I don’t know if it’s because the weather’s been so utterly hideous recently or because it’s just been so very, very, LONG now since the first rushed scurry to lockdown began a year ago, but the past month has definitely been one of the worst so far for me in the pandemic, mood-wise. And in terms of the fact that I just feel knackered, frustrated, and bored. This despite the fact that work is busy and the days are getting longer.
I know I’m not alone in this sensation. Almost everyone I’ve spoken to in recent days has said something along the lines of “rock bottom”, “exhausted” and “just had enough now”. Our sleep isn’t improving. The rain hasn’t helped, but still — no one seems to be feeling the optimism we might have expected if, at the start of strict lockdown, we had pictured a world where vaccinations were going well and a normal life was being promised.
This increasingly overwhelming sense of lassitude and general ennui doesn’t fully make sense on paper. Things, after all, are getting, slightly, slowly, back to a kind of normal. Takeaway coffee and food is no longer a miraculous sought-after novelty, but available fairly universally, whenever we want it. Postal services and Amazon deliveries are almost as quick as they ever were and no one seems to be running out of grocery delivery slots anymore. It feels like the world we used to know is clicking back into a sort of life. Nothing feels as urgent or, dare I say it, quite as scary.
But in a way, I think all this faux-normality makes things worse. It’s created just enough breathing room for us all that it can start to feel like we’re living real life again. A quiet, dull real life, but still real life. We have enough back of what we’d already lost that we can almost begin to forget all the bits we don’t have again yet.
You know. The people bits. The bits like hugging our parents, or sitting around a table with friends, or leaning companionably against our best friend in a late-night taxi back from a packed, buzzing nightclub. Concerts, cinemas, restaurants. Trains out of the city on a Friday night, and the click-click-swishhhh of a hundred tinned cocktails being popped gleefully open. Dashing without thinking into a supermarket that has no distance-warning stickers on the floor or disinfectant spray next to the stack of baskets. Paying with cash. Queueing for a last-minute flight to somewhere warm and sunny, on a whim. Holidays, actually, of any kind.
What we’ve got now isn’t bad. It’s a lot more than we had a month ago and it’s definitely all we should have, right now, with the vaccine program not yet finished and Covid-19 cases still in existence. But it’s so formless, vague, unending. The days run into each other, even with our new freedoms. They have so few distinguishing features other than slightly different weather, a fresh bottle of wine, or a different Netflix box set to separate each week from the one before it. And then we’re left with that vague, muddled, tired sensation that arises because our memories are all running into each other as well.
“Often when we perceive time, what we’re actually perceiving is change.” The days themselves feel endless right now, but when we look back at them collectively they seem to have rushed by, with no new memories laid down. Think of how long, in fact, it really is since last year's announcement of lockdown truly beginning; how long we’ve been in the “new normal”. I think this is one of the reasons that it’s easy to fall into the soporific trap of just watching life happen. But I think that’s potentially so dangerous in its way because it’s so easy to forget how life can feel when we have more control of it.
So what’s the answer? Maybe it’s time to forget, for a little while, our valiant attempts to be positive or to blessing-count. Maybe we should wallow for a bit in the actual really-quite-bad-ness of our current life constraints and deal mentally with the fact that nothing is getting much more normal any time soon. Maybe after a bit of the “but it’s not FAIR!” we’ll be inspired to commit to seizing the day again when we’re allowed to, creating proper memories to help our brains make sense of time when we’re once more able to travel freely and mingle unreservedly with other humans.
Or, you know. Maybe there is no answer, in which case the answer is definitely gin. To be honest, it makes as much sense as anything else.