Sunday 28th of March, 2021: I just looked at the COVID-19 overview page for the Netherlands and cried.
It feels like we’ve been in lockdown since the dawn of time, and nothing is changing. I actually just googled when the current lockdown started, as I can no longer remember. When I typed in “when did …. start” (in Dutch: “wanneer begon….”), my two first autocomplete suggestions were “when did the lockdown start” and “when did WWII start”.
This situation is nothing like a war. I know that. But at the same time, it’s the closest my generation has come. It’s been just over a year since the first lockdown started, since the loo roll and tinned goods first disappeared off the supermarket shelves, since the corona jokes started to die down and the worrying began.
I am lucky. I know that too. We have a house – a whole house, with a garden. We have jobs. We have food on the table. A good internet connection. There’s Netflix, there’s e-readers, there’s Skype. We can order books online. Food too. And perhaps more importantly: there’s us – together. I have my partner. I am not alone in all of this. There’s someone to hug. To see, face to face. To play board games with. There’s someone to catch me if I fall.
Also: I don’t really like doing stuff. In the pre-corona days I would have plans to do stuff maybe once or twice a month. Most nights I’d stay in. Most weekends too. So it’s safe to say that the pandemic has had no great impact on my life – social or otherwise.
And yet, amidst all this prosperity, this luxury, I am slowly losing my mind. I have discovered over the past year that it’s the subtle, sustaining change that really gets to me. The relentless reminder of the world’s uncertainty and our lack of control.
A year ago I was writing inspiring poetry, working on comics and short stories and my book. Keeping my head up. Sharing stirring videos of Italians singing together from their balconies.
Now I’ve taken to sitting on the floor. In fact, I’m sitting on the floor at this very moment. I think it’s a quite literal attempt to ground myself. And also an increasing need to hide, to feel safe. I lack focus (I’ve been writing 5 paragraphs of this blog simultaneously and I also have 5 documents open on my laptop that I’m theoretically working on). I talk to the cats even more than I used to. I think they’ve started to talk back. I have trouble sleeping. I get angry more quickly. I’ve been feeling like I’m coming down with something since roughly mid-December.
A couple of weeks ago I went to visit my best friend, because yes, we are allowed to have one visitor per day, as long as we are back by curfew. We just sat in her living room, chatting, eating, having a few beers – nothing extraordinary. And yet it was one of the happiest days of my life. To be allowed to have a casual, meandering, non-urgent conversation with a friend. A friend who was not more or less poorly represented by a lagging video image of themselves. Whose voice was not distorted. Whose call was not dropped. When I headed home, I was giddy. Exhilarated. Boundless. Bouncing. Giggling. Skipping and dancing along the street, waving to complete strangers, swinging myself around lampposts – ever so slightly less gracefully than Gene Kelly. While I do not wish to minimise the profound effect that a good conversation with a dear friend can have even under normal circumstances, it was in this case most definitely exacerbated by the joy of doing something. Having a choice. Having options. Going outside. Meeting people. Yes, even taking the train.
I haven’t seen my mum (who lives in a different country) in over a year. For the first time in my life. Last summer things got better for a while. I managed to squeeze in a seaside trip and a visit from my sister. But now we’ve been in lockdown for 3,5 months and the numbers just seem to be rising. Even with the exciting new(ish) addition of curfew. Every time I check the overview page the lockdown has been extended. Now it says travel abroad is discouraged (or is it prohibited?) until the 15th of May. Last month it said 15th of April. What will it say in a few weeks? So yes, today I look at the COVID-19 overview page and cry.
Tomorrow I will rally again. I will look on the bright side. Have faith. But right now I refuse. I refuse to be inspirational. To have perspective. To be resilient. In this moment, I give up.