First: I absolutely can’t take credit for the term Covid Whiplash – my friend Leslie used it in conversation a few weeks ago and I’ve been using it as a framework for understanding my life ever since. Thanks, Les.
Next: I’ve been debating whether to fully address the fact that it’s been a year and a half since I last posted a blog, or just breeze past it like nothing happened. Basically cruising into a class halfway through the semester and taking a seat in the back like I’ve been here the whole time. **whistles and twiddles thumbs nonchalantly**
I’ll say this for much my absence from this platform and — to be honest — almost everything related to being a fiction author for the last 18+ months: I didn’t disappear on purpose. At no point did I make a conscious decision that I just wasn’t up to blogging at this stage of my life, nor did I formally declare myself ‘on hiatus’ from writing fiction. It happened (or didn’t) like most things in life: with one day slipping away after another. You know how it is: you’re just taking a break for a minute until suddenly you realize you haven’t seen the inside of the gym, the pages of your book-in-progress, or the back end of your blog in months.
There are reasons, of course. My day job as a technical writer/trainer was one of the few that got busier during lockdown, and actually required lots of travel. That was weird, honestly. While everyone I knew was hunkering down at home and doing risk-reward analyses about whether to go to the grocery store, I was boarding planes in partially shut-down airports and coating the seats of rental cars with Lysol.
And… if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that the last couple of years have been brutal emotionally (and in other ways). Some writers I know have been able to channel the angst and isolation of 2020-21 into the most productive and creative months of their lives. Churning out novels and scoring book deals and taking up new and interesting hobbies. I’m happy for them. Truly, and without a single ounce of eye-gouging jealousy.
For me, though, it’s been the opposite. I’ve felt overwhelmed and sometimes shamefully unequal to the times we’re living through. I tend to write with my potential readers in mind—my relationship with all of you is what spurs me on every day, even if we’ve never interacted. In both fiction and non-fiction this year, I have struggled to fathom what I could possibly bring to our collective conversation that would be of added value. More importantly, I’ve struggled to summon the emotional energy to create whatever that thing might be. You probably don’t have to be a mental health professional to see the signs of depression in this paragraph; but even as a trained counselor, it took me longer to recognize it in myself than I care to admit.
Please don’t get the wrong idea — I can already see the concerned emails and comments pouring in—I am fine. And not “fine” in the Southern woman, hiding-my-feelings-so-as-not-to-ruin-your-day way. I have been taking care of myself, leveraging my support network, and consciously taking pride in what I can do right now. I’ve been acknowledging the incredible achievements of working my tail off, contributing to my community, and parenting two boys through this chaos without anyone burning the house down or being shipped off to Australia in a cargo box. (Not that I haven’t been tempted on that last one!)
Coping with all this has meant stepping back from (and in some cases, re-evaluating) relationships and activities in my life that weren’t working for me. My “author life” (private and public) was just one of the items on the list. As long as writing fiction or blogging felt like an obligation at which I was failing, I wasn’t likely to produce anything worth reading.
Now that things are improving, I’ve been able to open the door to my writing life again, even if it’s just to let my agent know I’m still alive, re-arrange the plot on an old story, and start toying with something new in between day-job projects.
So here we are.
Like pretty much everyone right now, I’m trying to move forward, to figure out what things are really necessary and important to reclaim in my life… and leaving a few things behind me on the road. With rescheduled and new activities popping up on the calendar, work picking up again after a lull over the summer, and my own heart clamoring to reconnect with people and events I’ve been missing… the pace of life feels drastically different once again.
Thus: Covid whiplash. We’ve all been back and forth so often between frustration and hope, freedom and caution, connection and independence. It can be jarring and sometimes scary. (Since I had surgery for actual whiplash a couple of years ago, the pain associated with this metaphor is real to me, y’all).
But I’m hoping the end result will include some well-earned silly fun, a bit of wisdom, and lots more compassion than it did two years ago. Especially for myself.
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