When Mother Nature sent us to our rooms, the imposition was all too familiar. Thoughts of being alone with only the voices in my head was daunting. I welcomed an unanticipated energy surge, yet nothing lasts forever. The Corona Blues are deep yet a spark flickers.

She called it the Corona Blues. Something about the ring of that makes me smirk with thoughts of summer campfires back in Northern Ontario. Summer, when did that happen? 

That I can smirk is a sign of hope. Smirks and smiles have become a rarity in recent weeks; weeks where I check multiple sources to confirm the date as I scribe storming thoughts. Mindfulness is difficult. Writing helps ground yet a Rocky trail taunts the stillness. 

Scars tell tales of resilience yet today the voices are far more powerful than the wins in those chapters. My eyes and abdomen are obvious instigators. Pondering what was happening as I lay listless with a bag of frozen berries to ease my black eye fires wonder and holds me in this darkness. Once my lifeline, a glimpse of the concave scar on my abdomen draws me in a downward spiral while I tune out from lessons of brain lesions. 

Falls on the trail, falls off bouldering walls, a finger sewn together as I dismiss my lack of depth perception, more than a bunch of bruises, bloody knees and broken teeth, countless aftershocks I have overcome yet thoughts of nourishing fuel is an acute epicenter. Rocking away from the present, thoughts are thrown in a battle between wants and needs. 

I troddened off of the Annapurnas 7 months ago when Mother Nature had had enough. As she sent us to our rooms, with my head hung heavy, I struggled to fathom as the imposition was all too familiar. A room in the company of only the voices in my head was daunting. Tapping into impermanence and lessons of perspective, shifting mine was the only way light could prevail when the clouds of Corona stormed in.  

A collection of mental and physical systems adapting, I welcomed an unanticipated energy surge, yet nothing lasts forever. My surge capacity feels like that campfire’s stoke dwindling after an intense burn. Considering the positive ways the pandemic has brought humankind together has eased some segments of the test yet the darkness is intense. The Corona Blues are deep. 

These four walls have witnessed sweat and tears, pondering and pacing, push ups and pull ups, inner storms and those of monsoon, writer’s block and recycled blueprints, shattered hopes of mountains, climbs and reunions. From a corner in Kathmandu I have made new connections, ignited old ones, and felt the drastic difference between choosing to be alone and having no choice. A little Nepali language, thousands of burpees and endless climbing knots have added distraction from the darkness. Sharing chapters of my story with strangers, there have been podcasts and inspiring interviews, enriching talks with organizations and students across the globe, talks with friends, journalists, therapists and doctors, yet much of the talking has been with myself. Heightened voices of doubt do not make ideal company at the best of times.  More pacing, more pondering.

Society has honed in on productivity during this pandemic. Ticking “to do’s” as done, hitting numbers on a scale, counting belt sizes and sun rises, fastest times and record breaking stair climbs, Everesting and runs to the moon,  podiums and pedestals inspire some yet in this dark space prompt inward questions of worth and shame. It is my responsibility to filter societal shoulds yet Corona has an ally.

As lockdown dragged, nearly every area of life felt a lack of control; something I grasp tightly.  A resurgence of ARFID symptoms began to surface. Triggers I could previously handle were firing too rapidly to dodge or dismiss, knocking me to a place akin to dark days past when I felt my TBI and subsequent vision loss were a life sentence. That I recognize the slipping is progress yet clearly I have work to do.

The COVID sentence has served clarity of how deeply dependent I am on movement in massifs to manage the mountains of my mind. Lockdown began as an opportunity to exercise personal strength yet feel empty as I type through tears. My toolbox has been torn apart. Some tools feel rusty, others too difficult to grasp. New tools are difficult  to come by in isolation. Craving palpable products and quantitative data in my days, expecting myself to thrive in uncertainty is like disrespecting a mountain; giving no attention to the elements. Mountains don’t exist without valleys. They can only be reached by traversing the lowlands. These isolated lows are lonely indeed. 

Grieving is a process with which I struggle. The loss of 70 % of my vision is omnipresent. Though tangible, grieving the loss is not a closed door. It surfaces where no one else can see and hides in a silent facade of strength. Now, the pervasive sense of loss rooted in the pandemic is pulling on a depleted sense of endurance. Loss of time and anticipated adventures, loss of balance, loss of fitness, all essentially rooted in control that I crave. Craving: clearly more work to do.

I aspire towards a relaxed, genuine relationship with fundamental uncertainty yet there is a deeply rooted battle to put ground under my feet. My resistance smoothers stoke. When I let go, embrace the dynamic groundlessness I give room for sparks to fire.

Deep within these blues a spark of hope flickers like that which keeps the campfire’s coals ready to reignite.

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  1. Tom Stevens says:

    Yes, Jill, this is a time akin to world wars in some respects. A force that we can’t totally control, so we only do our part. I know you have the inner sense of urgency that I have, feeling guilty and anxious, not doing something productive. And what is more productive than healing ourselves. I’m able to run or ride those mountain trails you crave, and you are with me, my friend.

    • Jill Wheatley says:

      Thank you Tom. Yes, nothing more important than healing within.Thank you for taking me along on your trail and adding to the spark of light I feel.
      Keep well, shining and sharing your light.