Thursday 7 May 2020

The Great Exhaustion

It's day 847 of 2020, and I thought it would be nice to take a walk down memory lane. It's been a whirlwind of a year, hasn't it? So let's take a moment to look back and enjoy!

Remember when we almost entered WWIII? Me, neither. It's easy to forget in light of everything else that's happened (we'll get to it in due time, no peeking!), but it was only in January where we almost had war break out between the US and Iran. But then Megxit happened, which was the much-needed distraction we all needed to stop worrying about boring old politics and take a front seat to a much sexier drama: Harry and Megs splitting from the Royals!

But before we could even dig into the second bowl of popcorn, there came the next whammy: the wildfires in Australia. We all saw the heartbreaking photos of Koalas clinging to firefighters as they were being carried out of the burning forest, their homes destroyed forever. Amidst all that tragedy we surely could be forgiven that we missed some news from China: specifically that some people had died of a new, mysterious illness, then named (and promptly forgotten): 2019-nCoV. 
I mean, didn't China have some sort of virus every few years? And there was so much else going on (remember the impeachment trial for Trump? Yes, that happened in January as well) that we didn't pay much attention, because another tragedy hit the news right around that time: Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and a few other, not-famous people died in a helicopter crash.
So I guess it's understandable that it took us a moment to realize that Wuhan, China, had gone into an unprecedented lockdown. What even is a lockdown? we asked ourselves vaguely. 
We were about to find out.   

(Oh, and Brexit happened. But who even cared at this point.)

This year February had an extra day, as if anyone needed it after the neverending shitshow that was January. 
A bunch of shit went down in the States, like Trump being acquitted.
That weird virus from China wasn't going away. In fact, it had a name now: Covid-19. We started to pay attention.
In fact, we were only moments away from making its acquaintance - intimately. 

March, aka: The Month Where the World Went to Shit
It's impossible to believe, but there was a time where we didn't know - or care - what this odd ball with the red spikes was. Before shit hit the fan we had the brief distraction of the toilet paper wars, which were mostly baffling, but had a definitive undercurrent of worry and anxiety. We were all wondering: what the hell was going on?

On March 11, the WHO declared the coronavirus a pandemic after it had spread to over 100 countries. Italy was hit hardest after China, and announced a national lockdown, which was unheard of at the time. People kept calling it unprecedented.   
(The word unprecedented was about to experience a popularity like never before. You might call its popularity - unprecedented
*Drops mic. I'm done here.)

March was the month where we all panicked. We as, the entire world. Which, looking back now is kind of unifying, but at the time felt utterly terrifying. You remember it, right? It was not even two months ago, even though it feels like an entirely different lifetime. 
The stock market crashed. Not that I comprehend what that means, but I know that it's always followed closely by bankruptcy, unemployment, and desperation. And it happened again this time. Millions of people lost their jobs, or were 'suspended indefinitely'. People were terrified of catching the virus, wrapping themselves into saran-wrap or garbage bags head-to-toe when going out, winding whatever they could find around their heads: bandannas, scarves, coffee filters, female hygiene pads, Halloween masks - people were so terrified to go out in public that they strapped the most bizarre contraptions in front of their faces.     
We were all told to #stayhome, vacations were cancelled, people started to work from home instead of the office, and stores everywhere started to install plexiglass barriers for their cashiers and implemented rules of staying 6 feet apart. 

In the beginning there were still jokes. The introverts of the world rejoiced. Many of us breathed sighs of relief at the stay-at-home orders, at the sudden impossibility of the dreaded unannounced visitor. We also quite enjoyed the social distancing rule, something we quietly longed for all of our lives. 
Just as a side note: I'm strongly in favour of continuing social distancing, and staying six feet apart at the grocery store, indefinitely. It's the civilized thing to do. 
But as the death toll rose and people started to go crazy being stuck at home, the tone changed.
Being scared all the time was exhausting. 
Disinfecting, cleaning, washing hands, worrying about what you had touched - did I sanitize after leaving the store? - did I wipe down all the groceries before putting them away? -  was exhausting. 
Worrying about money when you were out of work was exhausting. 
Having the kids at home and suddenly having to home-school was exhausting.
Working with a mask, goggles, gloves, and a gown on was exhausting.
Stripping down on your doorstep, throwing your clothes in the washer, and having a shower before you could even hug your loved ones was exhausting. 

All our immediate and future plans were cancelled. While we hoped at the beginning of the month to reunite with family for Easter, we were soon faced with the daunting possibility that we might not even see them at Christmas. 

We have now entered Conspiracy-Central.   
People are getting crazy, which is understandable. We have crossed 6 weeks (closing on 8 in some parts) of being quarantined/social distancing/working under extreme measures, and it shows. We are all exhausted. We can't deal with the reality that the world as we've known it is being irrevocably gone. We'll probably never get it back. We are disillusioned and disappointed, and we need a scapegoat. Which is perfect timing, because look at this: there are all these fun and exciting videos out now that are just what the doctor ordered! But just so you know, you have to watch them quickly, because the government/FBI/Facebook/Big Brother will shut them down within 24 hours, so it's vital that you watch right this minute and share it as much and widely as you can! 
I'm not getting into the debate on all the crazy conspiracies, but here's my take: if a video "is only around for 24 hours", it's probably not legit. Just my opinion. 

I get it, though. I get the desperate search for answers that may lead you down some questionable allies. This has been the most wacko year in living history. We want someone to tell us what's what, and most importantly, when it will all end. The not-knowing is playing tricks on all of us. And it wears us out. 
I'm fucking exhausted. And I know that you are, too, because I'm talking about this with everyone I meet, and after reassuring each other of how lucky we are (we are still alive/well/have work/have insurance/are living with people in quarantine we don't want to stab), we all have one overwhelming emotion in common: we are tired.  

If you want to sum up 2020 in 3 words, it's this: The Great Exhaustion

We are tired. Not only do we face an uncertain future, but we're also confronted with the manically cheerful crowd that insists that we use this time "as an opportunity to grow, and to learn new skills, and to use the free time to chase our dreams!", which is the last thing any of us has energy for. 
It's hard enough to muster the motivation to crawl out of bed in the morning, let alone learn how to do a cross-stitch. Despite what social media tries to tell us, we are not obligated to learn the skills of a Michelin-starred chef, become obscenely fit, or start a successful sideline business while still baking bread and mastering the latest TikTok dance. This expectation is insanity, and very unhealthy.

We are in a crisis. It may feel like we're doing way less than normal, but the stress and uncertainty take a toll. We are exhausted because it is exhausting
Uncertainty is highly stressful. 
Worrying all the time is stressful. 
Not knowing when - if? - life will ever return to what we perceived as normal, is stressful.

If you're stress-eating right now, or drinking more than usual, or smoking weed from dawn till dusk, or watching silly movies 24/7 - it's okay. These are extraordinary times, and the last thing we need right now is someone telling us one more thing we *should* be doing. 
Our job right now is to survive, pure and simple. Everything on top of that is a bonus, not a  requirement. 

We are in the midst of the Great Exhaustion, and our only goal is to make it through that. 
One nap at a time.



  1. You said it all, Miriam! And your writing today is beyond fantastic…. there is a beautiful rhythm and choice of words in this blog.
    A year we will all be talking about to our grandchildren and great grandchildren. Who would have thought!

  2. Oh Elaine,that's an incredible compliment, thank you!! I had a lot of fun writing this one, and I want to record as much as possible about this insane time we currently live in.
    Like you said, it will make for interesting stories for our grandkids!

  3. Hi Miriam, loved your post. Totally agree with your comments about not trying to be some sort of annoying over-achiever. Just try to conserve your precious energy until the "care-free" times return. We've had it fairly easy in New Zealand apart from being shut away. I feel for people around the world having a tough time. Kia kaha (stay strong)

    1. We are pretty lucky where we live as well. Not many cases and we have lots of room outside to get fresh air and exercise.
      I can't believe I have a reader in New Zealand! That's awesome, thanks so much for reading and commenting. Hang in there, we'll get through this!


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