An Cailín Rua
It was probably always going to be the case, but it only truly hit this writer in recent days that when it comes to Covid-19, we are really are here for the long haul.
Call it naivety, call it living in the moment, call it denial, but when this was first sprung upon us in February, it felt like a temporary aberration from normal life; a blip, and that sooner rather than later, it would pass over and things would return to normal.
Even during the loneliest, strangest days of lockdown, being confined to small areas, starved of contact, it felt a bit novel and even a bit noble; this short term pain while living through a seismic event in global history would result in long term gain. It gave some of us a breather; some time to reflect and plan. Those of us privileged enough to be unaffected by the virus would play our part, do what we had to do to keep everyone safe, embrace and make the best of the strangeness of the situation because we knew it wasn’t forever.
Now, we find ourselves wondering whether we’ll ever regain the normality we knew, and if these new and unnatural restrictions will in fact be with us forever.
While the country has ‘re-opened’, the new normality feels fragile and unnatural; like the ground could collapse underneath us at any time. We can’t plan the things we are accustomed to planning - family celebrations, work events, festivals, holidays. Certain industries are working as best as they can to reap the benefits of the increase in domestic activity and travel but are wondering what will happen six weeks down the road if the well runs out of water. Is our economy just going to crack beneath us like a paper-thin sheet of ice, and submerge us all? Many businesses still have no indication when they will be able to resume activities, and of course, we are tiptoeing with fear into a school re-opening that is laced with worry and insecurity. The new normal is not a nice one, because it has robbed us of our certainty and confidence.
First world problems
Not having been affected by the virus itself, and thankfully, not having had anyone close affected either, I can say this with privilege; having to make a few small sacrifices like wearing a mask and not getting on a plane really is no big deal, and it is worth it. They are first world problems. But what we have now is a rubbish version of the normality we knew; where productivity is expected to be at pre-Covid levels and the pace of life has almost returned to normal, yet we cannot do the simple things that make normality enjoyable, like hug a friend, play or watch a game, go for a quiet pint, or indeed, comfort someone at a time of loss and bereavement. And it’s fine and it’s normal to grieve the loss of those things.
It’s also fine too to acknowledge that while the uncertainty is grounding – a reminder that nature is a force greater than us all – it is also anxiety-inducing and stressful. It’s fine to feel trapped - knowing there is nowhere we can currently go to escape this almost dystopian reality and find the normal we once knew. Not knowing when we will regain certainty makes it all the harder. Will it be six months, six years, or indeed, ever?
It is fair to say that this anxiety has made some of us a bit nervy, paranoid even. There is a lot of finger pointing and judgement. Our instinct can be to just and condemn other people’s behaviour or lash out at things we may feel place our own future comforts at risk, let alone our health. Political uncertainty and cynicism does not help.
This is in many ways a harder time than five months ago. Now, we really need to dig deep and draw upon our inner strength and collective responsibility. To keep ourselves and those around us safe from this undiscriminating illness. We are strong, optimistic, and resilient, and we will do what we need to do. We will get there, wherever ‘there’ is. But it’s fine too to acknowledge that it’s not easy.