For all of us, it means vacillating rules & strictures, which often contradict each other and even contradict plain ol' logic. (Shul gatherings & weddings? No. Mass demonstrations, riots, and looting? Sure!)
Because of medical issues, some people fit into the category of those who are vulnerable.
For some, it means extended periods of unwanted isolation, including for those times they most looked forward to, like the chagim.
For others, it means cramped quarters with family members & homeschooling in a variety of stressful ways.
And so on.
Baruch Hashem, my family members are enjoyable people & I only have one small child around, which lightens the homeschooling burden (which, with the return of school, has changed into a game of catch-up; the 5-year-olds never learned to read past kamatz-patach last year and even that's shaky due to all the interference of the lockdowns).
And I'm what they call a "social introvert."
Meaning, I like people, but being around them beyond a certain point tends to drain me, rather than energize—unlike extroverts, who feel energized by social interaction.
It's not anyone's fault and it doesn't matter how likable & enjoyable I find another person; my brain naturally starts to shut down at some point.
With my husband & children, I'm less like this than with anyone else, so that's a big blessing.
But physiologically, I still need a break.
And I could never get one throughout all these months.
Then, with the resumption of schools & yeshivahs, I suddenly found my mornings free.
Suddenly, I was luxuriating in the luxury of being the only person at home.
I found I couldn't do much—just sit on the sofa and stare at the wall a lot.
It wasn't depression, despite the lethargy & feeling drained. And it wasn't unpleasant lethargy either.
I realized that it was the sensation that comes after you've been holding up a heavy burden for a very long time.
When you finally release your burden, you fall back in relief.
You don't simply pick up and start running errands & completing chores & projects.
No. Instead, you rest where you dropped. Your now liberated arms still feel weak from holding up the extended burden for so long.
When you regain your strength again, you'll get up again & keep on going.
And that's what I realized was happening to me emotionally.
I spent Day 1 & Day 2 of morning solitude unable to move much, intending that Day 3 or 4 would see me getting back to my feet again.
Then problems with one son's yeshivah and the dorm situation (due to coronavirus) changed everything, and I had a son at home all the time—a very energetic & cheerful person, but a person nonetheless—just when I thought my introverted self could start recuperating.
Another son (quite an easy person to be around) also kept returning home for one reason or another—to recuperate from a spontaneous midnight trip to Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai's tomb in Meron, to recover from dehydration (his oldest brother, who has a car, drove all the way out to rescue him & bring him home), and another time when he fell sick with a virus (not coronavirus as far as we know).
And I started to shut down.
Yes, I still functioned. But I functioned like a car with an empty tank, running on the fumes of the gas rather than the actual fuel itself.
(That is a big reason why blogging has been slow here.)
Feeling frustrated with myself, I tried to push myself, but it just wasn't there. (Whatever "it" is.)
I couldn't do much more than the basic routine (which includes getting my youngest to school on time every morning via a jam-packed bus—very stressful!).
Then a caring reader sent me Rav Itamar Schwartz's new booklet of Q&A on all sorts of questions of spiritual work & inner work (i.e., not coronavirus).
(I'm so sorry, but I cannot find a link to the PDF online right now.)
Basically, the rav explained that within a person's soul exists 2 opposing forces:
hope & despair.
Practically speaking, he says, a person needs to understand that just as the body needs to sleep, the soul also needs occasional "sleep"—meaning that during those "down" times, the soul simply cannot function at its best.
Sometimes, a person's behavior or thought patterns cause "down" or "dismal" periods. But sometimes they are decreed from above; for whatever reason, the person needs this "down" phase.
To avoid excessive acceptance of the despair, Rav Schwartz recommends internalizing the idea: "I will soon return to the way things were."
Emphasis on "I"—regardless of the situation, I will regain my inner vitality at some point.
And after reading this & absorbing its comforting message, I started to feel a bit better, able to function a bit better.
For a variety of reasons, my situation is that I was holding up a platter of bowling balls for so long, then just when I thought I no longer needed to continue with it, the platter was thunked into my arms once more, albeit weighted with basketballs this time.
And there you have it.
Anyway, if you're going through anything like this yourself, perhaps you'll hopefully be able to to take comfort in the fact that it may not be something wrong with you.
Your soul might just need some "rest" to regenerate itself.
Being that it's Elul & right before Rosh Hashanah, it may feel like this simply is not the time for a shluf.*
But who knows cheshbonot Shamayim?
It is what it is.