The Constant State of Fatigue

November was a difficult month.

watercolor of a cozy bed in the corner of a room
Image created via Midjourney

November was a difficult month. My 4-year-old was under a period of quarantine for 10 days after direct exposure to someone who tested positive for Covid-19 at her preschool. My 9-year-old woke up one morning with a sore throat — necessitating a rapid antigen test before he could return to school. My husband also woke up feeling crummy one morning so he dashed off to get a test prior to sending any of the kids to school for the day.

I'm... so tired.

At this time last year, we were juggling all three kids at home, two of them doing remote learning, and our full-time jobs. Every day was exhausting and often felt like a battle. I questioned myself as a parent more than I ever have in my life. And I worried about the impacts that so much confinement was having on our mental health.

The kids are undoubtedly happier now that they are back and school. Other than wearing masks and other safety measures that the school has in place, their days are mostly normal.

Yet November felt like a near-daily reminder that things are not normal. At least when the kids were home, I never worried about Covid entering our house. The 4-year-old's exposure was our first real brush with the virus (to our knowledge). The guidance was a lot more clear last year, at least after the first few months while we were still learning about transmissibility: stay more than 6 feet apart, wear masks, any exposure to someone outside of your household contains a degree of risk.

Now the guidance changes regularly and is hard to decipher. Risk looks different for vaccinated versus unvaccinated people. We went from taking our masks off in the late Spring to a statewide mask mandate again a few months later. The omicron variant might change things yet again, particularly for travel, on the cusp of the holiday season.

While I struggled with having everyone home last year, I didn't struggle with any decisions about what we would/wouldn't do. We held firm to avoiding other people indoors, isolating ourselves from friends and family. We had our groceries delivered and only went out if it was absolutely necessary. Now I feel like I have to constantly make choices about what is best for my family, balancing the degree of risk against our sanity.

And... much like last year... I don't know when this will end. I firmly believe that the world is permanently changed, but it would be nice to reach a point where there isn't so much flux.

I recently read a New York Times article, written in May of 2020, where a journalist predicted that the Covid-19 crisis will last 36 months. While that was long before the introduction of a vaccine, the prediction seems valid. More people have died this year than last year from Covid. We've seen the emergence of multiple variants. The virus is far from being under control.

In a way, reading the 36-month timeline made me feel... better? We're already more than 21 months in. While higher vaccination rates are the best-case scenario, I'm not holding my breath. My non-medical, non-scientific prediction is that the virus will continue to spread like wildfire among the unvaccinated and maybe over the next year we'll finally see a tapering off due to the combination of vaccination rates and natural immunity from those who have contracted the virus (or, even more sadly, those that died from it).

At the onset of the pandemic, we naively thought that a 90-day lockdown would curb the spread (and likely would have been more successful if the country had banded together in a serious, consistent effort). Having seen this play out, I can come to peace with the three years. After all, I'm now about six years out from when Nelle and Iris died. When I was in the middle of grief, it felt like it could never end. But it changed: it became something I live with, rather than something that consumes me every day.