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Kim Ode - The Sunday Blues Descend

Kim Ode
Star Tribune

Published Oct 6, 2002

The collective Ooooohhhhh said it all. Our book group had been discussing a travel memoir in which the author gallivanted around Europe on giddy jaunts and quite literally was involved in a foreign affair. Then someone mentioned how the author felt lonely on Sunday evenings. Ooooohhhhh.

The Sunday syndrome, someone else said. I know, another moaned. And for a moment, the living room buzzed with that buzz peculiar to women who know exactly how each other is feeling.

Which, in a sick way, kind of helped.

There is a sisterhood -- and, no doubt, a brotherhood -- of souls whose "Thank God it's Friday!" turns into something far more sacrilegious by Sunday night.

I remember first feeling this way on weekends home from college, when my mom mentioned how I grew silent as Sunday crept toward sunset. I was shocked, for my own head sounded like a hung jury, a dozen voices complaining about dorm life. Mom called it "the Sunday blues," and sounded fairly authoritative. When I moved out of the dorm, Sundays ended well.

A full-blown case of Sunday Syndrome still crops up occasionally, mostly when being a parent seems too draining or when work feels -- oh, how can I say it? -- like trying to shake out the snow in my boots only to look up and see an avalanche. You know.

Mostly, though, it's the stuff of the quiet Ooooohhhhh when Sunday evening rolls around. Maybe we tried to jam too much into one weekend or -- and this can be just as bad -- the whole thing was a bust. Plans fell through. Friends were gone. I blew it and there's not going to be another for five more days! Sometimes, though, the Sunday blues feel like an ambush after a perfectly wonderful weekend.

A sense of melancholy descends as we contemplate what lies ahead. The weekend's varied pace dissolves into the daily lockstep. There are the things we didn't finish from the week before, and new tasks on the horizon which, if history is our guide, we probably won't finish, either. Sunday evening seems an exercise in self-fulfilling dark prophecy. We sleep fitfully.

There seems precious little research on the phenomenon, but maybe that's no surprise -- science of the obvious and all. Or maybe science only ventures where it believes it can offer help and this is clearly one of those, Hey, kid, shake it off! Get back in there! maladies.

I hate those maladies.

I hate them because it's easy to underestimate them. Maybe the reason a job gives you hives is not because you're incapable, but because it's a bad job. Maybe the reason you always feel underwater isn't because you're disorganized, but because the person watching the floodgate doesn't have a clue.

This doesn't let us off the hook. In fact, it lengthens our to-do list: Redesign job. Talk to floodgate supervisor -- whether that's your mother or your kids or a teacher or your spouse.

Or yourself.

That's usually the person most difficult to buttonhole because it's hard to make time for ourselves. A few years ago, I found a radio show on Sunday nights in which a choir, the Minnesota Compline Choir, sings for half an hour from Central Lutheran Church. "Compline" means "prayers for the end of the day," but I don't think the particular religious tradition is important. Truth is, it often sounds like some Latin chant from a 16th-century monastery, so I'm never sure what they're saying. But it calms.

Of course, I've only now remembered this program, having somehow lost the ritual in the avalanche of chores and homework and deadlines and borrowed worries. But it's still happening; I checked (9:00 p.m. on WCAL-FM, 89.3).

Listening to this, or anything, won't necessarily keep the Sunday Syndrome from my door. But it might help to shoo it out again before I call it a day.

Copyright 2002 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

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