I love the word “ennui.” It comes from the French and it sounds like what it means. I can best describe it as “world weariness,” succumbing to boredom, feeling uninspired and uninterested in doing much of anything. A lot of us are feeling like that these days. Or we’re feeling the opposite, anxious and nervous and battling cabin fever.
I run the gamut. I feel peaceful sometimes, resting in the idea that nothing is being asked of me or required of me besides staying home, staying safe and being an emotional support for friends and family. At other times, I feel like the world is getting away from me, losing its meaning and spinning so fast, I can’t catch up. It’s hard to believe that we’ve been quarantined for months without an expiration date, wondering where the time went. I can barely remember what I did yesterday. What did I think about? What did I watch on TV? What matters now and what doesn’t? What will matter tomorrow? It’s like an odd waking dream that doesn’t go away.
I got up today wondering how my world would take shape. I knew I’d write this blog because I always do that on Sundays, even when I feel resistant like I did this morning. But I’ve learned that a little bit of routine makes me feel less alien and stranded. It connects me to myself and my potential readers. I also know I’ll be taking a walk, even in this extreme heat, because it wakes up my body and eases my thoughts. But beyond that, anything goes. Jigsaw puzzle. Netflix. Crossword puzzle. Sudoku. Read a book. They are all available but I have to face the ennui to move through it and get interested in something.
When I turn on the news, a deadly toxic thing to do, I feel like I’m on a roller coaster ride that has no beginning or end. I hate roller coasters, I always have, but I can’t avoid the inevitable. As I hold on for dear life, this time seems to be all about finding patience and not necessarily believing what the mind is telling us, whichever side of the spectrum the pendulum is swinging at any given moment. Nothing stays the same including our states of mind, not the peace or the anxiety, so getting attached to either one will not end well. When I feel peaceful, I try to appreciate it because I know it won’t last. When I feel my bile rising and I get irritated by the smallest things, I remind myself that this too will pass.
As we take this ride together, it might help to know that whatever any of us feel, all of us are feeling, but maybe not at the same time. I wrote a book about two women who were trapped in a mini-van in a blizzard for ten days and eleven nights. They got through it by taking turns at falling apart. When one of them had a meltdown, the other one stood strong and vice versa. I keep that in mind when I’m making my way through this unfamiliar jungle of viruses and protests against injustice. I take my turn at falling apart but I make sure to stand strong for other people when it’s their turn. If we want to conquer our fear, we all have to do it together. That’s how we’ll get through this.