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Sunshine and stars.

meadow hope(Photo by niklas_hamann on Unsplash)

After 8 months of the new normal, pandemic fatigue hits hard. I often ask myself – what’s the point? Does it matter if I smile? Does the world stop spinning because I’m too sad to put pen to paper? Do birds stop chirping and oceans screech to a thunderous halt, because I feel hopeless?

No. Of course not. I’m not important in the grand scheme of things. Just a tiny, dark speck on the sands of time, forgotten and buried under the next big gust of wind.

So I ask myself. What’s the point? Why does it matter?

We’re a family of essential workers. But with children to raise and online schooling to facilitate, I stay home. And soon, the mindless monotony gets to me. There are challenges I can’t bring myself to write about, and days when even the brightest sunshine can’t break through the dark clouds over me. And as cases spike in my county, all fragile hope gets crushed. Once again we’re staring at months of oppressive isolation.

I ask myself. What’s the point? Why does it matter?

A million others like me are shuttered away behind their doors, unable to shake themselves off this heavy despair. Tired women in your area, dying to meet you! Soon days and weeks blend into an endless litany of school assignments and meal plans. The husband offers, ever so kindly, to mind the kids. “Go away for a couple of days. Sleep in and order takeout. Read a trashy book. Write a soppy story.”

I wish I could do just that. But I can’t. I honestly can’t. My heart feels tired, and I slip into velvety numbness.

What’s the point? Why does it matter?

And one evening, as everything comes to a head, the simplest of thoughts pops out of nowhere.

“There need not be a point. It doesn’t have to matter.”

From the depths of melancholy, I blink with suspicion.

“Look at your puppy. She’s playing with her raggedy old toy. There’s no point to what she’s doing. But she does it, because that’s what dogs do. They chew toys and chase balls. And the same goes for you. You wake up every morning and do what you have to.”

The puppy glances up at me and cocks her head, as if agreeing with my inner monologue.

I fight the simplicity of this epiphany. I am an adult; I insist. My life needs meaning and purpose.

“And you have it. But life isn’t all stars and sunshine. There are boring hours and tiresome days. Maddening chores and exhausting demands. There need not be a big, grand point to everything.”

I think about this for a while. It… makes sense? But —

“Real life is monotony, and you don’t have to like it. Poring at insurance documents. Dentist visits. Fixing the check engine light that’s been glaring at you for a month. Don’t you see? You shouldn’t have to love everything that happens to you. That’s the stuff of movies and children’s tales. There are long, brambly parts of life that bring no joy. Like the middle of a marathon, when the cheering onlookers have faded away, and it takes every ounce of strength to keep running.”

I nod to myself. Brambly parts. That must mean—

“Wear a thick coat and walk with eyes looking ahead. And you’ll hit the open fields soon.”

So I do exactly that. I stop expecting every moment to be meaningful. Instead, I put on my big girl pants, strap on my best boots, and keep walking. Summer flies buzz about, but I pay them no heed. I hike on muddy trails and dry asphalt; in snowy trenches and damp roads. The brambles move with me, casting long shadows. Often, they scratch me. Sometimes they draw blood. I pause, catch my breath, and keep putting one foot in front of the other. I stumble across little patches of green land where puffs of happiness sing their sweet song of hope. I soak it all in and keep walking. Through thorn and bush, flowers and wind.

And before I know it, last of the brambles clears away and I step into the open fields. In the far distance, dark trees crowd, promising an arduous path tomorrow.

But that’s tomorrow.

I sink into the grass; I look up at the sky. And all the sunshine, all the stars smile down at me.

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