On Blog Writing, Pandemic Blues and Looking to the Future

carrie rollwagen looking pensive

I’d planned to write a different blog this morning, but I can’t seem to make my brain work on the topic I chose, so I’ve just been staring at the blank screen. It’s writer’s block, only not really, because it feels like I’m blocked against doing anything I plan, not just writing. I have the same feeling when it’s time to clean the kitchen or complete a work assignment or go shopping. Throughout this past year, I’ve felt like Sisyphus with his rock, constantly pushing hard but basically getting nowhere.

Part of that feeling comes, of course, from actually going almost nowhere. It’s hard to believe your life will change when your surroundings don’t. All this monotony has been great for introspection — when we stopped being busy, lots of us were able to focus on where our lives (and our institutions) fell short of where we wanted them to be. Introspection is something I value a lot, and something I think it’s important to make space for — but if I’m being honest, I’m a little sick of it. How many times can you take a good hard look at yourself before you get to actually start building again?

Throughout the pandemic, I’ve had periods of strict discipline and overwork, and I’ve had times when I essentially stare into space, seemingly unable to do anything (like this morning). It’s true that that latter usually follows the former (or follows yet another huge change in our country), but for some reason I keep trying to deny that. I’m still measuring my performance by a pre-pandemic metric. “When will I recover?” I think. “When will I get my discipline back? When will I be able to dream about the future?”

But I love literature, and I love history, and when I look to them as my teachers, I know that one year is not really very long for a pandemic, or for massive introspection, or for grieving the way things used to be. We’re not strange to still be grappling with a new way to approach life — it would be strange if we weren’t. If we weren’t still struggling to understand, if we felt like everything was normal and running just like before, it would mean we hadn’t grown through these storms at all — that we were pretending the world never changed, so we wouldn’t have to, either.

If opening my eyes to reality means I’m still not on an even keel, then so be it. Feeling like this is uncomfortable, and it makes me feel out of control. But if it takes time to implement the lessons of this past year instead of moving on like they didn’t happen, I think that’s worth it. Even if it means things that used to come easily (like writing a blog) take more time and are more frustrating — because of course they do. That’s what happens when you’re charting a new path, but sometimes forging through the wilderness is the only way to get somewhere new.

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