Social Distancing From Myself

Getting Out Of My Head’s Even Harder When I Can’t Get Out Of My Apartment

Ok, obviously, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. I do get out of my apartment a bit. I take my dog for long walks a couple of times a day. I’ve had the whole “Costco as Thunderdome” experience. But as someone for whom inner peace has usually been an oxymoron, being trapped indoors is a real challenge.

I Have Become (Not Very) Comfortably Numb

I started to notice about a week or so ago feeling a bit numb (an odd expression, when you think about it, “feeling numb.” It is, by definition, impossible. But I digress…) I started to look at people I know and love very much as if I were viewing at them via a museum exhibit entitled “These Are People I Love.” They (or rather, I) were at a distance, as if through Lucite (“Lucite – for all your transparent screening needs” I’m trying to get sponsors). It took me a day or two to realize I was experiencing that same disconnection within myself. This is bad news for me as a writer; it’s worse news for me as a person.

I was asked to write a play specifically to be performed over Zoom, as Richard Nelson recently did for the Public Theatre. I admit I began with very little confidence in my ability to tackle the project. I was just too…foggy, too distant. However, I pushed myself, and decided to go right to the heart of the matter: to write a play that is loosely autobiographical in nature. Something in my life I’ve struggled with immensely for years. And it turned out to be the best decision I made in a while.

No Pain, No Gain

I’m not sure I did it consciously, but the decision to revisit a place of unresolved trauma cracked open that Lucite-like barrier I’d built up (please notice I wrote Lucite “like.” Because Lucite’s been clinically proven to be 83% more crack-resistant than its leading competitors*. Come on, Lucite, throw me a bone). Oddly, I wrote the play, which is shortish (about 30 minutes), almost entirely in a couple of two hour spurts about a week apart. The story took on a non-autobiographical life of its own, and I felt that happy and rare experience of the play making its own decisions kicking in. I’m actually fairly pleased with it, and it looks like it will be broadcast by a respected theater company later this month (I’ll reveal more when I know more).

My point is…actually, I’m not entirely sure. I suspect it has something to do with the hard work of constantly checking in with yourself and, if you find yourself adrift, making the necessary course corrections, no matter how unappetizing it may seem or how tired and uninspired you feel. That goes doubly for the people in your life outside of your head. I’m taking the opportunity to be unabashed in vocalizing my appreciation and love for my friends and family as often as I can without being nauseating about it.

My Zoom play-reading group, which is loaded with some of the best actors in New York (seriously, I’ve been very lucky) had another reading last night, and the act of not only watching great actors ply their craft in a great play (last night was August: Osage County), but seeing their faces, hearing their voices, and having animated talk with smart people refueled my tank. It made it impossible to be emotionally distant, despite the real physical separation. It made me hungry for more, which is a great motivation to be on the lookout for slipping into the distance without realizing it. Incidentally, the picture you see at the top is obviously not of my reading group, but a generic and free pic of generically free and happy people. You can tell this isn’t my Zoom play-reading group because: 1) They’re all in the same room, and 2) With two exceptions, my play-reading group is significantly more attractive.

Wherever You Go, Make Sure That’s Where You Are

I don’t feel qualified to offer counsel to anyone; all I can say is what’s brought me back off the ledge during this pandemic more than once. Inevitably, it’s been connecting with other people, even if only briefly. That, and the arduous, steep uphill push that is my attempt to challenge myself to stay engaged and productive. I hope you’re all coping out there, but if not, feel free to reach out. Especially if you’re an advertising rep for the good people at Lucite International.

*That’s a totally made up stat, just like 57% of all stats that appear here, including that one.

Published by Jack Canfora

I'm an award winning and losing playwright and screenwriter; I'm a dad of two great kids, an aggressive spoiler of dogs, and hopelessly addicted to baseball and The Beatles. I have no recollection of ever having worn a mullet, yet photos in the 80's say otherwise.

Leave a Reply