I admit it. The months of waiting, of social isolation, the greyness of winter, and more waiting for the promised vaccines have upended any of my resolve to remain calm, positive, and creative. I wrote about “the long wait” earlier this month for my “writing the heart” blog, and this morning, searching for inspiration, I perused several of my blog posts for the past year, particularly those concerning the initial fear as COVID-19 became a daily reality for all of us, and life began to be defined by social distancing and “shelter in place.” The summer months brought a kind of reprieve, although my husband and I, both in the “higher risk” category, remained cautious in our movements and interactions.
Now, approaching a year later, I feel increasingly like I’m living some version of the Bill Murray film “Groundhog Day,” awakening each morning to a kind of mental sludge, reminding myself of what day it is, and yet attempting to maintain some semblance of normal routines…making the bed, sweeping the floor, planning what to cook for dinner, and even yet, writing every morning in the quiet. That’s where my real mental and emotional state are expressed. I can barely fill a page in my notebook some mornings. Any attempts at creativity are more often futile than not. Occasionally I manage a silly, rhyming poem that, at the least, can make my husband laugh, but even those efforts have become less frequent. So I was strangely pleased to discover an article in the British newspaper, THE GUARDIAN, this weekend with the title, “Writer’s blockdown: after a year inside, novelists are struggling to write.”
Well, I’m no prize-winning novelist, but writing is a significant part of my life, so I read the article immediately, feeling some sense of “oh thank goodness, it’s not just me” as I did. “Drab days, author William Sutcliffe remarked. “Last night I had a dream about unloading the dishwasher.” “I can’t connect with my imagination,” Linda Grant, a prize-winning novelist said “My whole brain is tied up with processing, processing, processing what’s going on in the world.” She described “waking up in a fog and not wanting to do anything but watch rubbish TV.” Well, I will now admit I have all but exhausted every British crime drama on Brit Box over the many months of our COVID pandemic life. It’s just an example of what another author calls “pandemic fatigue” that is affecting everyone. “Life,” Grant said, “is just a sea of greyness, of timelessness,” sentiments I often share. Even my reading list has become populated with “easy” reads, like detective novels, a genre I rarely indulged in before COVID, just pure escapism. And the creative cooking I did for several months? Gone. My motivation for trying new recipes, those once weekly batches of scones or even the occasional cake has completely vanished. Worse, my morning writing is top heavy with greyness and anxiety before I finally settle into “healthier” prose, sometimes the occasional inspiration for one of my workshops or a silly poem for a friend or family member.
Of course, it doesn’t help my anxiety that my U.S. friends and family members have cheerfully announced they’ve gotten their vaccinations, unaware, perhaps, of Canada’s vaccination delays. Where we were hopeful toward the end of 2020 that we’d also have ours by now, it’s less and less likely we’ll feel that needle jab in our arms before April. That only feeds my anxiety as the delay persists, and we read reports of more infectious variants. As a “higher risk” candidate, I find I am driven to compulsively read the national and provincial COVID-19 updates daily, despite the fact I know it rarely helps my mood. We also worry for those who’ve lost their jobs, their shops and businesses as the pandemic lockdowns continue. What will life be like when this is over? It’s hard to find much that’s uplifting in all of this, and my daily mantras and meditations aren’t helping much at the moment.
It’s cold comfort, perhaps, but I am hardly alone in this–far from it. So many people are suffering far more than we are. So while I allow my worry to surface or write a rant sometimes to let off steam, I am fully aware how important it is I don’t end up in self-pity for more than the briefest of periods. I’ve learned to close my notebook and turn to other pursuits when I realize I’m heading down the rabbit hole.
“This too shall pass,” my mother would say at any time we had an upset in our childhood…we grew tired of her pat phrase, but now, I can hear her voice in my mind, those same four words repeated again and again. While I never found them very helpful in relieving whatever angst or youthful heartbreak I was feeling, I now find variations of that same theme in the words of poets I have long admired. I guess there’s some truth in my mother’s mantra.
Wait for now.
Distrust everything if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
Carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting
Buds that open out of season will become
(From “Wait,” by Galway Kinnell, in Mortal Acts; Mortal Words, 1980)
–Fed up with waiting? Set the timer for 15 minutes. Try writing a rant, just “dumping” all your worry and frustration on the page. When time is up, stop.
–Re-read what you’ve written. What stands out? Now, start with the one thing that seems most important and, setting the timer again for another 15 minutes, explore what’s beneath the frustration.
–How are you coping with the extended period of social isolation and lockdown? What helps? What doesn’t? Write a humorous “prescription” for coping with this extended wait.