We’re nearly a year into the pandemic, and what a year it has been. We’ve gone through the struggles of shutdowns, the trauma of mass death, the seemingly fleeting “We’re all in this together” phase, the mind-boggling denial and deluge of misinformation, the constantly frustrating uncertainty, and the ongoing question of when we’re going to get to resume some sense of normalcy.
It’s been a lot. It’s been emotionally and mentally exhausting. And at this point, many of us have hit a wall of pandemic fatigue that’s hard to describe. We’re just done with all of it, but we know we still have to keep going.
Poet Donna Ashworth has put this “done” feeling into words that are resonating with so many of us. While it seems like we should want to talk to people we love more than ever right now, we’ve sort of lost the will to socialize pandemically. We’re tired of Zoom calls. Getting together masked and socially distanced is doable—we’ve been doing it—but it sucks. In the wintry north (and recently south) the weather is too crappy to get together outside. So many of us have just gone quiet.
If that sounds like you, you’re not alone. As Ashworth wrote:
You’re not imagining it, nobody seems to want to talk right now.
Messages are brief and replies late.
Talk of catch ups on zoom are perpetually put on hold.
Group chats are no longer pinging all night long.
It’s not you.
We are spent.
We have nothing left to say.
We are tired of saying ‘I miss you’ and ‘I can’t wait for this to end’.
So we mostly say nothing, put our heads down and get through each day.
You’re not imagining it.
This is a state of being like no other we have ever known because we are all going through it together but so very far apart.
Hang in there my friend.
When the mood strikes, send out all those messages and don’t feel you have to apologise for being quiet.
This is hard.
No one is judging.
– Donna Ashworth
Those of us who find ourselves feeling this way certainly hope that no one is judging. We hope that our friends understand, either because they’re in the same boat or because we all get that we’re all handling this weird time differently.
It’s not that we don’t care or that we don’t miss people outside of our household desperately. It’s more that we miss people so much that we can’t stand this half-baked way of being with people anymore. Personally, I’d rather just wait it out until we get enough people vaccinated over the next few months. I’m holding out for the hugs, man. Going into hermit mode in this final stretch feels more doable than straining to make socializing work with all the limitations and the exhaustion on top of it.
There are exceptions, of course. People who live alone probably need whatever socializing they can get. And checking in with people, especially loved ones you know struggle with mental health issues, is important. Some of this pandemic wall can be veiled depression, so we need to look out for one another and touch base sometimes. It’s also good for us to make connections even when we don’t necessarily feel like it. Sometimes the desire might be lacking, but we’re happy to have connected once we’ve done it.
And of course, there are people who have just pretended that the pandemic isn’t happening this whole time. Maybe those people aren’t feeling this, even while they’re making life harder for the rest of us who are trying to follow the guildelines.
It’s all just hard. There’s no right or wrong way to make it through a pandemic, as long as we’re not actively harming ourselves or other people. Everyone has different needs, and those change as we go through different phases of this thing. It’s just nice to see a common feeling in this phase put into words so eloquently.
The arts are always a gift, but they can be especially powerful during tough times. Thank you, Ms. Ashworth, for using your words to give voice to what so many of us are experiencing.