When you’re used to traveling, exploring locally, and enjoying the world around you, something like the lockdown can really take a toll on your mental health. There have been studies and surveys showing the effects and they aren’t so pretty.
Just the other day, I was sitting in my home office at the end of my workday and found myself thinking, Is this it? Is this all there is to my life? Working each day, longing for the workday to end. Spending the weekend doing not much of anything. And then repeating it all over again and again?
Even as I thought the words, I knew that the answer is “no”. But the feelings of exhaustion, boredom, and dread stayed with me until I was distracted by making dinner. The feeling returned as soon as I finished eating and the realization of my lack of plans for the evening hit. Just more writing while my husband finished up a late work night.
Our anniversary passed in January, the holidays before that, NaNoWriMo before that. And now as February looms nearby, the most I have to look forward to is Lent, Purim, and Valentine’s Day. These things are good – celebrations of repentance, victory, and love, respectively – but they’re honestly not celebrations we’ve ever done much with, nor is this year likely to be all that different.
I have nothing to look forward to. The realization hit me. No expectations at all.
Putting together the First Issue of the MockingOwl Roost, I was in charge of finding quotes about expectation to use for the magazine. As I searched for quotes, I saw that a large number of the most famous were about having no expectations.
As I read these quotes by authors, artists, politicians, and others, I was rather discouraged. Having no expectations might prevent disappointment, but that doesn’t give life or hope, especially in times of confinement, loneliness, or mourning. I kept searching for positive quotes about expectations and the joy and freedom they can bring.
All of 2020 was full of disappointments for all of us. We didn’t get to travel, see family and friends, attend religious services or social gatherings. We dampened down our expectations of interactions with the world to video calls and virtual clubs. We had to stuff down desires for more and let go of dreams so that we could survive.
As we sit in our homes this season, waiting out the pandemic and longing for better times, it might do us well to start dreaming again. Not for tomorrow – we’re still a long way out from social gatherings and safe travel – but for the future, for the “whenever this is over” time.
That might look like generically planning that trip to the place of your dreams, saving up pennies now. Or it could look like starting some online courses or going back to college remotely to lean into a career that fills your life with purpose. Or it could look like picking up your pen for the first time in decades and putting it to the page, beginning that novel you’ve dreamed of writing and seeing in print.
If we give ourselves something to look forward to, something positive to expect, we just might make it through this and come out on the other side as happy, strong, courageous people able to make more of a difference in the world in person when the opportunity arises.