Pandemic Prompts

Anxiety/Creativity by Cecilia Tokar

“Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity," wrote T.S. Eliot. For those who need an outlet for creativity during self-isolation and social distancing, Lit Cleveland is offering free writing challenges each week via our newsletter. The following piece is a response to the "This is not that kind of poem" prompt.


by Cecilia Tokar

You love her. You hate her. She’s always there. Standing off in the corner you catch her just staring at you right in the middle of Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s millionth interview on CNN. Offering treats and favors for your mindfulness moment, and taunting your meditation. She sees you organizing the closet and quietly smirks.

She hears your self-talk about new beginnings and washes you with a bucket of old dirt. The noise is the worst. When she starts talking it can deafen the room. While briskly circling, she’ll pace your dreams and sweep them away like the rubbish they probably were anyways. “She’s always right,” you tell yourself. “She’ll keep me safe.” Until she doesn’t.

Until you wake up in a loveless marriage with two kids and an alcoholic, lying, money thieving husband because she told you he was the best you could do. And right when you are ready to fucking strangle her, after you tried to drown her with too much alcohol, cigarettes, and any pastry Giant Eagle has prepackaged, she gasps for air and tells you exactly what you want to hear.

She urges you at 3 a.m. while you sit on the toilet sobbing alone that you should write your story, because someone needs to hear it. She prompts you to believe this is your destiny, while simultaneously listing off those 14 other ideas she’s been sitting on such as: organizing the closet. And all at once you find yourself rushing to find a pencil and paper. You trust her again. She spirals you into a flurry of determination, and even when you think the moment has passed, she will wake you in the middle of a dream with a stiff poke. And her whispers will turn into an all-nighter of planning.

On blissful, sunny weekends like the one that just passed, she relaxes and you forget she is there. And you wonder with uncertainty why you suddenly feel possessed to smooth everything over, but that is her ploy. She knows she’s got you now when Monday morning in Ohio hits and it's 48 degrees once more. She knows she has you, and rushes you with a cold awakening. A reminder that just two weeks ago you caught him with a secret bank account and he still has not apologized. She says, “What was that part he told you about Financial Autonomy again?” As you lay there with freshly opened eyes, she gently reminds you that he did this to you, not her. He has fueled her fire. As you creatively outline your plan to get him out of the house, she nudges you about that book you wanted to write too. You find yourself at your computer while the baby sleeps and the 4 year old watches television, just clicking away intensely with gritted teeth and puckered lips. Determined to type. Together you both battle tore main present and propel forward in this powerful momentum rooted in fear and intense worry.