Liminal Fatigue

The scene: Wendy Darling and Peter Pan in the nursery with Peter explaining how fairies come into being: the laughter of a newborn child. When Wendy questions why there isn’t a fairy for each child Peter says, “Children know such a lot now. Soon they don't believe in fairies, and every time a child says 'I don't believe in fairies' there is a fairy somewhere that falls down dead.” (Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie)

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I feel a little like that now. The scene: any discussion about idealized plans for the future, events to attend, people to say and laughing a little hesitantly saying “when all this is over…” I feel like every time I say that, the hope of that idealized future dies a little. Grim, yes. A little over dramatic, yes. But, there is something to be said for the slow death of normalcy and the grieving process that we are all collectively feeling right now.

I wish this was going to be an uplifting post, but sadly these are not uplifting times. There is a meme going around about how this whole experience of quarantine is like some Kafka-esque nightmare where you wake up every morning and it is the same as before. But I see the cracks in my own veneer as well as many others slowly peeking through. We are not okay-and that’s becoming the new normal. Obviously the barometer for relative “okay-ness” varies depending on your situation, but I am not here to look at the finer points of essential workers versus those unemployed versus those working through it all from home. This is a look at this bizarre rendition of Groundhog’s Day we all find ourselves in.

We are constantly moving creatures rotating through cycles based on seasons or trends or calendar pinpoints: there are always moments or events punctuating our lives. Whether you live by the wheel of seasonality and your life centers around the growing cycle or you are beholden to the wheel of retail sales and trends: there is some sense of momentum. We find ourselves in an unnaturally liminal time where everything has abruptly halted. If you go by the cycles of nature-well that still goes on but everything human-made is shifting. In some cases it goes on, but unlike before. The urgency of Doing has changed. We are slipping into stages of liminality with each week seemingly bringing a new stage of a grieving process: perhaps acceptance, or mourning, or anger, panic, despondency, burnout, etc. But we are fatiguing on this way of being: it is a direct break with how our lives have been structured for the duration of our time on this planet when responsibilities burdened our shoulders. Even the youngest of us are seeing a change.

When there is no end in sight: what can we do? We are all exploring coping strategies from escapism, indulgence, physical movement and momentum, “busy-ness” for the sake of activity and distraction, and in some cases forced productivity which builds on its own fatigue. There is no business as usual. Even those of us who are still making like before or still working jobs as before see that veneer of normalcy cracking like a well crafted smile slowly drooping at the corner. There is no right way to be right now. There is no quick fix. We all must find the things that can support our fatigue.

In my last post, I explored a few methods of making connections, but that is by no means an exhaustive look at what we can do. There is certainly an invitation in this moment to peer deep into ourselves and take stock of our own stores of energy. What do we still have reserves for? What is lacking? Can we replenish what we need or is it detrimentally gone for the time being? However, there is no one size fits all solution as for many, a distraction and pleasant avoidance of the issues at hand is needed because the burden is too much to bear. I am a firm believer that we need to ensure that our cups are full before we give to another lest we run dry. And now is not the time to test loyalties. We must try and find ways to collectively support one another through whatever coping mechanism are needed as we get through this. We are all suffering through a collective trauma and I think we should not sugar coat this new reality.

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So where do we go from here? I don’t know, friends. I am tired and this is perhaps nothing more than a meager shout into the void from me, but I think we ultimately need to try and care for one another.

For those who are able to do The Big Gestures: please look to those less privileged or fortunate than you and lift them up. For those who are already helping: thank you, you are doing such amazing hard work right now. For those who are finding ways to keep moving along: you are doing great, keep doing what you need to keep yourself going. And for those who are barely keeping their head above water: keep trying, you have people in your world that want to see you make it through this: if you are able to make the asks for help, please do. We will get through this and then make sense of what is on the other side, together.


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