How’s your joy level these days?
As we slide into our 14th week of Hiding from Covid, I have to confess…mine’s been slipping.
I’m not depressed, exactly. At least, not like I’ve been in the past, when depression once held me in a death grip. I’m not particularly anxious, either—not in the way I hear others are struggling. But I’m definitely not my bouncy old self. I’m not lighthearted and full of good humor, not finding joy—or a good joke—in the little details of my day, not bursting with energy and motivation.
I’m…slumpy. In a slump. We just had an (unusual) week of rain, and all I wanted to do was sleep. Now the rain has cleared, but the wind’s still brisk, I’ve been awake a few hours, and already I feel like going back to bed. Getting lost in a book. Letting another day slide into this chunk of unreality and unhappening called 2020. Calling it a day, before the day has a chance to shape into something more memorable than reading a great Alice Munro story. (Which certainly isn’t the worst way for a day to be squandered and remembered!)
Can you relate?
The restrictions are lifting, bit by bit, but my slumpy self isn’t registering excitement. I can finally get a haircut, as I was longing back in April.
Now I can’t be bothered. Why not wait another month or two?
I could go out to eat, but I’ve fallen into a nightly rut of eating the same giant salad (shredded cabbage, cauliflower, mushrooms, red pepper, frozen peas, feta cheese or salmon) and that’s all I want. There’s no other food—or eating establishment—calling my name.
I sent a few emails to see if one of my writers groups wanted to meet, but lost interest when only a handful responded. Belatedly. We seem to feel the same: Let’s wait till fall, when hopefully all will be Better.
Realizing, of course, that fall could bring the dreaded Second Wave. And, in a perverse way, wanting that to happen, so we can put this whole waiting game behind us. Because the infection rate in my province—and my region in particular– has been incredibly low, and it makes me wonder if we’ve been hiding from nothing. And, instead, finding our true selves–our slumpy, can’t-be-bothered, borderline-depressed selves—in the dark corners of our isolation.
And yet… I haven’t been idle. The front lawn, which I painstakingly hand-weeded and reseeded, is a public testament to April’s productivity, now potentially sheltering wildlife in its emerald abundance. (We can’t mow it yet; too rainy.) The garage, a former testament to our daughter’s proclivity for scoring and storing all manner of Free Stuff for the days when she has her own garage, is now passably organized, with space to walk and breathe. I’ve attacked closets, donated clutter, cleaned those pesky blinds—the stuff we’ve all done while in waiting out the virus. I haven’t baked, sourdough or otherwise (except for the occasional scones to please my husband, who bought me a 12-pack of assorted jams for Mother’s Day and wants to sample all) because I haven’t wanted Weight Gain to be another souvenir from these strange days.
I got my old bike tuned, and cranked up my workouts on a hilly, ever-lengthening route that gets my heart pumping like being chased by a bear.
I wrote a bunch of articles, won a writing contest, submitted my best work to a dozen literary journals and competitions. Queried more agents and publishers for my memoir. Spent too many hours reading and commenting on writer’s sites through Facebook.
But if I were to graph my productivity from March until now, mid-June, the evidence would be clear: I’m slacking off. Instead of being re-energized by June’s long days as we rush toward solstice—and in Canada, those long days are L-O-N-G—I’m melting in the opposite direction. And I’m not sure why.
Maybe it’s the unseasonably wet and cool spring we’re having. By now, the local climate usually has us baking and burning. This year we’re like a skipping record, repeating the same lacklustre temperatures on a dreary loop. Yesterday I even turned our furnace on for a few hours when the sun refused to try harder.
Maybe the lack of socialization is finally getting to me. I feel like I’ve been interacting, but most of my talks take place through a keyboard, with the odd phone call or Zoom meeting. Maybe that’s like trying to survive on the same food (a particular homemade salad, for example) for too long: the appetite settles, shrinking from expansion and adventure.
Maybe I’m sleeping too much. But my house companions, four cats and a slowly dying dog, are so conducive to ignoring the clock and obeying my inner dreamer. And I’m a great dreamer: wildly creative and original, with a lifetime of far-flung memories to re-confabulate. Let’s just say I’ve had extra time to develop my gift, and I’ve run with it.
Maybe my dwindling motivation and slumpy mood are simply the by-product of these unprecedented times, even if my experience has been mild, and hardly traumatic. Maybe some of you are feeling the same way.
Or not. When I venture out, the streets are packed, suggesting most folks are jumping back into Normal Life with a vengeance. Eager to reclaim what’s been prohibited: shopping, eating out, going to the gym. Those precious hair appointments. Even if it means wearing a mask and watching those two meters.
I’m not there yet. And I’d like to know how YOU’RE doing—not on the surface, but actually, in your heart and mood. I hope you’ll comment and add your voice. Share with me the good, the bad, and the embarrassing.
Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with a poem I wrote several years ago, back in another unseasonably cold summer. The words came to mind as I was writing this, and they seem to fit again:
So cold this house, this desk, this chair,
my chilly thoughts, my partial prayer,
July’s dark sky, its spectral gloom,
this life half lived, this basement room.
So cold I wear ear muffs to run
chill trails beneath the missing sun.
Cold my fingers past the bone
as summer fails to claim its own.
Were it to thaw, which part thaws first—
my sullen heart, my absent thirst?
And were the sun to blaze its heat
would I allow new life to beat?
Or would I pull this glacier near
and turn my back on summer’s cheer?
So cold, this desk, this chair, this night,
dark wintry pall of northern light.
Hopefully posting this poem will embarrass the sun into seasonable action. And fill up those chilly corners of reluctance and entropy, pulling us forward.
Again I ask, How are you doing?