Shelter-at-home Fatigue and How to Beat it

My emotional world has started to close in on me, as if my smaller physical world was nagging at my mind, telling it to come along – “you can be small, too. This will never end. Let’s get small, feel small, and forget about all the love out there. Just think about the doom and how powerless you feel alone and in your virtual world. Compare your measly accomplishments to others and feel the smallness!”

At first I FaceTimed and exercised every day, had different national and international taiko zoom meetings, reached out to others to connect, plus I encouraged my family to do special family outings in the parks or to play games. I even tried to get them to play charades! I wrote, and I worked on my dream. I basically took the bull by the horns (or whatever that saying is) and took charge of the situation, knowing what I needed for my emotional health.

I so appreciated seeing people’s faces. I loved having conversations and hearing voices. I loved connecting on FaceBook with my friends. I felt strong, in shape, and as though I could get through this, even though I had no idea how long it would be until I could play music or drink coffee with friends.

But after a few weeks, I got tired. I started to feel more withdrawn, as if the anxiety of the pandemic and staying at home was gnawing at me more and more, tugging at me to stay in bed and binge watch Game of Thrones. Once, during a zoom meeting there was a chance when the formal topic ended to just talk, and after only a few minutes I wanted to “leave the meeting.” I didn’t understand why though, because I liked to hear what these people were saying – some of them were wonderful friends I was close with.

Of course I googled to investigate why I didn’t feel as connected as I felt I should even though it also seemed obvious – without any great theory or insight it seems natural to understand that for some reason true connection for humans comes from being together physically. Plus, I had spent the last ten years of my life working on becoming more social, so that by the time of the pandemic I was drumming two to three times a week with friends, volunteering once a week, exercising with another friend fairly regularly, going to movies, book club, lunch, or other social events. Being a writer and a home-business owner, as my children had grown, I had needed to do this for my well-being.

So, I realized I was slowly sliding into the darkness during the second half of April, despite feeling grateful for my well-being, my family’s safety, etc. etc. Being grateful for one’s circumstances I have learned over the years is not enough to feel good. It doesn’t mean I feel guilty for my circumstances. It just means that I believe humans or at least that I was meant for more connection, more accomplishment, more face-to-face conversations, and more than what I had been doing so far with my life.

My old reality, my dreams and goals from just a two months ago seemed so far away. It felt harder and harder to keep working on them and to remember that this too shall pass, that maybe I’m not heading toward death and destruction and grief. I felt and have been feeling small and powerless. I am angry at Schleich and Amazon.com who, with their economic bullying are taking away so much of my income. I am angry that no matter what I write to them, they do not care. I feel angry at all the corporations and greed and at our incompetent and immoral politicians and their supporters. I was starting to feel I will never accomplish my dreams, even though logically this didn’t make sense, because of course the pandemic has to end at some point.

But as a survivor of patriarchy and so many of the bad things that can happen to young people, feeling angry and powerless is a familiar, deep-seeded feeling. I know it has the power to bring me down into a darkness I haven’t visited for a long while. So before I slip too deeply….

I woke up realizing it is Prince’s death anniversary, and I decided that I was going to feel differently. I sat looking out the window by my bed and wrote this essay.

I wanted to write, to believe, and to tell you that we can get through this. I can get through this. If I can get through this, so can you. Please join me in believing that this pandemic will end without the entire world dying. Join me in believing we can have large gatherings with lots of human connection and interaction. As we shelter-at-home and feel grateful for those who are risking their lives for us, know we are doing the right thing for the greater good by staying at home. And know that we will persevere, that you and I have inner strength and wisdom and love that we and the world needs.

So, today I will wear some purple.

Today I will do something with my hair.

Today I will work a little on my dream, even if for just ten minutes.

Today I will call a friend.

Today I will express to someone, somehow my true feelings.

Today I will step outside and look up to the sky, breath in and feel the connection I have to the great universe and feel my own inner power and wisdom.

On top of our daily work, if we can also take a few minutes every day to do some of these positive things or to do as many of them as we can fit in, then I know we can get through this. I know I can. No matter how much time each of us has left on this earth can be spent knowing that we can make a difference in ourselves and in those around us, even if we are stuck at home.

So, look out your window, step our your door, or just look to the ceiling. Imagine a – or look to the – big beautiful sky and see how big you can become, feel how much wisdom you have inside yourself, feel the love you have inside of you and know you can share this love and spread it and help heal the world. Know too, that all love given returns. The positive energy you send out today and every day will help others and yourself as well.

This essay came to me upon waking and realizing it was Prince’s death anniversary. I wrote it looking out the window, sometimes with one of my cats near my side. Today I gain strength knowing that in the time I have left on this earth, I can make a difference for myself, my family, and the world. My dreams will materialize because I can work on them bit by bit and because I can make a difference. My heart goes out to all of you also having a difficult time during this pandemic.

Find meaning in your circumstances…

Many of us who are not essential workers are feeling a mix of relief and guilt at the same time, while also trying to figure out if we remember how to sew or if there is another way to help those in need. Staying at home is a public health service, but many of us want to do more. Through the past weeks, I have found meaning in my situation, having started with a feeling of fear for my mental health and guilt for being temporarily successfully self-employed.

I am a small business owner of over twenty years. By small I mean that I am the CEO, the accountant, the strategist, the packer, the logistics manager, the buyer, etc. I wear all the hats except during the holiday season, when a couple of friends and a family member or two help me pack.

I’ve enjoyed gross sales of over $100,000 for maybe seven years over the years, enough to make me feel as though I were contributing something financial to the family besides my unpaid labor. Having given up in frustration with Amazon and eBay, for years I tried to make a go with my own websites, but almost eight years ago I ended up returning to the large marketplaces.

Had I made this a full-time endeavor, my story would be different. I never took out a business loan. I never had a business plan. I maintained my own websites, which quickly meant mine became old-fashioned and cumbersome. Except for on a couple of occasions I didn’t invest in professional development or any other professional services. I worked on my business as I progressed through graduate school, as I homeschooled my kids, all along wanting to keep this part-time since I was also interested in other work .

Before the pandemic I received a letter from Schleich, a name brand toy company I have carried for over fifteen years and have primarily sold on Amazon.com, (as well as eBay, Sears, etc.) with only a few sales on my own website. They told me I wouldn’t be allowed to sell on the large marketplaces anymore, even though they had just sold me thousands of dollars of toys. They won’t give me an answer as to whether they will take any inventory back, despite one of their representatives in December assuring me that if Amazon took my listings down or pulled any more tricks they would take back the inventory I had purchased (for a couple of years I had been having multiple issues on Amazon with my Schleich listings, because they are trying to be the sole carriers of Schleich and other name-brands and so would make it very difficult for me to list in ways I can with less-known brands).

Schleich’s agreement with Amazon states that Amazon will be the only retailer selling Schleich toys on Amazon.com. This takes away at least ninety percent of my business.

Having already purchased much of what I would need in 2020, when Minnesota started to shut down, I had $38,000 in inventory, but with business so slow during the year, I had no idea how I was going to get rid of this without just donating it and taking it as a loss. I kept emailing Schleich asking about returning items, but they won’t respond properly. I marked everything down and put a sale on all Schleich items, plus I lowered my shipping and handling costs.

In the third week of March, the orders suddenly started coming in. It wasn’t as busy as during the holiday season, but much more than usual for this time of year. As I realized what was happening, I felt guilty. So many people were suffering around the country, and they wanted to get their children a toy. They were suffering, while I was getting rid of inventory. Sure, it will take many months to rid myself of the majority of it, but still, I was busy and successfully self-employed (not that I have ever been eligible for unemployment). I reconciled myself with the thought that at least the children were getting toys without costing their parent’s too much.

As the weeks have passed, while I still feel lucky and privileged to be safe, fed, and housed, I also realized it is okay that I am getting rid of my inventory. It’s not okay that others are suffering greatly. It’s also not okay that this billion-dollar corporation sold me thousands of dollars of inventory before basically putting me out of business. It’s not okay that Amazon is allowed to determine the online marketplace to the extent that they do. It’s not okay that Amazon and other large corporations don’t pay any taxes, while I do. I don’t have employees, but I still work hard for what I earn, and I then put money back into the economy.

After a month I have realized a deeper meaning for me. For years I have insisted that I didn’t want to be a retailer, because I am a historian, and I wanted to do something else that felt more meaningful. Besides writing, I wasn’t sure what that will be – if I would tutor more people, edit more essays, or what. I started writing again about ten years ago, and this helped my sense of purpose, but things had fallen into place yet.

Now in 2020 the corporate bullies have pushed me into action, ideas have landed in my lap, and I have a new sense of purpose knowing that I can use my other talents to make the world a better place. Still, I wasn’t sure how to lose myself of so much inventory without taking a great financial loss, but the pandemic has allowed me to ship out hundreds of toys, for which I don’t need to feel guilty. Instead, although I do see value in providing children with quality toys, I am grateful that sooner rather than later, I will be able to focus on other areas in my life. So as I sit at home waiting out the pandemic and packing toys, I keep my dream of more meaningful work for myself alive each day.