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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

This must be pandemic fatigue

Kathleen McQuillan
Posted 4/7/21

I’m once again facing a blank page. This has been a period when nothing seems to glisten. Nothing calls out to me. There are interesting stories on the radio but they don’t capture my …

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This must be pandemic fatigue

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I’m once again facing a blank page. This has been a period when nothing seems to glisten. Nothing calls out to me. There are interesting stories on the radio but they don’t capture my imagination. Nothing seems to hold my attention for very long.
The list of things to do continues to lengthen. Lately, few things are getting checked off. I start projects but have trouble finishing them. There are people I should call but wonder what there will be to talk about. Duffy is barking more. He wants me to remember that he’s ready to play whenever I am. But all I want to do is sit in a chair and stare out the window.
Things are changing. The snow is receding ahead of schedule. The days are getting longer and warmer. On Easter Sunday, I let the fire go out in the wood stove for the first time in many months. I’m pressed to keep thinking of the future. It’s unfolding right before my eyes. Change never stops just because I do.
I have survived the pandemic, so far anyway. I’ve received the vaccine. I should be happy. The experts say I will be able to visit with my family again. I’ve missed them so much. But when? It’s year two and we may be on the brink of a fourth wave. I hesitate to share these feelings. We all must carry them, at least sometimes. Especially “the missing” part.
I’ve never admitted to being bored. But lately, I’ve wondered if that isn’t part of this malaise. Nothing looks new to me. Every task has been done a hundred times. Where are the challenges I relished? There are lots of things that need to be done. Spring cleaning. Raking the yard. Pulling dead debris away from perennial flower beds. Reorganizing the sheds and that haphazard mess I left when winter suddenly set in. But where’s the motivation?
In the darkest days of winter, my soul seemed closer to the surface. I could find a book on the shelf that spoke to me. “Open. Fill your mind with the spirit of perseverance, and an ability to find wonder in even the smallest thing.” When our world is frozen solid, that’s about all there is. But now it’s spring. Even its name is supposed to energize us. “Wake up. Step out of hibernation. Do something, anything.” It’s time now to take action. But I can’t.
I notice how I jump from task to task. When I circle back fifteen minutes or an hour later, I find a jar or a drawer still left open. I’ll discover a small pile of dust and wood chips in the corner of the room with the broom and dustpan propped nearby against the wall. As I quickly finish sweeping, I try to recall what distracted me from completing this attempt to tidy things up. I’ve started to wonder about myself.
Even writing has become difficult! I had an article all ready to submit to the paper, but when it was time to press the Send key, I couldn’t. I reread it one more time and asked myself, “Who even cares about this?” My answer was “No one.” I had to return to the computer and begin again. But not one topic seemed worth the effort. That was the problem. Nothing seemed to matter. When facing “writer’s block”, we’re told to just sit back down and write! So that is what I did. I stumbled into this moment of truth, ready for a brave confession. I am not “doing fine”.
After twelve long months of concerted effort to remain hopeful, positive, upbeat, engaged, creative, able to see the beauty, and be satisfied with the love of my devoted critter companions — pep-talking my way through every frustration and disappointment and determined to express gratitude in spite of feeling overwhelmed by grief — it’s time to shout. “Everything is not ok.” Suddenly, heroic perseverance is not working.
It’s 8:00 a.m. Just when I worry that I’ve said too much, Duffy comes to my rescue. Like clockwork, his little system sends him rushing to the door, scratching for my attention. I grab his leash and collar, slip on my jacket, and we step outside. He sniffs his way down the driveway, curious with every wild creature that’s left its scent the night before. I stand still, patiently waiting, listening. Yes, it is spring! The woodpeckers are drumming on hollow trees, announcing they are available. It’s mating season. The cranes and geese on the beaver pond are back from their winter migration. It’s time to build nests. The pussy willows catch morning rays of sunlight and so do tiny flies, buzzing with the earth’s warming. Eventually, we return to the house. Duffy is relieved and satisfied. I’m reminded that a whole world is happening right outside my door, whenever I am ready to step out and take it in.
We’ve been confined for a very long time, isolated from the usual sources of love and inspiration. I’ve been relying on my own devices to enrich my soul, bolster my confidence, and trust in myself, humanity, and the universe. It is no small feat, coping with so much “bad news” and such limited resources. I’ve given it my best. So why is it hitting me so hard now? Is there some hidden purpose in this inertia? Am I to stop my “doing, doing” and instead rest, reflect, and celebrate that I am still alive? I can’t deny the things that I’m grateful for. So, is this the message?
Today is another day! Duffy has once again gotten me out the door. He’s racing around me in circles, ecstatic. The sun feels good on my face. Not a quarter mile down the road, I hear myself singing. “Oh, what a beautiful morning!” Could I be getting my groove back?
Maybe! I know the drill. Be patient. Stay vigilant. And keep the faith. We gotta believe. There are brighter days ahead.

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