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?
I am hypersensitive. I am normally emotional but this is not the same. My husband had the tree cut down for necessary reasons and like Jonah I wept for the tree!
Thanks for sharing. Weeping over a tree sounds pretty normal to me these days. We need outlets for our pent-up emotions!
Great post Marilyn. I believe you caught my sentiments as well. Slumpy! So true. It’s tough getting you g again but am trying. I didn’t bake cuz I’m the one who would’ve eaten it all and my dang covid-10 would be the covid-20! 😫
You’ve been doing a lot. Sleep is healing so long as it’s not three days straight.
Catch up on your reading. That’s part of your job.
We’ll meet soon. Maybe a Peachland park in the sunshine!! ❤️
Yeah, it’s never been even a day straight–just indulging in a long afternoon nap on rainy days. A Peachland park meeting sounds wonderful! Following your blogs has kept me feeling ‘in the loop’ with you. I miss our Kelowna writers group!
For the most part, good. I have to admit that the longer this goes, my motivation to do stuff is dwindling. I miss my mum and can’t wait to see her in person. Fortunately I live in a building and we’ve gone back to playing Canasta.
Great post, thanks for sharing.
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Thanks for commenting! Hope you can see your mum soon. And canasta sounds fun– I played it as a teen, and remember loving it. Hugs.
Wow, timely post for me. Just this past week I felt a switch flip. For the most part I am content by myself and keep myself busy. Studying, reading, projects, walking a lot every day, zooming with people… but in the last few days I hit a sadness, not depressed but a weariness perhaps. I can’t quite get beyond it… I feel so disconnected from people and suddenly seems it won’t get better. I know it’s not true but what I know and how I feel aren’t always aligned… Jeannine
thanks for sharing, Jeannine. Seems like many of us are feeling the same way–which makes us much more connected than we actually feel! Of course, we share a stronger spiritual connection too. You’ve been on my mind lately and I’ve been missing you. Sure wish we lived closer. I know we’d have a LOT to talk about! Sending big hugs…
Right now I am weirdly happy and filled with peace. In the immediate present, God is healing me from the trauma of the NYC experience of the pandemic. That was a darkness I almost could not bear.
I am grateful to be out of the city for the remainder of the summer. I am trying to let go of any “life as we know it” nostalgia because now we don’t know it. I will email you more later. Love you forever.
I immediately feel happier because you’re happier! Your NYC experience was SO intense compared to ours in BC. May your healing be swift and full!
I don’t know if I’ve ever related so well to a post. I love the word “slumpy” – it conveys the feeling entirely.
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Marilyn, Thank you for allowing us a view into your inner world. I must say that you are definitely productive in your slumpiness. If this (blog) is what you produce in this slumpy state, you make us semi-productive people look like slackers. I can’t imagine you “sleeping” for too long though…
As far as how I am doing, I haven’t had much time to think about how I am feeling. Work has been taking a lot of my time at home. Also I am trying to enjoy this time in our lives which we may never live again. We have never really used our backyard in the last ten years except for a very, very occasional grill out. We have set up ghetto yard game Olympics. I have come to love badminton and play a pretty good game. I have learned how to make some new mostly successful dishes even though I am too ADD to follow a recipe (good thing now recipes come with step by step photos online). –I would love your scone recipe by the way!– I have had some time to write more than ever, but I have found that I have become much more distracted by social media and my phone. I hope I am not turning into THAT person who always need a phone on them…!
Overall I have been in pretty good cheer but on rainy days I get to thinking over things too much and then I begin coast slowly down that road and then my brakes go out and flip over my emotional bike and crash.
This may be too much info but well, you asked 🙂 Thank you Marilyn for sharing your gift of expression.I know you will be back soon in full force and oh, what we have to look forward to!
Wow, thanks for your detailed response–I love it! I”m picturing you playing badminton and ghetto Olympics and it makes me smile! So glad you’ve been able to savor this time as special. Your super-hectic life was crying for a break! Love how you describe your overthinking, rainy days as a bike crash–perfect metaphor. I think many of us have become more addicted to social media, if only to follow ever-breaking news, so you’re certainly not alone in that. But it’s still hard for me to imagine you on your phone very much, given your past aversion to cell phones. I guess we all change in some aspects as life takes unexpected turns. Love and miss you….
I’ve been feeling like some sort of rubbery kelp, washed up on to ashore at low tide,waiting for …well I’ve almost forgotten what it is I’m going to be about. In the last week, I managed to look up, even make a drawing, and I decided to focus on one idea, Abundance.Overwhelming or assuring,God’s creative mojo is wild and unfettered.Howl, rail ,or stare in awe… it’s a full time occupation just inhaling.
ok. back to the couch.
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You’re hilarious! Rubbery kelp captures the mood exactly….