COVID Day 60: The Languishing Lack of Something To Look Forward To

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A subtle mood shift has settled over myself and my family that I initially wrote off as cabin fever; that real condition emerging from being cooped up in confinement too long. Back in South Dakota when I was growing up, we’d deal with cabin fever toward the end of a normal but brutally long winter. I decided though that it’d be hard to pin the mood shift on that since the weather’s been fantastic and we’re getting outside a lot.

Perhaps the root cause of our mood shift was tied to boredom. Since this crisis began, I’ve fixed the mower deck on my tractor, mostly finished my COVID kitchen project, and have posted so many blogs I’m running out of ideas. Maybe we’re all just ready for something different. Even for my kids, there’s only so much X-box and internet cruising for the latest mime or funny video a person can stomach. But after reviewing my still long list of undone chores and observing the creative way the kids find to hang with their friends, I realized boredom wasn’t what was plaguing us.

Then this morning while sitting in the quiet stillness of my office getting ready for a run, I finally hit on the root cause of this seemly indiscernible angst behind our collective mood shift. With this COVID crisis devoid of any political strategy for returning our lives back to us, perhaps we’re collectively starting to realize that the hardest part of shutting down of our world, our country, our states, and our towns is the sudden lack of anything to look forward to.

For my oldest son living in D.C. who’s kept busy with his digital marketing and consulting job throughout the crisis, I am starting to appreciate what he means when he describes having to suddenly give up social and exercise activities that are such an essential part of young urban life. Even basic pursuits, such eating out have been redefined. Now it’s grabbing a preordered bag of restaurant food and finding a secretive place to sit with friends just to steal a few moments of connectivity. Plans for attending concerts and taking weekend drives to Virginia for bad wine at local wineries are not just on hold, they’re forgotten.

For my daughter, there’s no prom to get excited about, no graduation, no summer job, no senior trip, and no chance to step into the real world to get that first taste of adult life. She talks about the things COVID’s taken all the time; perhaps even to the point of obsessing. After sharing countless lectures on the importance of dealing with what life throws at you though, I’m starting to come around to what she’s trying to vocalize.

My youngest son still hangs out with friends only now instead of chasing girls they’ll never catch, they’ve discovered some on-line app that lets them flirt with girls they’ll never meet. He and his cohort recently started a facebook business specializing in odd jobs, such as moving furniture, hauling trash, and performing minor chores. I admire their initiative and see it as a small glimmer of hope the America we once took for granted can return. I do what I can to encourage them to flaunt their enterprise in the face of our repressive governor who grows more power mad each day.

But while I feel, see, and appreciate the complexities of a constantly changing dynamic outside of our control, I’m simultaneously struck with a profound sense the effervescing mood swing we collectively experience is tied to a deeper darkening desperation that incrementally covers us a little more each day like a coroner pulling the blanket over a corpse. It’s not the loss of things, or the inconvenience of adapting, it’s the languishing lack of having even simple things to look forward to. I’m coming to understand that’s how you rob the soul of a nation, how you stifle the will of individuals, how you cajole the masses into placid subjugation.

On my run I started recapping all that’s happened since this crisis began, the long slide from initial panic to latent complacency. From political concern for our health to outlandish disregard for our well being. I found myself plotting acts of civil disobedience that would stop just short of outright subversion while still annoying my misguided governor, who I can no longer respect or consent to follow, enough to make my point. I found myself wondering if that would satisfy the languishing lack of something to look forward to and whether or not the boys back in Boston in 1776 struggled with the same concerns.

Note: After running four and half intense miles with two teenage boys who’ve already started fall football workouts, I’ve opened up a whole new arena of things to look forward to. . . hot baths and cold bourbon.

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