At the beginning of this pandemic, everywhere I looked there was something to bring me down. These were bleak times. No toilet paper. Each news story scarier than the last. Everyone stuck in the same place day after day. People judging one another’s decisions, when everyone was just trying to make it to the next day.
Our world seemed incredibly broken in so many ways that it was very easy to succumb to sitting around and living in that dark, depressing head space. There wasn’t a lot to laugh about and it was starting to feel like there wasn’t much to look forward to, either.
One day bled into the next, two weeks became two months, and before I knew it I had a dark cloud following me as I tried to organize yet another room. I started to feel a hopeless feeling like I have never experienced before, which is scary when you have two children in the house and they are looking to you for guidance. They needed me to remind them that everything was going to be OK. For the first time in my life, I felt consumed by a depression so deep that I didn’t know if I could tell them it would be.
During this time home in quarantine, I decided to take several different creative writing classes to change things up. I had always used writing as a way to express myself. But given that I felt so out of touch with the outside world, I figured taking a writing class and connecting with some new people might be just what I needed, even if it meant more Zoom calls.
If someone would have asked me a year ago if I would ever write a play, I would have laughed out loud. While I love theater, my only personal experience with being in a play was a very small role in our high school musical an embarrassing number of years ago. But here I was, taking a playwriting class, of all things. It was so far from anything I had done before.
It became apparent pretty quickly that I was gravitating toward comedy. Those were the plays I wanted to read and surround myself with. When the time came to write my own, it seemed only fitting that I would create a fictional piece based on a funny, real-life road trip that took place over 20 years ago.
I certainly didn’t want to spend the next eight weeks of my life writing about something that depressed me further. What I needed was to transport myself to a time when life seemed lighter. Still, it wasn’t until a playwright who had listened to actors perform our work commented about how rare it was to see comedy during our real-life national tragedy that I realized what a gift I’d given myself.
I became energized through this writing class and it gave me hope. I looked forward to meeting with my teacher and fellow students to workshop our pieces. My husband became my editor, which gave us so many new, fun topics to discuss. I started to share what I was doing with my parents and with my friends. I felt like a light had been switched on after so much darkness.
Writing about a single funny anecdote unlocked many others from my memory. One of my twins heard me laughing one day while working on my writing and asked, “Mom, what’s so funny?” And I realized I had so many stories to tell them. My children are at that age when they love hearing tales about my younger self. Suddenly, I had tons of material!
Dealing with depression is never easy, but when you throw this pandemic into the mix it becomes exponentially more difficult. Choosing to write a comedy was the best choice I’ve made in a long time. It made me feel like myself again. Through composing witty dialogue, I was reminded how important it is to laugh — and how darn good it feels to laugh with your whole belly. Sharing my experiences with those I care about reinvigorated me and gave me a sense of connection I’d been missing.
I can finally sigh with relief.
We are a long way from returning to our pre-pandemic life, but through this experience I’m confident that there is hope on the horizon. Sometimes you need to look extra hard to find that laughter, but it’s good to remember there was life before COVID and there will be life after. I feel more comfortable now telling my twin boys that in time, yes, things surely will be OK. The sun will come out tomorrow.
Lisa Wilkesheski is a mom and substitute teacher who lives in Highlands Ranch.