Rona Fatigue and Wordlessness

I seldom find myself at a loss for words. Truly. I’m nearly always ready with a sassy, salty comeback or quip. I can remember only one time when words failed me, at the Buena Vista in San Francisco, on a dreadfully rainy day, after quite a few of the Irish Coffees for which they are famous, when the bartender blatantly propositioned me. (Once I found my words, I declined.)

Throughout the duration of this virus, which K and I call The Rona, and its in-and-out quarantines, I’ve been inside, with the exception of walks when the weather was nice, seeing M on weekends, going to the grocery store, four dining out experiences, catering at three or four weddings, a little thrift store shopping, and appearing at my second job once a month. We did travel three times over the last 12 months, twice by plane and once by car. Looking at that list, maybe it’s more than some folks and less than others. It sounds like more than I thought. But it doesn’t feel like a lot for 12 months. It doesn’t feel like “normal”. I don’t feel like “normal”.

I was not the most social person to start with, but being told I can’t do a thing is the surest way to make me want to do that thing, and make me grump about not being able to do that thing. I may have mentioned my mulishness before, as putting my ears back is a well-known trait of mine. At this point, as we’re entering Year Two in Life with a Virus, I am over it. I’ll repeat for those of you in the back. I. AM. OVER. IT. Because I’m caring and responsible, I still wear a mask everywhere I go. I’m not seeing friends because I don’t want anyone to get sick because of me. I didn’t think I went that many places, but apparently I’m missing the places I didn’t go. Because that’s a thing. M wonders if we’ll ever get back to normal, and I tell him that, as with any loss, we will find a new “normal” but I doubt we will be quite the same as before for a long time.

My Rona fatigue is showing up as more anxiety, more tension, more frustration, and less motivation to do things that I was doing, like eating well and exercising and learning a new language, all the things that I did so well at the beginning of quarantine. I also feel like, as I said at the start of this piece, I’m at somewhat of a loss for words. Uninspired. Though not free of thought. Just a lot of rambling thoughts that aren’t organized or interesting enough to share. This could also be some of the “brain fog” that is a long-term side effect of having had the Rona, which M and I both had last March. At least I had enough words handy to write this.

I’m currently reading John Berry’s “The Great Influenza”, which provides perspective on the political and social situations of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which actually originated in Kansas. It has been an eye opener. I had no idea about the severity of that pandemic — much more severe than ours — nor did I know anything about virology or Woodrow Wilson. It’s been quite an education and I recommend it. The parallels between the public messaging about the Spanish flu and the messaging about the Rona are remarkable. But one point the author makes is that it took a long time from the first victim fell ill to the time when the country settled into its new normal. I think that’s how it’s going to be for all of us now, 100 years later.

A different kind of mask for this crazy world.

A Writer’s Long Block

Every writer has experienced writer’s block. I’ve been walking down the same block for ten years. It’s a hell of a long block. I started my first novel as part of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writer’s Month) during a time in my life when I only had one part-time job, and was anticipating some dramatic and positive change. I loved working on it. I picked a different coffee shop to write in every day, hit my word count before the end of the month, and was immersed in my own head. I even read what I’d written, lying in bed in a hot, dim room on an island in the Caribbean, and was so captivated that I found myself wondering, ‘Who wrote this?’, forgetting that it was me.

At that point, my characters got stuck. They got stuck on a beach, and I couldn’t figure out what happened next. In reality, I, too, got stuck, blindsided, heartbroken, and set adrift. All my plans for positive changes evaporated in an instant, ironically on that same island where my characters were stuck. I’m no longer stuck there. But my characters still are.

I haven’t touched that novel in ten years. Technically, I have, I suppose, because I picked up the purple plastic folio containing those pages recently, and then filed it in an old oak file cabinet. I’ve started other novels – two, in fact – but the inspiration for one took his own life last year. I’m not sure if I want to keep working on it. I can’t tell if it’s disrespectful or something that he would have appreciated. The other pokes into family ties, and that family would definitely not appreciate it. So, I feel as if I’m blocking myself somehow at every turn. I’m reminded of my college lab rat, Dominic, with whom I tried the classic maze experiments, hoping he was incentivized enough to navigate the maze to find the cheese reward at its end. (Dominic fell victim to some kind of rat flu that swept the lab, killing half the lab rats overnight, God rest his little white furry soul).

Have I no cheese? Nothing but the hope of something self-published to motivate me through the maze of my own writer’s block? Is that enough? I’m envious of my friends who have published essays and poetry in online magazines. They take the time to write and have the courage to face rejection – two of my own failings. Envy is one of my greatest faults.

Definitely some things to ponder as I continue to walk down my writer’s block.