Are you grappling with quarantine fatigue? You are not alone. So many of my friends and loved ones — especially those with small children who are attempting to balance a full-time job with 24-7 childcare for going on two months now — have been sending me messages of frustration and exhaustion and emotional fray over the past week or so. I think it must have to do with the dawn of summer and the realization that nothing is changing except for the season. The season on paper, that is, for in our lived experiences, it might as well be the dead of winter: splash pads, playgrounds, beaches closed. Vacations canceled. Celebrations deferred. Many of us are discovering that summer camps will not be a possibility, and most of us are beginning to fret about the probability of an in-school fall semester, which — just weeks ago — felt so far away that it wasn’t worth worrying about.
I have no answers, of course, except to say: “I’m right there with you. This is really hard.” We nearly always book-end these heart-to-hearts with: “But my God, we are so lucky in the grand scheme…” And it is true and impossible to forget and essential to reiterate because there is so much agony and hurt right now in the world–including within my own inner circle, where I have grieved layoffs and deaths and illness and myriad other impossible situations at the hands of this virus right alongside my loved ones.
But it is also true that this is hard. Hard to worry for this long, hard to be without childcare for this long, hard to stay inside for this long, hard to not have some end date in sight for this long. And it’s OK to say that to yourself, even with graver situations next door: This is hard.
It’s an odd thing, too, as I felt I’d settled into a groove for awhile there. The confusion and chaos of the first few weeks had softened into routine. There were fewer battles over tuning into online class in the mornings and afternoons; a parade of art projects lining the window sill; butterflies in their cocoons in the mesh habitat I’d bought (see #46). We’d figured out how to stock the pantry and fruit bowl and larder and were eating — frankly — high on the hog.
But then I felt the winds change, too, this past weekend, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. All I know is that my to-do list told me it was time to plan meals and coordinate groceries for the week, but something else in me — some alien version of my normally hyper-organized self — slumped against that command. Bizarrely, I found myself shirking the responsibility.
“I just can’t do it,” I told Mr. Magpie in confused disbelief at my own behavior. “What is happening?”
“Jennie,” he said, pulling me into a hug. “We need a break.”
But the next day came, and the next day after that. Six more breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. Myriad tears, stern words of discipline, wails of mild injury–and also eskimo kisses, snuggles on the living room couch, excited feet pounding down the hallway, books read in the dim nursery before bedtime or in the bright light of mini’s bedroom in the morning. The lyrics of the Frozen 2 soundtrack by day; a “Jazz Warmers” playlist we discovered on Tidal that has been in heavy rotation in the evening.
And then the next day came, and the day after that.
The 5 o’clock glass of rose, scooping the umpteenth bowl of buttered noodles, walking Tilly at 7 P.M., washing that darned high chair tray for the ten trillionth time.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
For the past few weeks, my sister and I have been texting each other, in a kind of sisterly shorthand for checking up on the emotional wellbeing of one another: “Is today a plus or minus day?”
I laughed for a long time when she responded, just earlier this week, just after the winds had turned: “A plinus.”
Just so. We’re in heavy plinus territory, most days just there, with mornings breezing by with surprising quiet and afternoons punctuated with sniffles and meltdowns*, or vice versa.
I write this to just let you know that I’m sitting with you. We’re in this together, and we’ll get through it. But let yourself acknowledge that this is hard and give yourself a little more grace than you might otherwise.
And if you have any tips on coping with quarantine fatigue, please share in the comments!
*Not all of them at the hands of my toddler, I might add.
Post-Scripts: Gifts for a Girlfriend.
I have sent a couple of girlfriends out-of-the-blue gifts during this weird and exhausting time, just to let them know I’m sitting with them. A few fun things to surprise a loved one with:
AN AUDIBLE SUBSCRIPTION, FOR THAT MATTER
A BEGINNER CROSS-STITCH KIT (JUST ORDERED THIS FOR MYSELF)
REALLY FANCY BATH OIL (PRETTY ENOUGH TO DISPLAY)
A 1,000 PIECE PUZZLE (THIS IS A REALLY GOOD BRAND)
A FRIENDSHIP BRACELET OF SORTS (SO CUTE)
A NEW FAVORITE SNACK (CAYENNE!!)
*This wouldn’t necessarily be as fun of a gift, but if you aren’t using CND solar oil on your cuticles, I implore you to try it! I started to put it on every morning and night after my manicure/pedicure had gotten to such a state of disrepair I had to remove the polish about ten days into quarantine. I was appalled at the state of my cuticles! This has completely turned things around.
If you’re looking for more ideas (or a birthday present!), also consider these mother’s day gift ideas.
P.S. A random gift to myself: a subscription to Billie. I had to see what all the hype was about…and I kind of like that it’s one less thing to keep tabs on (how many blades are left in the linen closet??). But what really sold me was these serum-infused face wipes! How genius?! Truly one-step skincare for my laziest nights. If I like them, I might — strangely — send them to my sister. A good plinus gift.
P.P.P.S. In another life, I only wear La Double J.