Dr. Marry and Me,  Personal Writing

Springtime despair

There’s something going on in my head and even in my body, and I don’t think I’m alone in it. I feel a kind of dread about where we are, where we’ve been and where we might be going. It’s like I’ve crawled out of a hole and am seeing our new world for the first time. And it’s been decimated. I’m having a hard time articulating it, but it’s definitely front and center in my thoughts. I’m wondering if you’re feeling it, too?

I think perhaps I have some survivor’s guilt over COVID and how effortlessly we moved through it, despite the fact that Dr Marry and I both had it. We met with friends for dinner last week, and as we sat down, I thought: How many pairs of couples are now missing at least one member? One of four who should have been at the table and instead died of COVID? And I was consumed with guilt and sadness over that.

I know I’m feeling trauma around having lived through the previous administration and what that unleashed. There’s a reckoning that people in my life, people I have relationships with, actually agree with some or much of what was brought forth, and I don’t know how to manage that. The peaceful transition of power, which was hardly peaceful, doesn’t erase the unmitigated horror we all lived through, and it certainly didn’t put all the citizens who supported that man back into the dank caves and hiding places where they once lurked.

In my day job, I recently had a donor call me in response to a statement we had issued about gathering and say, “Dayna, I’m not vaccinated. I’ll never be fu^^^ng vaccinated. Now now. Not ever.” I suppose it’s too bad I lost her as a donor, but I care far more that that was how she chose to address the topic and me. She felt empowered to talk to me like that, but more importantly, she felt empowered to talk like that period. Over a life saving vaccine that 600,000+ Americans would give anything to have had access to.

In many ways, I regret the surge of frantic energy around work, as if we have to make up for the past 15 months right now. RIGHT NOW! There is no making up for it. It was both a lost and a blessed period of time. I want to hold on to the gentle, quiet pace. My safe little bubble, where I joyfully lived for these past many months, is being forced open. I’m watching my hopes and dreams, routines and patterns dissipate out the open doors and windows, and try as I might, I’m afraid I’ll never catch them and bring them back close to me again.

I know things can’t stay the way they were: our economy would collapse, more people would move into absolutely desperate situations, children’s education would go completely off the rails. But I also know that I don’t want to go back to the pace and frenzy of life pre-COVID when there was little time to be intentional about much of anything because I was running from thing to thing to thing. I have no desire to go back to that. Ever.

As my day job picks up a full head of steam, I’m developing a kind of sad apathy around Daily Dose of Dr Marry & DD and Personal Systems Disruption. I don’t really know how to articulate this either, but I spend time wondering if any of it is worth the effort—the 5 days a week livestream, the blogs and videos, the social media posts, two weekly newsletters, the retreats and courses. Does any of it matter to anyone? I know much of it does because people tell me it does, but I want so much more for it, and the pace is SO SLOW. I recognize the contradiction because I want to keep the pace of my life slow, but I want these two projects to move forward at lightening speed, when the exact opposite is what’s happening. So I’m considering taking some breaks from some or all the aspects of these “side gigs.” I hate how that feels—like I’m giving up, quitting, like I failed.

I guess maybe what I’m ultimately feeling is a loss of safety. I feel distrustful of everyday people now, casting a wary eye on those not wearing masks despite the mandate having been dropped. I find I want some kind of visible marker for those of us who have been double vaccinated. Better yet, I want those who have elected not to get vaccinated to be forced to wear something letting the rest of us know; I’m lying if I don’t say I feel like it’s actually not just the rest of us, it’s “the best” of us. That brings with it a terrible recognition that things like the Star of David badge were a forced visible marker to identify a specific type of citizen for others who saw themselves as the best as well. In other words, I’ve come face to face with the reality that my disdainful judgment of many people, my fellow citizens and human beings, makes me no better than a generation of people whom I have always been very comfortable condemning for their lack of humanity. I could say there are dramatic differences between these two experiences, but that sounds like hollow excuses to justify how I feel today.

Are you feeling these same uneasy, discombobulated feelings, too? I know I’m not the only one with this low grade sense of dread about how we reconcile our recent past, deal with our current reality and face a very uncertain future. What are you doing to navigate these choppy waters? How do we voice these feelings much less work through them? We have to face them, talk about them unapologetically. We have to acknowledge the privileged place we come from if we kept our jobs, our health and our lives and see that even with all that, there was, and continues to be, tremendous loss: of optimism, of belief in our democracy, of faith in our fellow citizens, of a basic understanding of who we were, what we valued, who we have become in this time and where we’re going.

I don’t believe I’m alone in all this complexity and confusion. Please, tell me what you are doing to manage these thoughts or others for yourself. How in the world do we come back from this?

I’m clearly not the only one thinking and writing about this phenomenon.

Dayna Del Val is on a mission to help others (re)discover the spark they were born with through her blog and newsletter, her professional talks and the (re)Discover Your Spark retreats she leads. Dayna works with people to help them not just identify and articulate their dreams but to develop a framework to get going on the pursuit of those dreams—today, in the next few months and for the years ahead. She's at the intersection of remarkable and so, so ordinary, but she knows that pretty much everyone else is, too. She's excited to be sharing this extraordinary journey with you.


  • Tim Mathern


    Thank you for opening expressing your thoughts and feelings as we move through what I hope is the tail end of the pandemic and the last presidency. I identify with many.

    My wish is that we hold on to some positives that we might have had, that we make some evolutionary changes that add to the quality of life and help us be better at preventing the negatives we have experienced.

    I will run again for political office having been reminded how fragile our democaracy is.


    • Dayna Del Val

      Thank you for your service through the legislature, Senator. It’s a battlefield of a different kind, and one often no less complex than a war zone. I appreciate your comments and recognition.

  • Carol Honcik

    Dayna, I so appreciate the way you can put your feelings and thoughts into words. Many of the topics you covered are what I too have been dealing with. It is hard to express the fluctuating daily emotions I am experiencing along with the many blessings I see, and then realize at the same time I am carrying around worries about the future. You have a gift Dayna. Thank you. 🙂

    • Dayna Del Val


      I so appreciate that you wrote to tell me this resonated for you. It feels like we are on a teeter totter, trying desperately to keep the balance for ourselves and others, doesn’t it? I guess all we can do is just keep working to stay even—to find some calm to balance out the chaos, some joy to balance out the fear and some gratitude to balance out the anger. Thanks for writing your thoughts—I really appreciate them and you!

  • Joanne Johnson

    Dayna, once again your articulate self has shed light on complexities that not many of us are willing to even begin to grapple with. The ease with which you take on difficult issues and reflect thoughtfully upon them in your seemingly effortless evaluations is something I hope you NEVER have to abandon. I say that selfishly because I love hearing your viewpoints and wrestling with your questions, in my own way and in my own time.

    My personal dealings with life in these uncertain times (and aren’t they all, actually) come at me at a very slow pace, which I see as the main difference between our two lives. Being semi-retired allows me this time of quiet grace and the freedom to take on my personal to-do list going about 10 mph. I’ve imagined the pace of your life often and seen it as more of an Olympic race: you’re highly skilled, deeply motivated and going faster than most mortals ever dream of going. No wonder you’re questioning so many things; I’d say you just may be on overload. (But then what do I know? You just might thrive on overload.)

    So today’s “job” for me involved tending to my small vegetable plantings and watching things slowly take new beautiful shapes. This year’s squash experiment, for instance, looks like a delicate painting ~ mostly yellow with green tips. Hence my hopeful feelings for the future … despite the craziness you alluded to in your early morning thoughts. I tend to trust …. the end.

    Love, Joanne

    • Dayna Del Val


      This response touches my heart so deeply because you and I have some kind of kindred thread between us that is pulsing with the most gentle, golden energy. I thought I thrived on overload because it was kind of all I knew. I suppose some of the discomfort about where I am is realizing that my job kind of demands that pace and energy, and now I’ve seen what another life can be like, and I want to hold on to pieces of that. Ultimately, I have to find the right balance, but I know I’m not alone in that—Kami would be another example of striving for (and often failing to find) balance. Your description of your squash was pure poetry, so I’m going to focus on that this morning. Thank you for writing. I love you!

  • Erin McMillan

    I always look forward to your Sunday thoughts, but today’s struck me particularly. I, too, am struggling. For me, it is the social pressure to hurtle back to “normal.” People need for it all to be over, which I understand, but just because we want it does not make it so. My idea of how to move forward seem to be wildly different than most. I feel a great distance from so many people that I love right now because of this, but I just try to remind myself that I can only “do me,” and make decisions based on my own truth. And, as someone else mentioned, I spend a lot of time with my garden.
    Dayna, don’t worry about stopping what you’ve started, or restarting what you’ve stopped. Don’t worry about how it looks or what people think, and don’t judge yourself for what you want and need. You are in a different place, yet again – we all are. Keep an open mind when deciding what to keep and what to change. Silence the voices in your head, and listen to your gut (my gut, at least, seems to always know the answer in situations like these). Life is change. There is nothing wrong with recognizing that, and letting some things go.

    • Dayna Del Val


      No surprise that you offered insightful, calm and gentle thoughts to this. I so appreciate your measured and wise response. I know it’s not easy for most of us to be in this new time—even the people who seem totally comfortable with jumping right back in likely have some of their own anxious thoughts, but because they aren’t talking about it, it’s easy to dismiss them as not being thoughtful or of having not learned any lessons from these past months. I really appreciate you and your ideas. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to share your thoughts.

      I hope you are well!


    • Gwen H.

      I also share many of the thoughts and feelings you expressed here. There’s a tension lurking in so many moments: “Yay, I get to do activity X again” followed by “Wait, *should* I be doing activity X again?” or “But some of my friends can’t do activity X again because they’re immuno-compromised and don’t know how effective the vaccine is for them – I feel a little guilty enjoying this activity.” I guess we need to get/stay comfortable with feeling uncomfortable for a while longer. It does help me to know that I’m not alone in the discomfort.

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