I’m having a Pandemic Day today.
I started identifying Pandemic Days shortly after… wait for it… the pandemic started.
I know it sounds obvious, but as we adjusted to a totally new way of being in the world and on the internet, I found that there were some days that I would wake up feeling really heavy. On those days the tears fell easy and often, and while I tried to restart the day a few different times, the heaviness just stayed with me. Somewhere along the way I started to notice the pattern, and when I’d wake up feeling that way I tagged them as “Pandemic Days”.
Now that the months are ticking by those days are fewer and farther in between, but that only means they surprise me more when they come along. Just when I think I’m starting to get the swing of this: that masks aren’t all that bad, that things are starting to feel normal again, that we’re all going to be fine…it hits me. I find myself wanting to crawl back into bed as soon as I’m out of it. On Pandemic Days I want to be like this guy:
Please give me something to help escape these days.
I’ve come to realize that what’s really going on during Pandemic Days is that I’m grieving. Still. I’d like to pretend that we did all the grieving when this thing started and it should be over now, but as this drags on there are new things to grieve and the old grief hasn’t been resolved. Sure, we’re adjusting. But there’s no forgetting all the things we are missing.
I’m not sure what caused my pandemic day today, but I think it has something to do with my son starting kindergarten. He’s going in person, and he loves it. Seriously, no complaints. But during recess his class goes outside and they play on the basketball court. A fabulous playground stretches out in front of them, but they can’t play on it. It’s too hard to sanitize. So instead they are relegated to the basketball court, where my son tells me they play Red Light, Green Light. He is delighted to have a classmate who can run as fast as he can. And I am devastated that he can’t play freely because of a virus.
I could try to talk myself out of this grief. I could ask Sam 100 times if he’s really happy at school, though I can tell you from experience he stops answering after the third ask. I could tell myself about all the other things that could be happening to me that could be SO much worse. I can remember that I have my health, my family, my job.
But the thing is that you can’t lecture yourself out of grief. And as I’ve mentioned before, the experts tell us that comparative suffering doesn’t build empathy. So there is no point in dismissing your own grief because it’s ‘not as bad’ as someone else’s. Feeling our grief helps us identify with other people in their grief.
So instead of trying to shake it off, I try to name it as soon as I realize it (usually right about after my first cup of coffee fails to improve my mood.) My family and friends know the deal, and we’ve all been able to name it when we find ourselves in a Pandemic Day. Having a shared language for these days helps us to go easy on one another, and reminds me to go easy on myself.
I hope your Pandemic Days are few and far between. And I hope that when you have them, you can allow them, hard as they may be. We are all going through a hard thing right now, and I don’t think we have to muscle through and be tough. I think we can feel the sadness and try to trust that tomorrow we’ll wake up to a new day: full of empathy and understanding for others.
And in the meantime: Ostrich Pillow.