The lassitude of lockdown limbo

I don’t know if it’s because the weather’s been so utterly shit recently, or because it’s just been so very, very, LONG since the first rushed scurry to lockdown began at the end of March, but this week has been one of the worst so far for me, mood-wise. And in terms of the fact that I just feel bloody knackered, frustrated and bored. This despite the fact that work is busy and I’m able to have socially distanced walks with friends and there’s a lot more happening than there ever was in, say, April.

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 our current world: a world in which it’s perfectly legal to have picnics in the park with a few friends, or to drive to the beach for a walk, or get a takeaway coffee.

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. My office is open, albeit with reduced hours, and we are seeing clients again (subject to a lot of strict rules). Shops of different types are gradually reopening. Takeaway coffee and food is no longer a miraculous sought-after novelty, but available fairly universally. Postal services and Amazon deliveries are almost as quick as they ever were and no one seems to be running out of Tesco delivery slots any more. It feels like the world we used to know is clicking back into a sort of life. Nothing feels as urgent or quite as scary.

But in a way, I think all this faux normality makes things worse. It’s created just enough breathing room 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 of back of what we’d already lost that we can almost begin to forget all the bits we don’t have again yet. The people bits. The bits like hugging our parents, or sitting round 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-click of a hundred M&S tinned cocktails being gleefully popped open. Supermarkets with no distance-warning stickers on the floor. Paying with cash. Last-minute flights to somewhere warm and sunny. Holidays, of any kind.

What we’ve got 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 no vaccine in sight and the fact that the Covid-19 virus remains a genuine risk and our figures still ain’t great. 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 that March 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-shit-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.

Bottle and glass of gin with chopped lime
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