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are we ok?

the other day i texted a friend a gif that said ‘everything is garbage.’ intellectually i know that everything is not, in fact, garbage, but a whole lot of things suck right now. normal is in short supply for a lot of us. i see the people who are operating (mostly) as if it’s business as usual–traveling, gathering, eating out in restaurants. i envy them, and i’m also angry with them. mostly i think they’re a big part of why we’re 10 months into this pandemic and the numbers are only growing. my household is still maintaining strict social distancing guidelines. there are a lot of people and activities i’m missing like crazy right now, but the health of my loved ones isn’t worth risking. but i wonder, if not for my immunocompromised and otherwise higher risk loved ones, would i be as careful?

i don’t know. but i know that pandemic fatigue is real. and in the times that i feel like wallowing in pandemic-related woe, i’ve come up with a few things that have helped me.

1. i go to my gratitude journal. i’m intentional about focusing on all of the positives, and it’s helpful for me to have a designated (digital) space to keep track of it all. that way, when i’m feeling less than gracious, i can also look back and see all of the bright spots i’ve witnessed in this time. i also give myself time–limited time–to mourn all of the normal i’m so desperately missing.

2. i give myself time — limited time — to mourn all of the normal i’m so desperately missing. sometimes ‘busying‘ the pain away is helpful, and i suspect there are a lot of people cope exactly that way. i’ve found, personally, if i keep trying to ignore how i’m feeling by just adding to my schedule, i crash and burnout comes much more quickly. so when i’m feeling the crushing weight of sadness, i have to stop sometimes and just be with it. also, tears can be so, so good.

3. i practice a little self-care. now, i know that self-care is the topic du jour, and, as happens, it’s been commercialized and commodified. but i think of self-care as simply as small-yet-impactful things done in the service of self. for me, sometimes it’s a bubble bath or painting my nails. sometimes it’s a daytime nap or ice cream for lunch. sometimes it means a couple of hours of *insert streaming service* programming before reading that next chapter for class. and sometimes it means doing a puzzle with my boys now, and doing math later.

4. i focus on now. this one is the hardest for me. i’ve been flirting with meditation and contemplative prayer for a couple of years now, and, much like yoga, i fully understand why it’s referred to as a practice. being still, being completely grounded in this present moment is hard, yo. training your mind to not constantly return to the past or fantasize about the future is hard work. but it’s the work i’m doing because i think it’s important. i truly believe that so much suffering is a result of our stubborn refusal to admit that we don’t actually have control over much in this life. and our constant attempts to control what we can’t so often means we fail to control what we can. this pandemic has been opening my eyes to the fact that, all i really have is this exact moment. so what am i going to do in it?

the good news is, this is going to end. slowly, but surely, we will begin to return to our so-called normal. vaccine access is like the light at the end of the tunnel. i can’t wait to go out to eat again, and to concerts, and to get on a plane, and to just be in the physical presence of people i don’t share an address with. and while i will absolutely delight in all of that, i hope that i carry a little of what i’ve learned with me. because if i can do that, i know that no matter what happens next, i’ll be ok.