Five months. That’s officially how far I am into my own pandemic lockdown, and my bed of roses has grown some thorns. I suppose that’s why I enjoyed Episode 2 of The Michelle Obama Podcast. On the podcast, Michelle shares that she’s suffering from low-grade depression. Because she is an icon, her confession made headlines, and she effectively named and normalized what many of us have been suffering. 2020 has been laughably hard, offering plenty of material to late-night comics and prompting a tidal wave of cartoons and memes about ‘what’s next.’ But it’s no joke.
Like Michelle—and many other people across the nation—I’m finding it difficult to swim through the sea of emotions I feel as I wake up each day. I brace myself as I face the volatile combination of today’s political environment (which was a challenge long before COVID-19), the continued protests for racial justice (which are so important that they’ve managed to transcend a global lockdown), and the impact of the pandemic (including sickness and death, as well as massive unemployment and a stalled economy). Like many other single people, I’m forced to navigate it in socially distanced solitude.
I realize, of course, that I’m one of the lucky ones. I live in a home I love. I have great work that connects me with clients I respect and appreciate every day. Even my empty dance card has been a small blessing. On the flip side, I miss my friends and family. I miss chatting with the servers at my favorite restaurant. I miss my evenings at the theatre. I miss being able to go shopping on a whim. I miss my ‘old’ life. Most of all, I miss human contact. I really, really need a hug! As Michelle states so simply, “This change can be a lot. And it can feel heavy.”
When I blogged about the ‘11 Dimensions of Wealth’ back in early June, it seemed we were nearing the end of the nightmare called COVID (remember when we thought we’d flattened the curve and ‘reopening’ was imminent?). At the time, I pointed to the ‘11 Dimensions’ as a way to help set the stage for life post-COVID. When I look at those 11 dimensions today, it’s shocking how different the world looks compared to just 10 short weeks ago. My connection to the world around me is fractured. I have plenty of time to read, but I’m not feeling the usual spark of joy (sometimes I don’t even remember what I’ve read). My career is fulfilling because I’m still able to provide value to my clients, but it’s hard to focus on the long run. My income is steady, but there’s no feeling of what I’m earning it for. It’s harder than ever to make a difference in my community and the world at large when I’m stuck inside the same four walls every day. I love my family and enjoy our FaceTime and phone calls, but I hang up feeling disconnected. My stress level is… flat (hello to low-level depression). I’m not able to find ‘fun’ and ‘daily joy’ often enough. The two areas that I’d labeled as needing improvement back in June, Physical and Environmental, haven’t gotten any better. Sadly, for me, every one of the 11 areas has diminished.
So yes, I’m feeling the heaviness of it all, and I’m feeling a bit depressed.
To try to take control of the situation in some way, I made a commitment to myself to create my own light at the end of the tunnel. Since it now seems likely that we won’t see ‘normal’ any time soon (my bet is now on January 2021 before we see meaningful improvements against the pandemic), I’ve decided to break free from these same old walls for a long weekend away. Of course, that in itself is a major challenge. Where can I go—safely? Where can I stay—without risk? What type of getaway will enable me to relax, refresh, and refuel my spirit?
In my search for the answers, I turned to the ‘11 Dimensions’ once again. I’m missing nature and want to get my body moving, so a destination where I can walk under the trees and breathe clean air is a must. I’m missing human connection, so finding an equally quarantined companion would be great (sis, are you reading?), though it may not be possible. I’m feeling spiritually depleted, so going to a place that touches my soul and allows me to think deeply and feel fully is vital. And while I know others are doing it, I’m not convinced I’m ready to hop on a plane just yet. So my short list, so far, is extremely… short. I have friends that just returned from a wonderful trip to Shasta Lake (hello trees!), so booking a small B&B and enjoying nature would be lovely, though getting there would be a challenge. The Miranda Gardens Cottages, in the heart of the Avenue of the Giants, would be ideal, but it’s just as far from home. And then there’s Laguna Beach, which is right next door, and though there’s no forest, there are palm trees, and there’s something about hearing the waves crash just outside the window of a room at the Surf and Sand that soothes my soul every time. As I said, it’s a very short list, so if you have any suggestions, I’m all ears!
Michelle Obama’s podcast acknowledged the malaise many are experiencing. Even if your life is unchanged in big ways—if your health is good, your income is consistent, and your relationships are strong—the world has changed in ways that were inconceivable just five months ago. This level of disruption is heavy on the soul. For that reason, I urge you to take a few minutes to revisit the ‘11 Dimensions of Wealth.’ Ask yourself what areas of your life need attention today, and with self-compassion, take a tiny step and make a shift. My action is to seek out new scenery, if only for a few days. Yours may be something else entirely. “It’s not always comfortable,” says Michelle, “but what I’ve learned is that this kind of solitude can be revealing, and almost healing.”
In the weeks and months ahead, I hope you find the healing you need—wherever you find it. And if you need some words of encouragement along the way, I’m always here to help.