I’m in a slump. A big one. My “glass half full” self is drained of peppy optimism, and if I’m honest, everything is kind of under my skin, at this point.
I feel like wallowing a bit. Staying in the bed, curtains closed to the light. Ignoring the noise and chaos of the busy nothings.
I’ve been reading about this insidious, Machiavellian emotion for the last several mornings: discouragement. It starts small, then begins to grow, morphing into perfectly unfounded feelings of worthlessness. In the ‘new world’ of distancing, at-home learning, and the anxiety of an unseen virus, I have been trying to keep my face towards the light, but that seems a bit more exhausting than it was during the first week. When I’m particularly worn down, it feels like I’ve made little progress, or any impact, on the current state of affairs. That serpent is slithering in the underbrush of this new daily life, and I find myself increasingly downtrodden.
Cue: introspection. I decided to retrace my steps from this ‘X’ that marks the spot of my current (and prevailing) mood, and found several culprits, all of whom have been shadowing my steps these past three weeks, watching me from a safe distance, until it is time to catch me unawares. Sounds a bit criminal, but it’s true.
These cloaked crusaders are: loneliness, isolation, overcompensation, and regret. If you know me, you understand that I thrive when I’m around others, even though I do enjoy the solitude and quiet of an empty space. If you know me, I’d rather be in the midst of a bustling city, exploring. My home and my neighborhood have become the landscape I typically only face in large quantities during the summer months. The difference now is that I am not able to interact. I wave at others from a distance, feeling a bit like the societal Mother Gothel just told me that my tower is where I’ll be. Guys, I know why I have to do this, it’s just a bit isolating to stare out the window at the world and be unable to traverse it.
My habit of overcompensation has fueled me to impulse buy homeschooling materials for my big girl, subscribe to a mobile lending library, try to come up with cute crafts to accomplish, clean parts of my house that I just typically leave by the wayside, purchase a new cookbook from one of my favorite at-home chefs, and pester the bejesus out of my close relatives through calls or texts. I’m tired just reading this.
Regret is among the meaner emotions I’ve been feeling. The current predator feeds on my wish to exercise and eat well, where I kick myself for not having walked farther on my trail walks, instead of just being thankful I can do these now. It is knowing I can’t always just go to summer-mode and play all day, because I tethered myself to my computer work (something I have since fixed a bit). It is realizing that I could have done more, said more, been more for my students before this imposed quarantine began; I may not see them in person again this year, and I feel like I wasn’t enough for them. Enter down spiral.
Regret is a waste of time. It is the past crippling you in the future. I need to be more patient with myself, not more frazzled.
A friend of mine just posted an article from the New York Times about taking a break from it all (termed ‘self-care’) when we are in such a crisis, and I realized I have been hard wired for the “treadmill life.” I admittedly enjoy the frenzied pace, feeling busy and needed; I grow sullen when I cannot find an excuse for even the smallest “adventure.” Sounds childish at a time like this, but it’s also forcing me to slow down, and flex some creative muscles that have atrophied as of late. I recognized that I usually don’t know how to get off the hamster wheel, at least not easily. The cycle repeats until I’m so worn down I get sick, and we cannot afford that, not now or in the coming weeks.
However, like the bespectacled, cape-and-super-suit concealing Clark Kent, I’ve got a job to do, even if it is difficult. I can’t hide from it, even if I’d rather just report on the news, not be a part of it. Time to pull up my big girl pants and do the things.
I recognize that discouragement is a “thief of joy.” It is the foe of faith, the enemy of love, and it has no business here.
I was reminded, just today, by someone I respect very highly, that I’ve been given a chance to work on myself, to try something I have no time for on a ‘normal’ basis, so that when this is all over, I have something positive to show for it.
For starters, it’s writing. I’ve told people for two decades now that my passion lies in the written word, but I seem to lack the follow through. I usually pride myself on finishing tasks with alacrity and focus, so why have I got so many fragments of stories in front of me, without the definitive period at the end of the sentence? Nothing is “Fin.”
“Now is the time to seize the day. Stare down the odds and seize the day. Minute by minute, that’s how you win it. We will find a way…let us seize the day.”—Newsies: The Musical—
Kindreds, this is my call to action to you, to myself, to anyone whose eyes skim the surface of what I’ve written: during times like these, it is permissible to have ‘do nothing, finish nothing’ days, but we have all been granted this precious gift of time, and it is also worthwhile to seek enrichment in those areas that stand alongside the road of your life, thumb stuck in the air. Waiting. Waiting to be let in on the journey.
I’ll say it again.
Fight against the foe of discouragement and grant yourself grace. Then, tie your shoes, step forward, and make change for the better, even if it’s tying up those loose ends that would otherwise be forever unlaced.
Here’s my focus from now on…
“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing about.” ~Benjamin Franklin~
If I can do it, so can you.
~Kindred Spirit~ 4.6.2020