Pandemic apathy or…I think I’m getting too used to being by myself

Cancer plus pandemic has forcibly reduced my level of human contact over the last year. Whether it was due to government regulations or physical restraints from my illness, the effects were the same: less people were physically in my life at any one time. At first I fought it. I felt angry and restricted, especially when I was still healthy. Then when I got sick, I still felt resentful every time I had to be left behind when my family went somewhere or left out of a favorite activity. After awhile though, it started to feel easier to bow out of things, easier to just stay home and sit with my dogs, watch TV, and have no expectations. It started to become too comfortable. It is still too comfortable. Traditionally I am a social person who needs people, who savors life and interaction. Now, it seems like I have to force myself to leave the house and carry out any kind of responsibility. Now granted, I have the plethora of chemotherapy side effects like pain, neuropathy, and intense gastrointestinal distress that legitimately get in the way sometimes. That is true. However, I find myself wondering if I will still have reluctance to gather even after those excuses are out of the way. This is concerning. The words lazy, lackadaisical, and apathetic have never before graced my daily life vocabulary. I don’t really like them setting up residence now, but I am not sure what to do about it. I don’t really think that it is fear anymore that is keeping me inside. I think it’s something worse: apathy. I am just over it. I am just over all the panic and the restrictions, but at the same time I am out of the energy to discuss them, fight them, or act against them. What I need is a strategy for emergence that makes sense for me, my sanity, and my particular set of circumstances and limitations, not anyone else’s. Here’s hoping that I develop a good one and I hope you do too.

Dr. Katz

The Art of Slogging

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OK, now that I have your attention. What the hell is slogging? The word slog is a verb meaning to work hard over a period of time. It also means to hit forcefully and typically wildly, especially in boxing. For the purposes of this blog, we are going to stick with the first definition. Personally, I also find the word imbued with a trace of difficulty or struggle as well, as if the work being done is innately more challenging than usual and that more effort is required. I also think that it implies a certain lack of joy in the task to be completed. Even the word itself has a heaviness to it, at least mentally and emotionally. I don’t find myself using it unless I am referring to a state in which I am struggling to get the basic requirements completed day to day. One final potentially positive component of the word slog is the implication of a necessary process, like slogging to get somewhere.

I think that this word perfectly describes the world at large today with all of the changes in restrictions, work environments, and day to day life. The level of unpredictability and the lack of control has brought out the worst in some and brought out the best and most altruistic in others. I even find myself struggling to get up, get dressed, and get psyched up to face the day, not knowing if I am going to be at the hospital for 25 hours or 4 hours, or if anyone is even going to show up. It is a conscious, sometimes burdensome mental effort to go to work and strive each day. This is by no means a reflection of how much I love my job. I LOVE MY JOB. I always will. I LOVE MY PATIENTS. I am grateful to even have a job. I have always embraced the role of the uplifting, caring, compassionate superhero to women. It’s my favorite thing in the whole world to help save someones life, make it better or bring new life into the world. It’s just that the positive level of variety that first attracted me is not the same. The variety I now encounter has more to do wondering who if anyone is going to show up on a given day. On top of that, my hands are tied with regard to what services I am ALLOWED to provide for patients. Some of the best aspects of my job in terms of preventative care and early diagnosis are severely limited right now because I do not have a crystal ball to predict what a patient needs without a procedure, exam or surgery. It is very frustrating to go to work every day knowing that I am not able to give patients everything they need. I worry every day about what I am potentially missing because of these limitations. Last, but not least, let’s not forget the mental burden of economic insecurity. There is no unemployment for bosses and business owners. There are some loans with a mountain of paperwork and extensive stipulations, but even those have no guarantee of ensuring the survival of your business of 20+ years. There you go, slogging at it’s best. I am getting through every day and working hard, but it is a struggle and the joy factor is more limited, not because I don’t love what I do, but because I am not allowed to completely do what I do. And yet, I keep slogging away in order to be able to eventually get back to running my practice as I see fit.

I get the same kind of feeling at home too. Most days, I manage to get myself motivated to at least attempt a project that has been hanging over my head( sometimes for years) and then other times I feel like I would rather scream than clean one more thing and I just don’t feel like doing anything. The difficulty rating of just going to the store has now been elevated to a ten out of ten between masking, gloving, making lists and figuring out a strategy to get the most with the least trips, knowing that I might not leave the house for an errand for another few weeks at best. Then there is the daily feeling hanging over your head that leaves you wondering if this truly is the new normal? On top of that is the constant barrage of input from all directions of conspiracy and control theories that only serve to add to the overall panic and disrupt any logical progression of thought. You cannot get away from them. You turn off the news and they appear on you social media instead. You turn away from social media and just listening to music and your broadcast is interrupted with another update. Whew! It’s a bit much. Again, slogging at it’s best. But, right now, there is no other choice. I have to keep slogging through on my way back to the way things used to be. It’s part of the process right now. It’s part of the process of doing my part in order to flatten the pandemic curve. If I quit or rebel, I am not making anything go any faster. Maybe if we all slog together, we may just get to the end of this thing a little faster. Let me leave you with this quote from Walter Annenberg, philanthropist, businessman, and ambassador:

” I want to remind you that success in life is based on hard slogging. There will be periods when discouragement is great and upsetting, and the antidote for this is calmness and fortitude and a modest yet firm belief in your competence. Be sure that your priorities are in order so that you can proceed in a logical manner, and be ever mindful that nothing will take the place of persistence.”

Dr. Katz