currently located in Asia, I teach music on the side (although not the harp - I teach violin and theory, and prefer not to teach piano unless the student has a proper acoustic piano to practice on) and have a network of friends/acquaintances that teach music as well (various acoustic instruments, theory, composition, electronic music, etc), spread out across a number of countries.

I'd be willing to offer online lessons at very reduced rates (or barter, or pay-what-you-can - or free, if your situation is really financially dire). Caveat is that I haven't completely figured out the optimal way to teach music online (especially because I specialize in teaching/hothousing very young children), and have not been giving full/official lessons since the pandemic happened (beyond short video/texting tips back and forth), so it would be a learning/adaptive process for myself as well.

(This offer extends to any other MeFites that may be feeling similarly and wanting to learn something new, if they don't mind the frustration of learning a very hands-on skill through a computer screen...)

Memail me if you're interested. It would help to know your country/city for more location-specific advice.
posted by aielen at 8:38 AM on August 24, 2020 [14 favorites]

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