I am starting to lose count of the number of people I have spoken to recently who just have nothing left in the tank. No energy. No motivation. No bounce left in the bungee. It’s the pandemic inside the pandemic.
Everyone has reasons for it. We’re all dealing with a lot. The usual daily life dramas and complications. The long term health issues, conflicts, difficult work situations, difficult home lives… it all takes a toll. But all of that “normal” stuff is now happening against a background of constant strain.
Last week one of my kids had covid, so we spent the week in isolation, feeling unsafe in our own home. We did all the right things – kept all the doors and windows open, had an air filter running 24/7 in their room, left food at the door, used separate bathrooms, had no contact. And we were lucky, they were double vaxxed and felt better pretty quickly. We stayed home, worked as usual, didn’t have to go shopping or do any dropping off or picking up, didn’t go anywhere or see anyone. In some ways that sounds almost peaceful, but we ended the week exhausted. As though we’d been running some kind of lifestyle marathon without leaving our home. In a sense, perhaps we were.
I think we might be underestimating the strain of this whole “living with the virus” gig. Aside from the constant risk calculation, and the “will we/won’t we” of every outing and every friend catch up, the longing to attend large events that we’ve missed over the last two years (I’m looking at YOU, Comedy Festival!) set against the fear of catching covid at them, the constant risk of cancellation from somebody winding up testing positive or being a close contact… I say “aside from that,” though that, in itself, is a lot… nonetheless… aside from that, many of us are still living unusually constrained and unsatisfying lives. And while we’re doing that, we’re watching other people living what look like perfectly normal lives as though there is no risk at all. It’s hard to fathom.
For those of us who are still working from home a lot more than usual, we’re suffering from decreased connection with our colleagues, and lack of social contact from things that used to seem trivial, like the casual conversations in the tea room. And I think we also underestimate how much those casual interactions fuel us.
We’re not going to the usual events, not going out as much, not playing as much, not travelling as much, not entertaining as much, not relaxing as much. We’re just not getting all the ways to recharge that we used to. And yet we’re demanding more of ourselves. There are wars, environmental catastrophes, unspeakable politics, and elections where the choice often seems to be between bad and worse. (Vote Green or independent! Shake them up!)
We’re trying to be vigilant about covid avoidance. Considering whether we need to do a RAT today or whether it might just be allergies. Wondering whether it’s ok to dine inside at the cafe when it’s cold. And trying to work more, with less support. All while dealing with all of the usual difficult life events on top of it all. Seeing people we love, even without touching them, releases all kinds of positive hormones into our bodies. We’re not getting as much of that, especially if loved ones are interstate or overseas. We’re asking more of our bodies, and supporting them less.
Plus, of course, the extra fuel for everyone’s anxiety that is the variant waiting game. What will the next variant be? How hard will it hit? Are we past the worst of it? Will things get better? Is the worst yet to come?
No wonder we’re exhausted. I’m trying to build up social contact while managing risk, but I’m still a long, long way from getting what I need. Some days it feels like I’m just dragging myself through life, waiting for a better future that might never come. And yet we can’t just stop and wait until it gets better. Ironically, that would probably make things worse.
I don’t have any answers, but I do know that we’re not alone, even in iso. Chances are, however you’re feeling, a whole lot of people are probably feeling the same. I know some of my friends get grumpy with me when I post those sad feelings online, they want me to get over it, move on, buck up! But at the same time, so many people seem to respond to the feelings, to be relieved that they’re not the only ones who feel this way. Maybe that’s an answer, of a sort. Or at least a strategy. Maybe we need to tell each other how we feel more, whether it’s on social media, on zoom, or in person. Maybe connecting over our lack of connection is one way to help us survive. A way to feel less alone. It’s worth a try.