Lessons From ‘The Never-Ending Story’
The Fatigue Is Real but Hope Is Stronger
As a kid, I was enthralled by Fantasia. All the colors, sounds, sights and unique characters. It was a shared experience with my father, which I certainly treasure now that he is no longer here, but it also stretched my imagination and introduced me to magical luck dragons, evil werewolves and talking rocks.
As a somewhat jaded adult, I recently found myself rewatching “The NeverEnding Story,” and it touched me in a different way. I still enjoyed the colors and captivating nature of the movie, but this time I noted the life lesson it provided all those years ago.
The story is about one’s capacity for perseverance and one’s courage to hope and dream.
In many ways we are living in the Never-Ending Pandemic. It’s been more than 650 days since COVID-19 struck within our borders, and it just does not seem to let up. In the beginning, we psyched ourselves up and did our best to cope. We bought hand sanitizer and masks. We canceled parties and travel plans. We stopped going to the gym. We turned to Instacart for groceries. We adapted to virtual learning for our kids while working all day. In a nutshell, we hunkered down and stayed home.
But as the pandemic has continued with no definitive end in sight, I find myself no longer willing to deploy the same coping mechanisms I once did. I want to see family. I want to get together with friends. I want my kids to be in school. After months of spending extra time and energy dealing with this new pandemic lifestyle, I am tired and struggling to tolerate much more. I am tired of wearing masks, tired of missing out on experiences, tired of limiting travel, tired of missing weddings.
And I know many of you feel the same.
We are all mentally exhausted from “pandemic fatigue” — a term defined as “a lack of motivation to follow recommended COVID-19 protection behaviors.”
And we are all frustrated and anxious about the never-ending nature of it all. It continues to prompt an endless list of questions but provides few answers.
Do I go to that event? Do I let my kids join that sports team? Do I go to the office? Do we get on a plane to go visit family in other states? Am I putting the right safety protocols in place for my staff? Am I doing enough for our members? Am I balancing the need for connection with the need to keep people safe?
The list of questions goes on and on and creates a vicious mental cycle.
From where I sit, we are all struggling to remain tolerant because we desperately need to find a sense of normalcy, manage our work and life and regain human connection. But at the same time, people are still dying. We are desperate to find balance but unable to identify it exactly.
Now as we enter the next leg of this never-ending pandemic and watch the virus continue to spread, science be overtaken by politics and people turning on their friendships and family, I find myself entering a whole new level of frustration and anxiety.
The fear of the unknown.
Will we ever return to “normal”? Will we always wear masks? Will vaccination cards be analogous to driver’s licenses? How many more people will die? When will it be over?
Again, I find myself asking more questions and having few answers.
Near the end of “The NeverEnding Story,” there is a showdown between the hero, Atreyu, and Gmork, the giant wolflike beast who has been sent to kill him. As the world is ending around them, Gmork tells Atreyu that he can have the honor of being Gmork’s last victim, and they have the following conversation:
Gmork: Foolish boy. Don’t you know anything about Fantasia? It’s the world of human fantasy. Every part, every creature of it, is a piece of the dreams and hopes of mankind. Therefore, it has no boundaries.
Atreyu: But why is Fantasia dying, then?
Gmork: Because people have begun to lose their hopes and forget their dreams. So, The Nothing grows stronger.
Atreyu: What is The Nothing?
Gmork: It’s the emptiness that’s left. It’s like a despair, destroying this world. And I have been trying to help it.
As we continue to live with the fear of the unknown remaining an ever-present reality, my wish for each of you is hope. Hope in the human connection. It’s what will save us from The Nothing.