Making the most of the Great Pause.
Are negative news and pandemic fears giving your morale the old 1-2 punch? Let’s crush these quarantine blues and get back to the business of living. Good times lie ahead!
Another quiet New Year’s come and gone. It was hard to celebrate. This endless pandemic has wounded us and divided us. The initial we’re-all-in-this-together solidarity of 2020 has crumbled under the crushing weight of COVID year two. What started out as a terrifying sprint has revealed itself to be a marathon, maybe even an ultra-marathon.
How do we keep the good things going in the midst of this craziness?
I’ve been lucky, and I know it. My family and friends are safe and employed. While we’ve weathered furloughs and fevers, we made it through relatively unscathed. They say you can get used to anything, get through anything.
I guess that’s true. But I’m not interested in merely surviving. 2020 and 2021 are gone. We will never get them back. That’s why I’m determined to live big this year. This pandemic can lock us down and isolate us, but it can’t steal our joy unless we let it.
Things could be worse
I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news? It could be much, much worse.
This is not the Zombie Apocalypse, after all.
There are no flesh-eating dead people careening drunkenly outside your front door. No decaying monsters wait to gnaw on your arm or overrun your car as you race back to the stockade. (There’s always a stockade.)
Of course, zombies might be easier to deal with than this stupid, scary sickness.
If you had zombies to attend to, you’d know what to do. You’d whip out your crossbow and machete and get to work eliminating the problem. You’d look those ugly zombies in their unseeing eyes, screw up your courage, and fight.
Wouldn’t it feel good to have something to fight?
Things could be better
Which brings me to the bad news: this is not the Zombie Apocalypse.
There is not a zombie or an alien or a villain in sight. You can’t see the danger. This virus might be lurking on the breath of your next-door neighbor or come wafting into your cubicle at work. It might leave you unaffected or be the final chapter in your story. It is everywhere and nowhere and completely invisible.
You look out the window and everything looks the same today as it did before this disaster of a year started. The sun is shining. The earth is turning. There’s laundry piled high in the basket.
Nothing has changed, yet EVERYTHING has changed.
There’s very little we can do that will have any impact on this pandemic. In fact, the best thing we can do is nothing. Stay home. Stay safe.
It’s hard to feel heroic when you’re huddled on the living room couch watching TV and waiting for this to end. It’s even harder if you’re wondering when the power will get turned off or if you’ll be evicted.
There’s not a damn thing you can do. I wish I was a medical researcher or an ICU nurse or an ambulance driver — someone who could do something about this. But I’m not.
So here I sit, typing this post, wishing I was able to take the fight to the foe.
Losing the mental war
The COVID-19 virus is less than 0.1 microns in size. That’s 500 times smaller than the width of a human hair. But its impact is anything but small.
It is scary, scary, scary. You cycle between panic and apathy because it’s all too much. One minute you’re counting your lucky stars that you’re still alive and kicking, the next you’re obsessing about the latest catastrophe. Locusts, fires, hurricanes, riots, murder hornets – we’ve had them all.
Worse, it feels like people have changed. People I know and love (and thought would never surprise me) are pointing to the sky and telling me it’s falling. I still love them, but it feels like we are living on different planets.
I don’t know about you, but I have to fight to keep moving forward. I think about all the things I should do, all the things I should WANT to do. But I can’t muster the slightest interest in doing them.
I am waiting, hardly breathing, my life on pause as this stupid contagion rages on.
The truth is, I’m feeling a little zombie-like myself. I drift from bed to couch to make-shift desk only to complete my orbit back at the couch when evening comes. The days blur together.
More than once, I’ve gone from Monday to Friday without once opening my front door. I joke with my husband that I’m going to start getting in the car and driving around the block to mark the start and end of my days. I need something, anything, to bring some structure to my stay-at-home life.
Have you been feeling it too? The seductive sameness of this quarantine existence?
The Great Pause
The first time I heard the phrase, “the great pause” I was listening to a Lewis Howes podcast with Mel Robbins. I remember thinking, that’s it! It perfectly captures the frozen-in-amber feeling of this year.
It’s like someone pushed a giant pause button, locking our lives in this moment in time. Two years ago my colleagues and I walked out of the office, assuming we’d return in a week or two. Then schools closed, businesses locked their doors, weddings were canceled, and vacations evaporated. Life as we knew it ground to a screeching halt.
Who would have believed we’d still be here, holed up in our homes almost two years later. Yet here we are: stuck in a slow-motion struggle to live our lives in a full and meaningful way despite everything that’s happening.
In the beginning, I thought I could wait it out. Maybe you did too. It made sense to put your life, your dreams, on hold for what at first seemed like a temporary blip.
But we know better now. The months have dragged by. The seasons have come and gone and another bleak winter is here. That manageable blip? It has revealed itself to be a towering thunder cloud that stretches to the horizon and beyond.
If you, like me, have been letting the days slip by, it’s time to re-engage. We’ve got to get busy with the business of living. It’s time to crush these quarantine blues and get back to the business of living.
Blue skies ahead
Here’s what we have to remember. The sky is still a beautiful blue. The stars still light up the heavens at night. There is love, there is beauty, there is joy.
In times like these, it’s easy to forget that. Yet, it is true. It’s true today in the midst of a pandemic. It will still be true tomorrow, no matter what the future brings.
It turns out there IS something to fight. We fight our fears. We fight our despair. We fight to keep the spark alive that fuels our dreams.
To quote Samwise Gamgi in “Lord of the Rings”:
There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.J. R. R. Tolkien
Every day we have a choice to make. We can fight our inertia, our sadness, and our fear. We may lose precious friends and family to this wretched year, but we don’t have to lose the war. You have only one life, one precious life. It is worth fighting for.
Are you ready?
I know, I KNOW, that there is opportunity to be found in the quiet of this year. It waits for us all, a golden treasure that is just out of reach. All we need is enough courage to capture it and make it our own.
Fight the good fight
24 hours after we entered quarantine, I stopped wallowing in my fears, hoisted my butt off the couch, and got back to the business of living within the safe confines of our four walls. I walk in the road to avoid my neighbors, but I still feel the soft wind on my face.
It would be nice if I could say it’s been happy-ever-after ever since, but every day it’s a struggle. I fight the good fight to keep my chin up and my dreams inching forward one day at a time.
I know I’m not the only one. This year has been a struggle for most of us. So if you’ve been busy beating yourself up — you might as well give it a rest. You’re human and this is hard. No shame on you if you haven’t spent your quarantine writing the next great novel or developing six-pack abs.
Besides, the tide is turning. We’re learning more and more about our foe. Vaccines are available and we’ve learned a lot about what is required. New treatments are on the way. There are people alive today who never would have made it a year ago thanks to our hard-won experience.
We may be exhausted and SO OVER THIS, but I hope the end is in sight.
The cavalry is coming. Can you hear the horses thundering, the bugles blaring? Can you see their bright flags whipping in the wind? Back at the stockade, we finally know beyond a shadow of a doubt, help is on its way. Hurray!
Make a joyful noise
We will make it, you and I. I promise you. We’re almost there.
The streets will fill again with traffic. The shops and restaurants will open and we’ll once again be able to wander through their aisles without masks steaming our glasses up. We’ll rise a little earlier so we can commute to work on time.
Most importantly, we will hold each other again. We’ll take our elders for walks in the sunshine without a worry in the world. We’ll share wine with friends and laugh into the night. We’ll clasp hands and dance and sing a joyful song.
It’s coming. Can you feel it? It reminds me of a feeling I haven’t felt in a long, long time…
Be well, my friends.