Out & About: February Funk not as groovy as it sounds, especially in a pandemic

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/20/2021 9:55:27 PM
Modified: 2/20/2021 9:55:24 PM

It started with burritos. Or rather, the lack of burritos.

It was last Monday and I wanted takeout. The weather had other plans. After a brief bout of tears, my husband helped me select another dinner option, and I retreated to the couch for the rest of the night.

It was that moment that I entered a full February Funk: a yearly phenomenon that causes me to feel incredibly restless and depressed. This is my ninth Upper Valley winter, and while I appreciate the snow, there are days when the gray skies feel unbearable and the weather infringes on my right to burritos.

Except this year, like so much else, it is hitting me harder.

I know I’m not alone in this. Emails take longer to write. Choosing a show to stream or an e-book to borrow has required a mental fortitude I cannot seem to muster. Simple decisions about what to eat or what sweater to wear are no longer simple.

There are words that don’t come out and thoughts that are half-formed. There’s reading the same paragraph in a book a half-dozen times to take it in.

There’s been a lot of talk this last year about “Pandemic Brain,” loosely defined as the mental fogginess that comes from living through a global crisis. But add Pandemic Brain to the February Funk and it’s a whole new condition, name yet to be determined (though I’m open to suggestions).

Mercury was also in retrograde from Jan. 30-Feb. 21, so maybe that’s a thing, too.

While much of this malaise has to do with being unable to see people in person, it’s more than that. Beyond the changing screens and slight weather variations, there’s not much change in the scenery. In the February of before times, I’d haunt the same coffee shops and restaurants, but there always seemed to be something new to observe. My senses were engaged.

When the stay-at-home orders started last March, I felt a certain type of resignation and acceptance. I no longer felt that I had to justify spending hours reading a book or a day binging a sitcom. In a world where so much is measured by what we’re able to produce, I used to be embarrassed by the meals I didn’t cook, the hikes I didn’t take, the events I blew off.

Last March, that changed. Hibernation was encouraged. Not getting things done became more acceptable. Seasonal routines were disrupted.

Where I was once eager for more idle hours, now I crave plans. Creating a routine when I’m not working is a struggle, and even thinking about doing so is overwhelming. When I do manage to plan something and it falls through, it can be absolutely crushing.

Which brings me back to February. Though it’s only 28 days, it’s feeling like the longest month ever.

So what to do? Just push through. I’ve been trying to look forward to simple activities like getting takeout, going ice skating and going grocery shopping. When I beat myself up for sweating first-world problems like burritos going bust, I’ll try to cut myself a break. I’ll keep looking for small moments of joy and try not to be frustrated by bouts of Pandemic Brain.

As of Sunday, Mercury is out of retrograde, and there’s only a week left in February. And when we reach that finish line and look for the next one, National Burrito Day is April 5.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.

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