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The Joy Menu #8: Fatigue
Your intrepid author wonders how to get back on track when motivation droops, momentum sags, and all the usual joy points feel "blah" and uninspiring.
Last Spring, with the pandemic breathing down our necks and the lockdown orders rolling across the US, I made a radical choice: not only was I going to embrace the lockdown, but I would make the forced insularity my best friend and greatest inspiration.
Not only would I love it, but I would make it the time when I finally did all those things I'd been putting off, struggling to get off the ground, or found myself never fully engaging with.
Somehow, I reorganized my at-home life to be the busiest and most productive of my lives:
I walked 3-6 miles a day (in a circle)
I mediated and journaled every morning
I wrote an entire novel (see last week's post)
I lost 20lbs (and put on 5lbs of muscle)
I did yoga every night before bed
I read 20 books (and not just novels!)
I held down a full-time job (and avoided layoffs!)
I spent 6 weeks visiting my mother (and lived! *jk , luv u ma)
I raised a 15 year-old (*some of this happened before)
I started a newsletter (and convinced you to subscribe!)
I even prostrated myself semi-constantly on social media
It was good. No: it was great. I was proud of me. And for a minute there, I looked around my cluttered second-story bedroom and thought: “Joey, could it be that you’ve figured it all out?”
And then, at some point, minutes later...all of it started to feel...well, a bit empty. A bit like a chore.
Rather than finding energy in the momentum I’d built, as I had all spring and through much of the summer, I began to feel like I was swimming against the tide: not making gains, but desperately struggling to hold onto the gains; not growing, but rubbing my fingers raw grasping onto what I’d worked so hard to hold.
And then suddenly it was November 1.
The world is not any more safe than it was in April (though it may seem to be); 2020 is still 2020-ing (and it’s 2020-ing so hard); the options for how to exist outside of our bedrooms are only slightly more expansive (for my comfort level, at least); and yet my hobbies, interests, and passions are the same—they are all of the things I’ve run out of energy to do, all of the things listed above.
Which is all to say: I don’t have an answer for this. I don’t know how to recover from pandemic fatigue (presumably no one does; any 1918 time-travelers want to weigh in?), and I especially don’t know how to recover my creative mojo during what looks like it will be a long and increasingly interior-looking stretch in our collective lives—for many months yet to come, minimum.
So here’s what I’m going to try. If you have some tricks up your sleeve—strategies that have worked, or not worked, or you hope might work—let me know. I’m all ears.
To combat pandemic fatigue, I’m going to:
Let myself be bad at this. It’s bad enough to feel bad, without chastising yourself for feeling bad about feeling bad—on top of already feeling bad.
Force myself to account for and recognize my wins. Despite my natural instinct to pout, my discomfort with gratitude, and my distrust of positivity and platitudes. (I finished a novel draft for fuck’s sake!)
Rest. Even when resting feels like a slide backwards in the “progress” I feel I’ve made. Even when resting feels empty. Even when resting feels bad [see #1].
Eat (well), Move (more), Sleep (soundly). Sometimes a minute of touching your toes is enough; often a burger is what you need; and is the 8am alarm really necessary? (No.)
Don’t be OK with change: love the change. It’s easy to cling to routine if that routine was working, even long after the mojo is gone. Explore change, seek change, allow change—even if it’s subtle; even if it feels bad [see #1].
That’s what I’ve got this week, friends. What’ve you got? Lemme know.
Onward to creative joy,