Decades ago, there was a product called Serutan. A fiber laxative. At the end of each ad, the announcer would resonantly announce, “Remember, Serutan spelled backwards is Natures.”
My little sister and I, at the conclusion of a Geritol ad, would announce, “Remember, Geritol spelled backwards is Lotireg!”
Most of us are now suffering, if not from Covid, then from Covid fatigue. Most of us, though not very active, don’t feel like being at all active. Most of us are depleted. Our “surge capacity” is depleted. Please read Tara Haelle’s reporting behind that link. “Surge capacity,” the ability to manage from within a crisis, is meant for crises whose end you can see from here. We can’t see the end. So we have no way to restore our surge capacity. And it’s all long ago spent.
The depletion shows up as a mixture of anxiety, depression and ennui. The cause? A neverending series of ambiguous losses. Maybe we go out to eat once a month. But now not going out once a month is an ambiguous loss when stirred together with all the other daily losses we never realized we depended on. We always walked our dog with Jane and her dog Diamond. We’re sick of washing our hands. One Birthday Zoom party is enough. For a while we loved spending the day in our pajamas and working online, but what we’d give for finding a parking space, wearing a blue blouse, and eating an egg salad sandwich with a fellow worker. Sure we’re glad we get to read those books we’ve been putting off, but we’re sick of reading. We are sick of managing from within a crisis. We are sick of cancellations. We are sick of it all.
And if we have suffered the loss of any of the 200,000 who have died, are caring for any of the millions who are infected, lost a job, a home, a business, we’re among millions who are grieving or barely coping.
45! 45 who can only blame, offers excuses, and wouldn’t be able to spell comfort, let alone offer it.
Americans aren’t good at grieving. We’re to be strong, carry on, get over it, let time heal. It’s embarrassing to grieve, and amid a pandemic we have no way of comforting one another except to send over another casserole.
You aren’t alone.
Not only are we afraid for ourselves and those we love, and have a leader who cannot give us assurance honestly, but one who stacks the deck against us, we now must find, on our own, some way to sustain ourselves when there really is no foolproof way to do that.
What a true, deep hug could do. But we got nothin’.
Here we are, pretty darn well off if we’re lucky, and can’t find the energy to do a thing. Not even Lotireg can give us a boost.
THIS is the norm. I almost wrote “new normal.” New? We’re all feeling old and there’s nothing normal about it.
Surge depletion and ambiguous loss are real. Take two understandings and a spoonful of compassion each morning and know that the guy across the street is experiencing it too.
It’s another morning, the sun
pulled slowly hand over hand
to sow its earth-bound light
dappling the grasses,
fuzzy whites, lady’s mantle,
lamb’s ear, and lying across
the variegated leaves, hexing
what we think we see. Along
the lily-padded pond, the frogs
with ever croaking gulp swallow
the light’s arrival. On the porch
the dog at peace between his paws.
First Published in Talking River
Subsequently published in Saint Peter and the Goldfinch (Wayne State University Press)
Chris Clark has published a spiritual anthology, Blessings for the Backpack of the Soul. Chris had planned to walk the entire El Camino and felt having a collection of spiritual writings, poems, and prayers would help nourish him along The Way. Of course Covid struck. However, instead of giving up on the collection, Chris decided to have it published and give the proceeds to charity. It can be downloaded for free or ordered behind the link above.
Where are the books? Visit Reader’s World or Hope-Geneva Bookstore in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, the Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.
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Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.