With the plethora of information available online and on tv about the Coronavirus, there’s an unexpected symptom that I’m experiencing today, and I’m wondering if others are also feeling this. But before I share this symptom, let me talk about what might be some of the causes.
Six Months of Stimulation
Since August of 2019—when my fifth book Friends of the Library launched—I’ve been going nonstop with fun and stimulating activities. I’ve spoken at over 25 libraries and a dozen or so bookstores, literary festivals, books clubs, and writing conferences in seven states. (All of this and more is summarized in my post “A Decade in Review” from January 2, 2020.) In the midst of all that fun in my work life, my husband and I had a wonderful time in New Orleans in September, where he spoke at a medical meeting and we hung out with our son and met our future daughter-in-law. Then we had a wonderful visit from our daughter and her family from Denver, and a relaxing Thanksgiving to ourselves at Seagrove Beach, Florida, my favorite place on earth. Then we enjoyed Christmas with our other son and his family who just moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, and also a holiday visit to our daughter and her family in Denver.
In the past few weeks I’ve initiated two new writing groups—one at our church and another at a senior living facility—and I’ve begun communication with two presses who are currently reading my essay collection for publication. An artist friend and I have made a slow start on a possible collaboration—a book with her drawings and my prose.
And then this started happening . . .
Unfortunately, a few final events in my 2020 book tour were just canceled—including my workshop and panel at the Jambalaya Writers Conference in Houma, Louisiana and my keynote at the Friends of the Libraries of South Carolina’s annual conference in Beaufort, South Carolina—and I’ve had to postpone the two new writing groups’ upcoming meetings. My husband and I are considering having to cancel travel to a nephew’s wedding in April (if it isn’t postponed) and I’m staying away from one of the most important sources of spiritual and personal encouragement in my life, the services at St. John Orthodox Church. (Here’s a letter from Metropolitan Joseph to all the churches in our archdiocese about our response to the Coronavirus.)
The Big Picture
Of course these events that I’m so sad to be missing are insignificant compared to what’s happening on a much larger scale all over the world. The impact of all the events that have been canceled, places of business and schools closed, airlines cutting back, and even more significantly the thousands who are sick and those who have died, is much bigger than what’s happening in my small world. My husband and I have everything we need to “shelter in place” at home for many weeks if necessary. I work from home and really have little need to leave the house at all. Of course I worry about my husband because he works in a hospital, but I’m thankful that our two younger kids and their spouses can all work from home (they are in IT) while their children are home from school for a few weeks. Our oldest son and his fiancé live in New Orleans where Covid19 is spreading quickly, and we are concerned for them. Jonathan flies helicopters for a med-evac company, and Kari Beth is a barber, so they are both in close physical contact with people in their work, which of course can’t be done from home.
What I Could/Should Be Doing
Here’s the irony of my situation: I now have plenty of “free” time to do things that I haven’t had time to do in the past six months:
Work on my new book.
Clean out my extremely cluttered office.
Clean out my extremely cluttered closet.
Clean out my extremely cluttered bathroom cabinets.
Paint—make use of the wonderful watercolor kits my daughter and her family gave me for Christmas.
What I’m Doing
Ironically I find myself almost paralyzed when it comes to approaching these activities. What am I doing instead?
Watching way too much television. (Although my husband and I found ourselves a bit out of sorts that there were no sports to watch on TV this past weekend!) Of course like many people I’m glued to the fast-changing news about the coronavirus, but I’m also watching movies on Netflix and Amazon Prime . . . anything to escape the reality of what’s happening, and to keep me from doing the productive activities I now have an abundance of time to do. Why?
Now we get to the “unexptected symptom” I mentioned at the beginning of this post. I’m sure many people are experiencing fear and anxiety about their health, their business, their financial security, and about the future of their lives and our country in general. But I’m not experiencing fear or anxiety, for the most part. I’m still having an active prayer life, and I find I’m able to trust God about these big issues in my life. Instead, what I’m experiencing is depression.
Depression is so insidious because so often it doesn’t “make sense.” Over the almost fifty years of our marriage, my sweet husband has learned never to ask “why” when I tell him I’m depressed. Often it’s related to recent weight gain or health issues (especially pain) but sometimes it hits me after I’ve just enjoyed a lot of fun book events and exciting travel, like I’ve experience over the past six months. It’s like a let-down after a “high” . . . which often makes me feel that I’ve got a mild form of bi-polar disorder.
I’ve blogged about depression many times, but here are a few posts if you’re interested:
“Holiday Sadness” (December 11, 2019)
“This Close to Happy” (March 13, 2017)
“Nothing is Really Wrong” (December 21, 2015)
“The Hours (Revisited)” (June 29, 2015)
“He’s Back” (January 14, 2013)
“The Hell of Boredom” (August 15, 2012)
“The Demon’s Playthings: Struggling Against Anomie” (October 24, 2011) – This post has links to several previous posts.
I’m always chasing the next activity that will keep the boredom and depression at bay. And sure, I can get that feeling after finishing a project like cleaning out a closet, but since that’s not a “fun” activity, I often have trouble making a start on it, like I am right now.
I Love Deadlines
Give me an “assignment” with a deadline and I’m a happy camper. Right now I’m reading a PDF of a friend’s first book, which will launch in a few weeks, and writing a review to help with the launch of her book. This is easy to do because she asked me, and because it has a deadline. So yes, I am enjoying spending some time each day on her book, but I’ll be finished with it in a few days.
Just sitting down to write this blog post has helped start to pull me out of my current funk, and I’m beginning to feel hopeful that I can work on the new book project soon . . . and maybe even clean out one of my cluttered areas.
And I’m almost ready to try my hand at a watercolor project, which is supposed to be relaxing and just for fun. I’m so product-oriented, but I’m hoping that I’ll be able to enjoy the process of painting and not be concerned about the outcome. The watercolor sketches and paintbrushes and instructions are laid out on our breakfast table, just waiting for me to dive in. Hopefully I’ll do this one or more days this week. For now, I’m ready to get back to reading my friend’s manuscript for review. One step at a time.
Of course it’s a big deal that I sat own and wrote this blog post . . . my first one in over a week, so that’s a good thing.
What Are You Doing?
I’m curious what my readers are doing during these difficult times. If you’re in our age group (I’m 69 and my husband is 71) are you able to stay home? If you’re younger and still working, are you able to work from home? How are you doing if you have kids home from school? Are you staying away from church? From restaurants? From stores? (We have our groceries delivered.) Are you finding “free time” at home a blessing, and if so, how are you using this time? I’d love to hear from you.