A dear friend of mine, very fit, tells me she feels uncharacteristically tired after a recent hike. She lives in northern California. Same thing for another friend, who misses her gym workouts and is doing the best she can with brisk walks. She lives in Miami. Her new Bluetooth spin bike is due any day.
My own daily walks, 40-45 minutes at a decent pace, have me sometimes feeling the need to lie down when I’m home.
I’m giving this shared experience a name, ‘Corona Fatigue Syndrome.’
It’s no secret that grief exhausts us, worrying drains us. But aren’t we programmed to plod on? Isn’t our survival enhanced by commonality? Divided we stand these days, no idea where united will take us.
How much can the body and spirit endure?
Trying to process what one writer calls the Covid-19 ‘infowhelm‘ is indeed dizzying. Then there’s the rest of the news. I still can’t wrap my head around a headline, May 12th, re: Afghan militants storming a maternity ward at a hospital in Kabul.
* * *
In normal times, anxiety can make it hard to concentrate. The heightened anxiety these days has many people unable to focus on the simple pleasure of reading.
By all indications on social media, writers are having a hard time, too. We thrive in solitude to do our work, we need community to share it. But what happens when both solitude and community are on shaky ground? I don’t know that I’ll ever be comfortable with uncertainty, though I’m grateful for Pema Chodron’s words to remind me it’s possible.
At my most restless, I know that writing grounds me. More often than not, I need that walk before I can sit down and get to work.
* * *
I don’t typically take my phone with me when I go for a walk. There are always moments I wish had it, for a photo of something so striking.
Turtles sunbathing on logs at the edge of the lake I make my way around always stop me in my tracks, the early signs of spring. Seeing those logs in a bed of algae was particularly striking. With any luck, I figured, they’d be there the next day when I brought my camera.
Later in my walk would come a moment not photographed but imprinted in my memory the way the best of images are. Mother, father, two young children, somewhere between three and four. Both are wearing pint-sized backpacks. The girl has a pink beanie on her head. This is not for warmth. I’m reminded of my own daughter, and her very own sense of style from very early on.
“If I could bottle this moment, I would.” I remark as I pass the family.
A little further on in my walk, I pass a young woman and her golden retriever. In another lifetime I would ask to say hello to the dog. Today all I says is, “What I would give to be a dog right now.” The woman smiles in agreement.
Almost home, I stop at a house vacant for almost a year. A young couple has moved in. From a safe distance, I call out a welcome.
* * *
I’m beginning to hate the word ‘okay.’ It’s what I say whenever I’m asked how I am by random people who recognize me from years of walking.
In truth I’m better than okay, at least when I take stock of my personal world. I’m not so okay when the monster in the White House invades my consciousness and I look at unemployment numbers and wonder what may or may never come back. Can I go to sleep like Rip Van Winkle and wake up in November with a Democrat taking on the daunting task of fixing things?
* * *
Our sense of time is positively warped. We joke about what day it is, what time of day, although there’s consensus that early March, in retrospect, was the before and after moment.
My husband and I flew to Ft. Myers for the wedding of a longtime friend’s son. Weddings often bring up complicated emotions, in this case, the groom’s missing mother, lost to us from breast cancer thirteen years ago.
It was a glorious weekend, now forever imprinted in our memories as the last time we boarded a plane with some semblance of feeling okay about traveling. My daughter, ahead of the COVID-19 curve by virtue of living in Los Angeles, read me the riot act before I left: she cut me some slack on wearing a mask but insisted I bring antiseptic wipes for the plane.
How long ago it now seems. But not long enough for an extra measure of pleasure in an email alerting me to the news of a baby on the way for the barely newlyweds, due date November 4th, the birth date of the missing mother.
Mother’s Day, thirteen years ago, was the weekend she passed.
Mother’s Day weekend 2020 my daughter sends a text — Has it really been 21 years? — with a family photo, her Bat Mitzvah.
Mother’s Day weekend 2018 we celebrated her wedding.
“Is this the weirdest Mother’s Day ever?” she writes in this year’s card. Our sense of time may be warped by this pandemic, but I ike to think that markers coinciding with yearly rituals like Mother’s Day get pride of place in our memory banks. When we FaceTime on Mother’s Day, we reminisce about another momentous Mother’s Day, our 2014 road trip to Death Valley.
Yes, the weirdest Mother’s Day ever, and the proof of it in her loving, albeit glib, four-word sign-off: Until we meet again.
–May 18, 2020