Ruminations on lockdown - June 2020
We are in the dregs of lockdown now. Those final milimetres which we take a final swig of and ‘finish off' the bottle despite knowing the inky fluid at the bottom is just an accumulation of tasteless sediment and spit. These final weeks are bloated- as challenging as a snail trying to move through salt. My body and mind has the consistency of a congealed wheel of soured cheese, the weight of which pulls on my mood and my joints and festers away at any energy I possibly could muster to get inspired. I wonder how many others feel like this and I guiltily hope it is not just me.
At the beginning, those many moons ago, there was an odd, devious elation in lockdown. I relished the notion it could now bring ‘rest’. Rest was something I had been warned by my doctor I was in desperate need of if I didn’t want to have a more physical meltdown later on in the year. For four weeks I tried to ‘rest’. Yet, knowing I should meant all I wanted to do was work. A period of manic productivity invaded. Youtube, Twitch, Soudcloud, Instagram live - I explored all these setups. I wrote and improvised on a lockdown induced creative high. Then, week five and the come down came and I plummeted into reality, depleted, like Eeyore after a ToughMudder. I crawled under my duvert and took refuge in hallucinegic dreams. Now, weeks past, my body feels overdosed on rest, yet each day the more tired I feel. This self creating exhaustion eats into itself. After sleep has eaten away at all your muscle tone it decides to eat at your mind. You know you are in a bad place when you wake up sad that you have to get up. The lethargy of sleep and being pulled back into a dream is an addictive state to reside in. My duvet has become my most trusted lover and confident.
Alongside the lethargy, the conversations with others make the repetitive strain of lockdown seep and fester. The phrases “Don’t feel like that”, “Stop being sad”, “It will get better” aimed at being helpful the same way drinking bleach is meant to cure you of the virus, amputate your desire to communicate. Instead, they increase your desire to learn how to fight with a pitchfork and build up enough muscle to pick up and throw a car. In my head I have broken many things in violent and impressive ways. In reality I simply murmur “Yeah, I suppose you are right” before returning to eat the philadelphia cheese with a spoon.
At a socially distanced event with cocktail sausages and a gailforce wind someone kindly suggested to me when I stated I had lost all my work, “Why don’t you make a video that goes viral? That would help?”. This advise, alongside nuggets such as “Why don’t you just do an advert” and “Just get off your arse and write a show and put yourself in it like that fleabag lady”, (the latter my grandmother said to me, before telling me I had gotten fat), are enough to get anyone to google “How to make your own crochet noose” and then order the kit off of Etsy. Instead, I poured a large glass of wine, laughed and said "Yeah, I suppose you are right".
It does not help that at the age of 29 I live with my parents. I have discovered there are only two volume levels for a family living together in lockdown - silence or shouting. The logical and respectful conversation is dead. Now expletives, guttural roars and the effective use of a heavy door slamming reign. These physical and verbal assaults are the only linguistic techniques used in lockdown to express stock phrases such as “We don’t have milk”, “It is my turn to watch the television” and “Don’t use the toilet for the next hour otherwise you can hear it on my Zoom Conference call”.
In these last thirteen weeks I can moan vehemently about how I haven’t written a novel, I haven’t written King Lear or the next Fleabag, I have not gone viral, or learnt to crochet, or learnt to bake bread. I have not finally mastered the art of mindfulness or ‘finding love in the time of corona’, I have not understood what life is really about, I have not made peace with my body. I cannot do a handstand. I do not know what badges I have earned for my time living in a global pandemic...
But here is what I have done.
Gained 14 pounds. Perfected the art of looking at my hands in a way that suggests that I am thinking about something really deeply. Worked my way through all of Buffy. Made a spreadsheet noting which episodes Buffy presents the best outfit choices. Spent my savings on taking my guinea pigs to the vet. Attempted to go viral. Attempted to write the next Fleabag, gotten frustrated and then gone to eat cheese. Googled James Marsters and truly taken on board how much he has aged since 2002. Bought gifts I cannot afford for friends I cannot see. Started learning British Sign Language. Told my mother that she can’t just offer me her sedatives when I say to her “I can’t sleep well at the moment”. Bought ugly clothes from ASOS. Had a debacle with a crow. Taught over 50 hours of free comedy and theatre tutorials online. Spent a day trying to learn to cartwheel and then hurt my arm. Cried. Ate 12 eggs because my mum ordered 900 rather than 90 from the local farmer. Spent about 5 hours on the toilet due to the eggs. Written a CV. Read 30 books. Listened to 10. Watched 20 films. Listened to one album over 100 times. Drawn a picture of a tree. Taught a small child about guinea pig welfare. Eaten a lot of bread.
I think that is okay for now.