2020 – the bowl before the flush

I’ve always been good at finding excuses – and 2020 has provided more reasons than most for me to say ‘I will do X because of Y’.

Need to stay indoors rather that go outside? Thats a great idea. It’s dangerous outside so staying indoors is sensible.

Need a new piece of technology? No problem – there’s a pandemic. You deserve it.

Need to over indulge? Well why not – after all you’ve had a hard day and life outside is difficult. You have to find your pleasures where you can.

Although there have been many aspects of the ongoing lockdown/tiering (which has now been complicated by a far more contagious version of Covid – which in turn was replaced by YET ANOTHER more virulent one from South Africa) that have left me feeling that things have changed for the worst there’s one thing that has left me more worried than others.

I feel like something my mind – or rather my memory has changed.

It started in the summer months – when a group of fellow bloggers were suggesting that we do weekly video calls to keep in touch.

This seemed at the time like a really great idea. I love them both to bits as writers and people – and they have been one of the truly awesome aspects of creating a public blog, and the first couple of chats went really well.

Then I started to forget about the weekly meetings, be late or even more rudely – not turn up at all.

This wasn’t because I didn’t want to talk to them – but instead because my mind wasn’t working the way that it normally did and all memory of what I was supposed to be doing had just disappeared.

Moments after the meetings completed I noticed texts or missed calls and instantly started the process of berating myself for being a completely unthinking tool.

My pre-pandemic mental rolodex had previously been comprised of moments when I’d be meeting friends for walks, catching up (dare I say gossiping?) outdoors and generally servicing my primary motivation in life – which has always been communicating with other people.

Now, removed from this schedule (and really not warming at all to the whole zoom/teams/online video craze) I found that my mind began to try and find solace elsewhere, and slid into more insular pursuits.

Reading, web browsing, organising digital media, video games, watching box sets, re-watching movies in 4k (just because) the list went on and on – with other people (not counting my other half who makes life worth living) becoming increasingly absent from life.

My partner and I have watched endless hours of ‘cute dog’ and ‘reckless idiot car crash’ videos on YouTube.

It might sound stupid but speaking to friends remotely instead of all this mental re-direction just reminds me that I can’t see them face to face, give them a hug or be close to them.

It’s almost easier to not see anyone at all than it is to be close but achingly separate from them.

As this (at times legally enforced) stay at home, insular behaviour began to take hold, I stopped producing things (my writing dried up practically overnight) and I once again started consuming them instead.

As the fabric of life outside become greyer and greyer my mental sharpness seemed duller and duller.

What on earth was there to write about now?

I was already sick to death of the chirpy ‘I learned a new language whilst furloughed’ videos or the stories of people playing the piano for neighbours on their balconies.

Bollocks to the world.

All the things that I had worked so hard to enjoy and regain felt like they had been taken away from me.

I had zero willingness to do situps or jump up and down on the spot in my living room so that I could post a ‘how great life is regardless of everyone in Italy dying’ video on Instagram.

Biscuits however… Those were great.

Everything I was thinking about (if put on a page) would simply be moaning about how absolutely catastrophically s%*t everything had become in the world and how awesome hot cross buns tasted.

If Donald Trump, Brexit, Black Lives Matter, explosions in Beruit, and the gradual erosion of public trust in ANYTHING leaders say anymore wasn’t enough then my day to day job (as fulfilling as it is and as lucky as I am to have it) was doing a stellar job of reminding me that less than half a mile down the road from me in a hospital people were dying from a very real and very deadly virus.

I’ve a greater then ever respect for the people I work with in the NHS. They do so much with whatever they have at hand and sacrifice themselves for the greater good every day. Nothing (currently at least) makes them immune to this virus and they too fall victim every so often.

I’ve met quite a few people now that weeks later I’ve found out have been diagnosed with Covid 19 – and many many more that seem at the ragged edge of their nerves because of the workload and the isolation.

Sometimes I call them to help with a technical problem and realise I’m speaking to someone that’s recovering from it at home – or waiting for the results of a test. Sometimes I get tears, and sometimes I get frustration – occasionally even anger over the phone – all caused by inanimate objects that for no apparent reason have suddenly become yet another hurdle to overcome.

If this isn’t enough I’m also reading e-mails with daily statistics about how the NHS is trying its level best to cope with not only an ongoing threat, but a second wave that seems to be hitting way harder than the first.

There simply are not enough hours in my day to deal with the numbers of people that need my support to remain able to do their jobs at a distance and keep patients in touch with their loved ones.

Yet people still seem to think it’s a joke or conspiracy and that maintaining distance in shops or wearing masks is too big a price to pay.

It’s hard not to become angry or judgemental.

On the plus side I feel like I’m in exactly the place I was meant to be at exactly the time I was meant to be there.

I work hard and I already have a sense of pride in both what I do and what I accomplish – but I’m also dogged by the worry (usually at 3am when the other occupant of my bed is fast asleep) that I could do more and that ultimately I’m really rather helpless (and by that I really mean useless).

Like many of us this hasn’t had a great impact on my waistline – and it require a lot of effort to get back to where I was this time last year in terms of fitness. There are now a fair few bags of clothes in the loft that I won’t be needing again for a while.

However – it’s Christmas – and the absolutely amazing woman that I hitched my star to has managed to make me think once again about how life was not so long ago – and what needs to happen in the new year to try and get back there.

One of my presents was a personalised O/S map of where we live along with a checklist (made up to look like a list of XBOX Achievements) that I need to tick off with her as we criss cross and walk around the local area.

One such objective is ‘take a picture in every square of the map’ – another is ‘take the weather with you’ (get out in every kind of weather) and ‘can’t get no relief’ (climb all the hills).

I do love her.

And it goes deeper than just wearing matching slippers.

As time has passed this year and we’ve experienced the reality of this shi$$y new world we’ve never regretted moving in together – and instead have both grown closer than we were before.

Amazingly we’ve just passed our two year anniversary.

It seems like a lifetime ago (no-one was socially distanced back then!) when we randomly met in a public place (standing less than two metres apart without masks!) before flagrantly travelling up and down the country to see each other every week.

What was once ‘our relationship’ would now have been illegal – and we probably would never have met back then – let alone managed to maintain a long distance relationship if life then was anything like it has been in 2020.

Again – things happen for a reason and we were right where we needed to be at the time that we needed to be there.

We’ll get back to where we need to be, regain the lives that we once enjoyed – but in the meantime we’ll just enjoy the special moments together whenever we can get them, walking hand in hand in the park on a nice blue sky Christmas Day.

I for one cannot wait to pull a metaphorical chain on the 31st and watch 2020 stubbornly circle and refuse to flush before finally relenting heading down the U-bend along with Donald Trump.

Happy Christmas everyone – and look after each other!