As I sit down to write this, it has been seven months to the day since life as we know it changed. Irrevocably. Seven months since I last drove to my office, parked my car, greeted my colleagues and drank crappy canteen coffee. More than 200 days since the world last felt “normal.” Since it felt safe.
For more than half a year, we have waited. Held in suspended animation. Unable both to plan and to be spontaneous. More than half a year has been cruelly taken from us. Pilfered. Erased. And it wasn’t just any year. I, for one, so looked forward to 2020. Eagerly anticipating what seemed destined to be the most momentous of years.
As with most of the pieces I write, I am aware that this too is written from a place of privilege. I am extremely lucky that this pandemic has not impacted my own health or that of the people closest to me. I have been able to stay working, albeit from home, and so has Phil. Financially, at least so far, we have been unscathed. I know that makes me a lot more fortunate than most, and I try to remain grateful.
It’s not easy.
I often want to scream about how unfair it all is. I have spent the time since early Spring bouncing between bouts of uber productivity and complete hibernation. It was easier in the beginning. Baking banana bread and revealing my lack of general knowledge in Zoom quizzes. There was a sense of solidarity in the early days. A sense too of novelty. None of us had ever experienced anything like this, and seeing as it was only going to last for a couple of weeks, why not make the most of it?
Spring became Summer and still we waited. We busied ourselves with DIY and BBQs. We talked to our neighbours across our fences. Enjoying a feeling of vacation time, lulled by the long evenings, and the sound of children playing.
All the while we were bombarded by data. Each of us becoming budding epidemiologists as we practiced our new vocabulary. The R number. The 14 day incidence. The death rate. We absorbed it all in the hope it might provide some clarity. In the hope we might one day learn our wait was over.
It’s not over.
It is the complete opposite of over. Autumn colours have overtaken Summer sun. The seasons have moved on, but we have not. We cannot.
The situation is so abstract that it has taken me seven months to even begin to process it. To try to name it. The feeling in the pit of my stomach that defies any label. It’s not depression, but it gets me down. I miss people, but loneliness doesn’t quite fit either. I try to make sense of being utterly exhausted when I have had less activity and more rest than ever before.
The best way I can think to describe it, is that I want to wake up from this. I want to recover. Like as if from the virus itself. I long for the feeling of knowing I have come out the other side. The feeling of being weakened, but looking forward to getting back to my old self.
You see, I miss my old self. I miss that girl who worked hard and was always busy. So many of the things which defined me are now either altered or gone entirely, that I find it difficult to recognize myself. I am now a woman with a hermit like existence. Working from home, in sweats or pyjamas, talking to people remotely. Trying to fill the hours between clocking out and falling asleep. Thankfully with gyms re-opening I have training as an outlet and some semblance of my previous life to hold on to.
I don’t know where all of this is going to end, and personally that’s the part I struggle with the most. Always a planner, I am used to being ten steps ahead at all times. I have spent my life constantly focusing on the next thing. Be it in my career, or with my fitness goals. There was always something to work towards. The absence of a plan beyond today and maybe tomorrow is unsettling and unmotivating.
I am sure we will look back on this time and be grateful. When it is finally over, we will recognize how much it has taught us. Maybe it has prompted us to rebalance life and work. Perhaps it has helped us to gain some perspective over what it is that really matters. Maybe we have learned how to slow down and be in the moment. I hope so. I sincerely hope this will not have been all for naught.
As I lay in bed last night with the idea for this piece bouncing around in my head, I began to get excited. Throughout this experience, I have not felt inspired to create, and writing had become something else that I “used to do.” A visit from my muse made me feel a tiny glimmer of hope. Perhaps despite what is happening in the world, I might be able to get back to myself.
Trying to coral my thoughts into some sore of order, the words of William Wordsworth kept coming to mind,
“Five years have past; five summers, with the length
Of five long winters!”
They resonate with me because time has taken on a strange quality. Seven months have both gone by in a blink and have seemed interminable. As we learn to navigate this “new normal,” we can be overcome by a sense of aloneness. It comforts my to know lines written in 1798 still ring true today. As if to prove the singularity of the human existence.
Thank you gentle reader. I will try not to be gone so long again. Wash your hands and be well xxx