A COVID-19 Lament
I’ve felt this feeling before…
I’m sleeping more than normal but I awaken exhausted, movies and tv shows aren’t filling me with humor, joy, or inspiration, and I’ve lost the compulsion to write for the first time in a long time. The first time I felt like this it was a mystery, a puzzle that took me some time to unpack. This time, however, I know exactly what’s going on: this is full-on depression.
There’s no real reason I should feel this way – I’m able to work from home without any disruption to my ability to produce content, my life is better than ever all things considered, and you’d think that a little more social distancing would bring relief to my little Ambivert heart, but I can’t argue with the facts, and the fact is my weird little heart is wrestling with issues larger than it can manage and something important, something inscrutable in my head has completely shut down.
We were talking a month or so ago about how we think – I realize I’m going through the motions on autopilot but my thinking mode, my inner dialogue is eerily quiet. I’ve shut down somewhere inside pretty hard. It’s not all one thing – preparing to close church indefinitely hit me pretty hard and working from home on a Monday hit me much harder than expected (probably because that stands in for loss of normalcy). But going to the grocery store last night and seeing all the empty shelves and anxious expressions was the last straw. I got home and it all kind of hit me at once.
I’m a pretty simple guy and I have a strong faith. I’ve been talking to God more than usual. I know, intellectually, this season will pass. But for now, my creativity is MIA and I feel emotionally brittle, somewhere between utterly hollow and really close to snapping. Of course, that doesn’t make any sense, but that’s how depression hits me – it defies logic, it does what it does, and I pretty much just have to ride it out.
In other news, the snow has melted and the backyard is open for business again. I grilled hamburgers yesterday and played fetch with Cooper while sitting in an Adirondack chair and reading my Kindle. I’m rereading THE WIDOWMAKER in memory of Mike Resnick, a story about the clone of the universe’s most deadly killer who’s coming to grips with his identity and whether he wants to walk the road that’s been charted for him or strike out on a new path. He’s wrestling with his agency. Simply having abilities isn’t enough – it’s what you do with them.
Which reminds me – last night while trying to distract myself with a show, after deciding SHUT EYE was a non-starter and BREAKING BAD wasn’t going to satisfy me the way JUSTIFIED did (which probably isn’t fair to either one of them but there it is), I took a flier on FARGO. It was unrelentingly bleak and I felt like Martin Freeman’s Lester character – dim, dull, defeated, a loser without hope. I was yearning for him to develop a little agency but when he did, he turned super violent, which isn’t at all what I wanted for him, and he made matters 1000 times worse. But then, when the noose was closing in on him, he did something unexpected, something which put him in the hospital, but it was a decision which changed his life and gave him a chance. He took the bull by the horns and DID something. His burst of agency was so unexpected in that situation that it gave me a brief, necessary burst of catharsis. It was glorious, if for just a moment.
I suspect that breaking free of this unexpected bout of depression will feature three things – more time with God, more time with family and friends and my dog Cooper (some of that virtual, some in the backyard with a ball), and a return to Story. I’m not out of this funk yet, but I will be. In the meantime, I pray for you all, my friends. If you think of it, maybe pray or remember me in your thoughts today as well. I have every faith we’ll get through this together, but if I’m completely honest, I’m not feeling it right at this moment, and I think that’s probably ok. Tomorrow is a new day and you never know when you’ll exercise your personal agency. Maybe writing all this out is a bit of me flexing mine.