“April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.” –Shakespeare
Sometime in mid-March, around the first anniversary of the pandemic changing life in Nova Scotia, I found myself pondering conflicting thoughts.
On the one hand, I knew Halifax Grammar School (where I’m headmaster) had much about which it should feel grateful. For a year, under challenging circumstances, we kept our school doors open, kept our community’s spirit up, and kept our eyes on the future.
I also felt a good deal of personal gratitude. Not once did I find myself deprived of going to school, deprived of engaging with community members, or even deprived of getting a haircut (I’ve been cutting my own hair since Prime Minister Chrétien took office; folliclly speaking, I’ve been preparing for this moment for decades.)
Still, on the other hand, as the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia arrived, I reflected on a good many conversations I’d had, conversations in which some described their year-long pandemic journey as trudging through the “longest winter” of their lives, a feeling exacerbated as we mark the anniversary of the mass shooting.
As much as they acknowledged they had been spared the worst deprivations and consequences of the pandemic, they also felt unable to escape the pervasive presence and pressure of the global pandemic, unable to escape a miasma of fear and uncertainty, which in turn, created a sustained stress. And that stress slowly sapped a sense of optimistic purpose from their lives. In medical terms, this is called anhedonia.
Anhedonia is defined as the “markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.” Not surprisingly, of late, the definition has expanded to include a “reduced motivation, a lack of desire for consumable items, and a loss of anticipation for experiences or activities.” For many, the pandemic created a collective, low-grade anhedonia.
For this reason alone, it seemed to me, we needed to fully embrace the promise of this spring. In the best of times, spring provides the proverbial antidote to Nova Scotia’s long winter malaise. But this year, following the longest winter of our lives, the warming weather and increasing sunlight have never been more welcome nor more important.
As we look to the final few months of this unusual school year, and as we work hard to finish as strongly as we started, and as we look to the vision of our post-pandemic school, we would be wise to let the coming of this particular spring be our guide. Its message that “all things must pass” and that tomorrow possesses endless possibilities is as powerful a salve for our spirit as the vaccine is for our immune systems.
I know it will likely take some time for this collective anhedonia to pass, but it will pass. And tomorrow, when it comes, will bring a return of anticipation, motivation, and joy. As the late Robin Williams once quipped, “Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!’”
That’s a party I am looking forward to.