The Great Melancholy

My ex father-in-law wasn't much of a fisherman or hunter. For him the joy of the outdoors was planning an adventure. When he hatched a plan to fish at the Texas coast or do an overnight crappie trip to a local lake, he would begin gathering the sinews of war weeks in advance.

He would spend hours prepping the boat and futzing in the garage. Trips to the local sporting goods store were required, but he did more shopping than buying.

The trip itself was somewhat anticlimactic for him. The joy was in the anticipation.

One of the losses from the COVID pandemic is the simple joy of anticipation. What once was expected to last 6 weeks is now approaching 6 months, with no certain end in sight. Most of my co-workers have saved up all their vacation time in hopes that things would safely begin to open up...but we know how that is going.So we are loathe to plan or dream, because we don't know when the plans might come to fruition. We are averse to disappointment and disruption.

While the loss of anticipation doesn't compare to losing a friend or loved one, it is loss nevertheless; one of a thousand we have endured during this season. I am not immune to it, but I am learning to fight back with 3 tools:.
  • Benevolent Detachment
  • Thankfulness
  • Horizon Shift

Benevolent detachment Our souls are not made to carry the burden of every tragedy, injustice, crisis or  conspiracy that demands our attention. Benevolent detachment is choosing to limit our exposure to it.
Retaking control over the quantity and quality of the news and social media I allow to take up residence in my psyche may sound uncaring, but in fact it is just the opposite. Without benevolent detachment, I open the floodgates of anxiety, hopelessness, and apathy. My empathy is a limited resource that I want to spend wisely where it can do the most good.

Thankfulness. I find it nearly impossible to be thankful without joy being part of the experience. Most of us by training or personality tend to look immediately to what is broken, failed or disappointed. Many of us make our living identifying and solving problems. Counting your blessings may sound like advise from an elderly saint or pious parishioner, but is a rescue.

Horizon Shift. On an offshore fishing trip, I began to feel seasick. The cure, I had been told, was to look at the horizon. Because of its distance, it didn't bob and weave on the waves. When I followed the advice, my stomach stopped bobbing and weaving as well. But I am taking this horizon shifting in a couple of directions. I am looking at the distant horizon by planning for a bucket list trip next year, and  also looking at the near horizon by planning things I can anticipate this week. I am  learning to anticipate the smaller things I often take for granted.
A Friday Tex-Mex dinner with my bride. Work at the deer lease. Sunday morning coffee in the gray dawn watching the world awaken. And maybe...if I play my cards right, an escape to a local river.


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