At the risk of sounding like I’m losing my mind, I have to say, I am losing my mind and I don’t trust anyone who says they are not right now. Acceptance seems to be the healthiest way to plough through whatever it is each of us is ploughing through right now. Masks all over are slipping.
A man on a bike in the park yelled: “Keep your dog on a lead!” at me. I yelled back: “This is a public park!” He cycled off then kicked myself because both my dogs were on leads so “they are on leads you utter melon” would have been a far better response. Another time on a dog walk, two young men running past in the dark thought it was hilarious when one of them giggled and shouted, “I’ve got a knife!” as they passed me. I shouted back “not funny” and once again kicked myself immediately because “I’ve got a fork!” would have made me a hero to my children. Curse my rusty comedy muscle. I really need to be back on stage soon exercising it. I’m only half a lockdown away from just shaking my fist at people.
This lockdown doesn’t seem to have quite the same spirit as the first one, where perhaps the sunny weather and the surrealness of it all helped keep our chins up and as we held onto the hope that it would “all be over by Christmas”. Christmas came and went. Did you notice? Many of my neighbours still have their lights up. My own Christmas wreath is now on the inside of my door. The sleigh bells and angels we adorned it with sit waiting for the real Christmas to arrive when the house will be full again with family friends and neighbours, and kisses on cheeks.
This lockdown, despite so many getting the vaccine, it’s a daily fight against sinking into gloom. Hearing about grief, sadness and horror has become ordinary and the sadness of that is hard to shake off even with the most rigorous Joe Wicks routine. The other day, I held a friend in my arms as she received the news that her father had died at just 64 old contracting Covid-19. (She is in my bubble. We live in a time where we must justify hugging our friends or else risk accusations of attempted murder.)
My friend is only 35. Her husband died in June of cancer and I have been supporting her and her grieving 7-year-old daughter as best I can, but there’s nothing that can be done about the sadness that overwhelms them in this hideous double loss except to keep them company. They should have an army of friends and family marching alongside them, helping navigate their grief but they are mostly alone. I don’t think it’s possible not to lose a little of your mind when you know so many are in the same situation, grieving quietly, knowing their loved one is now part of a graph at the Office for National Statistics.
In the other world, where we all lived this time last year we marked ‘success’ as being busy. “How are you? Busy?” and “oh my god I haven’t seen anyone I’ve been SO busy”. Busy pays the bills, busy buys food and a warm coat but, in every other way, sod busy. Busy is overwhelming. Busy stops you calling your mum and makes you believe a quick text or WhatsApp message is “keeping in touch”.
So often I’ve called my brother “a bit of a hippy” because he can fit all his belongings in a small rucksack and will sit around with friends and chat for hours instead of running around like the roadrunner on speed as I do because I, ladies and gentlemen, am BUSY. ‘Busy’ makes us talk about work more than we talk about what’s going on with our feelings. Feelings were rebranded in Trumpian times as ‘weakness’ but there is nothing weaker than ignoring your own.
A woman in the park got chatting to me the other day. We were walking our dogs and she was telling me about her anxiety, then she caught herself “oh sorry, I’m treating you like a therapist”. Good. That’s exactly how we should be treating each other, especially in lockdown when we are exiled from our normal lives and friends.
If you feel a warm connection with an acquaintance, tell them what's going on for you. I already know what the weather is like, I want to know how people are doing. It makes me feel better for the times people have asked: “How are you Shappi?” And I’ve replied, “I’m bonkers thank you, and, how are you?”
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