Wednesday, December 23 2020

zoom-mas, monster trucks, and feeling depressed

page banner

Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone. Happy Wednesday. It's the eve of Christmas eve - also known as Festivus. And I'm not even pulling your leg there - you can look it up. The actual day Festivus is observed is on December 23rd, the eve of Christmas Eve. Time to dig the metal Festivus pole out of the basement and set it up in the least distracting corner of the house to honor the made for TV holiday.

Sip. How are you feeling today? Did you get to open any new presents yet? We were fortunate enough to dip into some of the Christmas stash last night as part of the Recker family zoom-mas. I scored a dartboard, a game of Battleship, a new pair of Adidas flip-flops to replace the pair that I've been wearing all winter - with little time to spare too, these things were falling apart on my feet.

I hate to be a bummer, but yesterday was so-so. Looking at my calendar, you'd think I'd have the most incredible day. There wasn't a meeting in sight. I hacked on the same problem at my own pace until quitting time, when I got to finish the work day with an hour long nap. I woke up to the smell of hot delivery pizza on the table. Marissa and I opened up a bottle of wine and joined our family over zoom to open presents and hang out. But everything left me feeling depressed, and this morning I'm still trying to figure out why.

I think I let my guard down and forgot to temper my expectations. I've been so excited about this Christmas week and all the time to relax with family that I didn't stop to consider the possibility that Christmas over zoom would just feel like any other zoom hang out - the same kind of zoom hang outs we've regularly conducted throughout this entire pandemic. We met. We connected. We opened gifts and shared a few memories. Then all at once, I shut my laptop lid and I was back to putting the house back together in silence.

I'm feeling depressed. The lessons never stop. For today's lesson, I'm trying to process the truth that it's normal to feel depressed sometimes. Christmas over zoom sucks, and if not for the tree in the decorations in the house and the Christmas music we play in the living room during the day, this would just be a regular slice of quarantine life. We're still waking up with nowhere to go. Still the same endless battle trying to keep things from going bad in my fridge, wiping up crums, and spraying Windex on things.

I'm having a tough one today. Some weeks in quarantine I feel invincible, like I could do this another year if I had to. And other weeks, like this one, I feel utterly suffocated, and all I want to do is spend the day eating fast food and screaming into a pillow.

Not to say that our time together as a family wasn't special. Rodney was in bliss looking at all the new toys he has to play with. My dad wrote a poem for each of us, and we read them aloud with equal parts of tears and laughter.

2020 12 23 zoom christmas

After we had finished the call, Rodney begged us to help him set up his giant remote control monster truck. Marissa popped a pair of batteries into the tiny remote control. The truck's headlights glowed a sinister red and the car stirred to life.

Rodney hurriedly put on his coat and boots. With his mouth frozen in a permanent grin, he piloted the truck out through the front door, rambling down our cement steps after it. Rodney proceeded to do donuts in the front yard. Together, we stood outside watching Rodney peel up and down the side walk and into the street.

2020 12 23 monster truck

"WOAH WOAH WOAH," I yelled, watching the truck barrel towards the adjacent busy street. "Don't turn out onto East Wash, dude." I made my self chuckle picturing the bleak scenario of his shiny new monster truck getting t-boned in traffic. Rodney flipped the car around, sending it careening back towards our house. After we all had our fill of monster truck fun in the snow, Rodney obediently brought his new car inside. "Night night, monster truck - thank you," he said quietly.

2020 12 23 monster truck 2

Marissa put Rodney to bed, and as we straightened out the dining room, we talked.

"Do you feel tired?" asked Marissa.

"Yeah a little bit," I laughed.

"Isn't it funny? We didn't even go anywhere?" she added.

"There's a lot to learn from that, huh?" I asked. "That just goes to show how much thinking about something can tire you out."

I guess that's one aspect of quarantine that never fails to amuse me. I still feel exhausted after a gathering, even if we didn't leave our dining room. There's a sense of relief when the webcam goes blank and the microphone stops picking up audio that's reminiscent of coming home from a long road trip or an evening filled with real socializing.

There's another lesson from quarantine. You don't have to go anywhere to feel exhausted. Your brain is just as good at zapping your energy as your body is. Take breaks from thinking about something is just as important as taking a break from doing something.

Before turning in for the night, I set up my new dart board on the kitchen counter. I handed Marissa a handful of darts. We took turns throwing at the target from across the kitchen. The dogs, patiently waiting to head upstairs for the night, nervously watched as flying projectiles passed overhead.

"OK, closest to the bullseye wins," I said. "And we can't go to bed until you win."

"Oh gosh," said Marissa. "I guess we're never going to bed."

Thanks for stopping by today. Hope you have a wonderful day, everyone - hang in there.