Warning: Brief mention of political issues. It’s just quickly touching on them, but some of you may be too burned out even for that.
I hit a wall this past week.
A healthy dose of ennui
Every five or six weeks, I have a glum day where I feel lonely and a little overwhelmed at how much longer this pandemic is going to last — not to mention that experts are predicting another spike in case numbers soon. Basically, I’ll just generally feel brittle. But then the next day the feelings will have receded, and I’m back to feeling able to weather this for the long term.
But this day felt different. I felt not just glum, but also burned out. I couldn’t even handle the prospect of another news story about horrible political stuff or COVID-related news.
I just needed a break from… everything, really, except talking to my friends about whatever is going on in their lives.
I don’t know how much was Weltschmerz and how much was just my chronic fatigue flaring up. Or for that matter, how much was affected by isolation and the disappointment/frustration of five weeks talking to a guy, only to have it ultimately fall through without even meeting. Gah.
But whatever the driving forces were propelling me forward, they steered me straight into an emotional wall. I was the emotional equivalent of one of those Wile E. Coyote moments where he tries follow the roadrunner through brick.
And then I realized that part of the problem — for me, at least — is that so many people (Americans especially) are living in a paradox.
Terrifying and terrifyingly dull
On the one hand, every day there’s more news that confirms the country is on political fire/in danger of its foundations crumbling — whether you want to talk about various COVID safety protocols not being enforced, campaign laws being broken, calls to jail political rivals, both political parties failing for months to compromise on another relief package, the political deep divide in this country, both sides talking about potentially illegitimate election results, or the myriad other issues.
And that’s not even accounting for that pesky little matter of a potentially deadly, highly transmissible virus (which itself has inexplicably been politicized).
On the other hand, our day-to-day lives have become painfully rote.
There are no social events or even much time with friends. (And the time people do get with friends has to be almost exhaustingly careful.) Heck, a lot of Americans no longer even leave the house for work but instead are just home all day, every day. Well, except for errands; but most of us try to keep those to a minimum.
Thus days just blend together so that this pandemic starts to seem like an ceaseless march with no end point in sight.
And let’s not forget that for some Americans there’s a mutant third hand, wherein their days are rote and unchanging and blur together and yet are somehow also frenzied while they try to balance work and virtual schooling.
So we’re simultaneously terrified about our country’s future, terrified for our health, exhausted from work/home stress and bored out of our minds. Is it no wonder we’re reaching (or have long since reached) the end of our collective rope?
Less socializing ahead
I also have to remind myself that most of the country’s weather is not like Arizona’s, so a lot of folks are facing a new dilemma.
Here, many of us are eagerly anticipating the late October temperature drop, which will finally allow us to sit outdoors without converting to a liquid state. So we can finally do properly socially distanced time with friends and family.
But in most states, the weather has cooled and, in some places, snow has already fallen. Thus it’ll be too cold (without an outdoor heater or perhaps a fire pit) to see friends/family. And many people aren’t comfortable meeting in restaurants and other indoor venues. Which means that in the next few months a lot of Americans will feel more isolated than ever.
So once again, it’s no wonder that many people either have long since hit their own walls or are staring down one that’s fast approaching.
Nothing left to give
My therapist sent me an interesting article about how our surge capacities have been maxed out. Surge capacity is the sum of our abilities that we draw on (mentally and physically) to get through crises. But the problem is that those capacities are made for short-term crises. Obviously, this pandemic isn’t short-lived, so most people’s limits have been reached.
I recommend reading the article, as it does have some tips for coping/refilling our capacities. And because gave me the apt phrase “ambiguous loss.” That is, where you feel loss that has no obvious end date.
Of course, the friends and family of 215,000 Americans dead from COVID have experienced a far more definitive loss. And my heart goes out to them. Obviously, that’s far worse than the ambiguous loss the rest of us feel.
That said, as I mentioned relatively early into this pandemic, the rest of us have experienced a loss that is worth acknowledging.
It’s not just the loss of our social lives — though isolation and, for a lot of single people, the lack of human touch, has an undeniably deep psychological impact — but also our sense of safety.
Before this, most healthy/relatively healthy people functioned on the assumption that they were unlikely to get severe chronic conditions or even just seriously, hospitalization-requiringly ill. And the statistics were in their favor.
But now the odds have shifted, and any foray into the world (at least for those of us taking COVID seriously), is fraught with danger. That’s an exhausting way to live.
And that’s not even touching on the people who have lost their jobs and now have to contend with financial stress on top of everything else.
But even all that doesn’t really address the surreality of this time period. How we are at a Schroedinger-level superstate of excruciating monotony and terrifying turbulence — not to mention that we have to both assume a vaccine isn’t coming any time soon but also, lest we lose all hope, tell ourselves it won’t be too much longer.
Oh, also personal finance
While I could leave this as a general rant, obviously this kind of chaos — political, financial and emotional — is bound to affect finances.
So I feel the need to swing this whole thing back to the (ostensible) point of this blog: money. But I also don’t want to cram 2,200 words down your gullet all at once, so tune in Monday for how this all affects finances (and how to handle that).