My mood has shifted this week. For the first couple of weeks at home I was reasonably sunny: enjoying the privilege of time with my little family, the slower pace of it all. But over the last few days I’ve turned grumpy; as sour as the starter dough everyone’s husband except mine is seemingly tending to on over on Instagram.
I don’t really have any good reason. Sure, it’s a little overwhelming to never, ever have an uninterrupted adult conversation in the day. Yes, our dwindling supply of pasta and potatoes is causing me some slight apprehension at 3am. But on the whole, our days are still easy and quiet, and I’m reading enough Twitter threads and Reddit posts to know we’re very, very lucky in that.
I think the real problem is simply that I’m missing routine; the gentle rhythm of our usual life that keeps me skipping along. Suddenly, the intellectual and emotional labour of simply maintaining normality has drastically increased. The repercussions of choosing a snack are much heavier – will we have to go to the shops again? Will they even have biscuits in stock? Just getting out of the house every day is now a thing instead of an incidental benefit of us living our day to day lives. It takes regular maintenance to stop my brain from spiralling into tabloid headline hysteria, to stop myself from worrying about all the things I can’t control.
My solution to the resulting fatigue starts to slide through the day. In the morning I manage it with journaling and self coaching work; by lunchtime, I’ll plunge myself into some joyful work related task. In the afternoons I need to put in my headphones and go and wander the village, but by 4pm I’ve legitimised a white wine spritzer, sat out on the sunny steps at the side of our house where I trace the old initials etched into the stonework and imagine the people 100 years ago who took the time to add serifs to their casual graffiti.
Lockdown is like one of those military fitness bootcamps except for the brain. It’s hard and you’d be insane to sign up for it, but there’s no denying it’s intensely effective. Nothing has shown me the inner workings of my brain better than this unrelating silence; no joyful distractions, no escape from the mundane.
I guess there’s still Netflix and the aforementioned alcohol, to be fair, but my usual vices are generally much more external: sitting in noisy cafes to down out my mind; buying floaty silk dresses that might somehow reinvent my whole life. Dinner in a pub or a restaurant on a random Tuesday, just for the hit of novelty to keep my mood afloat.
With these displacements for discomfort removed from my days, I’m coming face to face with my most deep-rooted and mundane dissatisfactions. And so I’m trying to welcome it; sit with it, see what it has to say. Why do I find playing Barbies with Orla so much harder than a month ago? What it is about 10pm that makes me so suddenly desperate to eat?
I’m untangling it all, not because I think any of us have any obligation to do any more than survive this pandemic, or because I’m even convinced it’s entirely necessary work, but because it sounds like something to do. And God knows how long the wine stocks will last.