It feels like we’re living in time suspended. Neither here nor there. On the surface things are quite normal. I get up, go to a coworking space to do my work, say hi to ‘colleagues’, work, come home. After work I go to gym classes, I go to the supermarket. I drink lots of tea. I see my friend Louise on a Wednesday to eat and watch Selling Sunset together. Yes, it is utter rubbish. I watch films at the weekend, go for walks, cook. I’ll meet a friend for a coffee.
But, of course, things are not as they were. I can’t remember the last time I went out for dinner with friends. Or perhaps I can, it was way back in February, with friends visiting from Canada with their kids. We had a typically Spanish late night dinner, around 11pm, sat outside, with the kids falling asleep around us. It seems, and was, a long time ago.
I’ve forgotten what it feels like to queue for a drink at the bar, jostled in amongst others in cheery spirits, talking to randoms. Or maybe I haven’t forgotten. I just miss it.
I miss hugs from my female friends. And I miss sitting together on the sofa, drinking tea, chatting.
I’ve been to one evening get together with a group of friends, since March. It freaked me out, everyone greeted each other with a hug but me. I felt myself backing away each time someone leaned in a bit too close.
I’m turning down any invitation to be with more than one or two people or with people I don’t know. I can’t cope with people who don’t understand social distancing. I feel that my introversion is rising.
My world feels small.
I haven’t returned to visit my family in the UK, since February. This is the longest I have gone without seeing them – ever. Pre-covid, I would return for a visit every month or two. The longest previous gap was three months. Currently it stands at 7 months, and counting. I’m hoping that a visit at Christmas will be possible, that we’ll find a way to make it happen, safely, but I know I can’t count on it happening. The thought of visiting brings me immense joy, but with it, feelings of anxiety.
It’s a strange thing, a big global event like a pandemic happening, and not being in your own country. It heightens the ‘otherness’ of where you are, of how you feel. I listen to UK radio, watch UK TV, read tweets and articles written by UK based journalists and writers, listen to their podcasts. I watch the BBC news. I’m a part of it, I know what’s going on, how people feel. And yet, I’m not there.
I feel displaced.
I listened to a totally unrelated podcast interview the other day, where someone greatly suffering had the realisation that others feel the same way she does. She’s not the only one. It was a significant realisation for her.
As people have pointed out, we’re not all in the same boat, at all. Some people are suffering with unbelievable difficulty and tragedy. Some people are dealing with serious levels of stress, uncertainty, fear, awfulness, every single day, with or without a pandemic in the background. It doesn’t compare.
But we are all struggling through something, in our varying ways. All of us. Maybe there’s some comfort in that. Or maybe there’s some comfort in realising that it’s ok to not be ok, all of the time. What we’re experiencing isn’t ‘normal’, so we’re not going to feel ‘normal’.
I suppose what we can do is try to look for the good in the now. And take comfort from that. I’m not in quarantine, I’m free to go for walks. I have friends I can see, I have a boyfriend to give me hugs and hand squeezes. I have a weekly virtual quiz with my parents, full of laughter.
And keep looking forward, keep looking forward, keep looking forward…
Written during Writers’ Hour. Join me on the next one.