Wednesday 15 April 2020

Embracing Nothing

I took a walk around my neighbourhood yesterday evening, just as the light had begun to turn golden.

And when I say around my neighbourhood I mean down every single road and street I could think of, zig-zagging past rows of houses I used to walk past daily, and some streets I'd never happened to traverse before. There's just a small joy in secretly stealing a glance inside a strangers home as you pass, especially now knowing at home is the only place any of us are allowed to be.

It was a beautifully warm evening and I found myself coming to a stop outside a barbers. The sunlight glinted off the polished metal and rich maroon swivel chairs which sat facing mirrored oblivion. My eyes were drawn to the peeling posters that lined the wall by the window, for gigs, concerts and comedy shows on dates that had long-since elapsed.

The sadness I felt was perhaps melodramatic considering we've only been in lockdown for a month, but it wasn't just the outdated gigs that never ended up happening. It was the future gigs and festivals no-one could ever have imagine would be cancelled when these posters advertising them were put up. It was the way this would act as a time capsule from here on out, just like the movie posters in the desolate cinemas that have inadvertently preserved the last possible moment of The Time Before. While everything now feels so devoid of sentiment or meaning, the sensation of gazing into that window stirred something quite deeply apocalyptic.

A month in and the virus has now infected over 2 million people globally, and the death toll continues to skyrocket. Our Prime Minister has just come out of intensive care, and every Thursday at 8pm we all clap our hands and bash pots and pans outside our windows as a sign of solidarity with the healthcare workers desperately trying to keep us all alive.

It's becoming increasingly hard not to crumble into an existential hole, and I think it's something to do with this extreme sense of conflicting duality.

Because while we're living in this extraordinary moment that is fully detached from the concept of time, where an historic international crisis is ravaging mankind in a dramatic and terrifying way, at the same time, the vast majority of us are experiencing a complete abundance of simply... Nothing. 

We're locked inside without jobs, plans, schedules or purpose, without any reason to get out of bed in the mornings, yet that makes us the incredibly lucky ones. Lockdown feels like both a holiday and a prison sentence. A blessing and a punishment. An awful consequence, yet also somewhat of a relief.

It's certainly put a lot of things into perspective. Where my brain has always frustratingly defaulted to linger on what I don't have, or even better, what others have more than I, this time has served as a powerful lesson in gratitude. I'm incredibly lucky to live in a beautiful vibrant city by the sea, in a sweet apartment with a lovely housemate and a balcony overlooking a cluster of sweet independent shops and businesses with everything I could want or need. I'm lucky to be physically healthy and have remote counselling when my mental health wobbles, and a family that are willing to pick up the phone to me whenever I need to talk. I am grateful that during this time I don't have to worry about money, as our wages are being covered by the Government, and I have enough to get by. 

I've found I can also be grateful for this abundance of time, whilst navigating and managing these feelings of guilt as to why we have it.

I began this post on a very different tone, and wrote about a thousand words on how we should be making the most of this time and how I'm being productive in it, but I scrapped it entirely. It was definitely a kneejerk reaction to do the whole ~motivational blogger~ thing, and there's a reason I gave that the boot all those years ago. I just want to write honestly and freely, without intention other than to convey what life feels like when everything real becomes surreal. 

As I mentioned previously, I'm dedicating this time to an intense mental overhaul, taking a deep dive into finding out who I am and what I'm about when I exist entirely unobserved. And so far that has been both taxing and illuminating, and I'm excited to see where this journey takes me, whilst remaining very humbled that I have the opportunity to take this trip.

In this world where all we are left with are the two extremes of nothingness or horror, I'm grateful to be a part of those with that everyday sense of nothing at all.