After the storms stopped swirling and the green shoots started to show through soggy ground, the virus came. As the global tumult of air channels slowed, the tiny tumult of particles took their place. All partisan, political, protectionist railings silenced by the global sweep of disease. On a microscopic mutation, giant glacial history turned. The slow realisation our lives have changed. The discordant normality outside our window – as we wait for the cough to come.
There is a sudden distillation of what is important. It takes us a while to catch up and let go of the padding that never really mattered. To shed the pounds of the ‘non-essential’ and be left with the bare bones of what we need. Gradually we realise that we are the people, and this is the time. Not other people, not other times. We are not shielded by our quality of life, we are no longer immune to the sacrifice many face daily.
For me the first day of home working has been surreal – both ordinary and extraordinary in equal measure. My daughter went to nursery, I went to exercise class. Only today we kept our distance, used no equipment and sanitised our hands. The Co-op was well stocked except for paracetamol and hand soap so we got washing up liquid instead. So far the drama playing out on a global stage still seems largely fictional in Cumbria.
I am a little bit terrified of how my mental health will cope with the greater social isolation that surely will follow. And, I must confess, equally terrified about the nurseries shutting. I have been frantically searching for climbing frames and play sets – anything to help distract an 18-month-old denied the socialisation she is used to. I know these are trivial, silly matters. I know I am lucky. Lucky to be healthy, to be young(ish) and that the virus doesn’t seem to affect children too badly. I know many would love to be worrying about climbing frames. Equally I am lucky to have a salary, and that my husband has one too.
So that’s me. Strangely the seriousness of the situation makes me clearer and feel stronger. My mental health may well suffer in the long months of restrictions but for now it is intact. It feels a bit like the orchestra playing as the Titanic sank – silly to carry on normal life. But perhaps that is exactly what we should do – keep preoccupied with the little so our heads don’t get swamped by the big.