Day 17: Why is my sister hitting a sliotar with a surfboard?

Today has been a funny day. Funny as in strange (not sure if you’ve come across this word in emails much recently – it’s usually found sandwiched in between the words ‘these’ and ‘times’ which are themselves preceded by “I hope this finds you well and safe.”

For example, I was glass of wine in hand and about to sink into a FaceTime with a friend – I KNOW, ME WILLINGLY TALKING TO PEOPLE NOT IN MY QUARANTINE FAMILY, A MIRACLE IN ITSELF – when I happened to glance out my bedroom window and witness my sister in the process of whacking a sliotar with a seven-foot foam surfboard. Weird. It got weirder as my pupils dilated to take in the pantomime unfurling in the garden below and watched her drop the surfboard beside a pile of other random, household objects. Maybe she’s making a bonfire because COVID has taught us that we don’t we need material things to be happy so she’s burning all of her unnecessary, consumerist-fuelled purchases? I thought.

Instead, she picked up our pink-frilled ironing board. It was then I noticed my brother, several feet away and with the hunched shoulders of a man who did not know what he had signed up for, throwing the sliotar repeatedly to my sister while recording the entire thing on a phone that had been ingeniously tied to the long-abused Swingball mast. Our cat that thinks it’s a dog and was thus trying to intercept the sliotar and foil whatever bizarre video shoot was taking place, completed the scene.

Ahhh, a quiet Thursday evening in quarantine.

As seems to happen in these “unprecedented times” – another overused classic – my mood, which on the best of days is, shall we say, fluid, now sprints from a stasis of placid calm and contentment to an existential anxiety and dread-filled weepiness that finds me crying in a Dunnes Stores aisle.

This is not a metaphor. This has happened. Yesterday marked my second shopping expedition and thus my only contact with a world outside of the confines of country roads and the five other members of my family in a month. Thus, clearly overwhelmed and overstimulated by the bright lights, special offers, and the sight of OTHER SHINY PEOPLE (I think they were people, I was socially distancing so hard to tell) I suddenly found myself dripping tears into my trolley brought on by the in-house advertising announcements.

As the detached female voice coached us shoppers through the franchise’s response to COVID-19, I was suddenly flooded with this all-consuming rush of love for humanity and my small country working so hard to do so much that, yes, I may have had a little leak of the eyeballs. This moment of spontaneous pride and patriotism might seem understandable, nay, noble, until you realise the phrase that caused it. You see, while going through my iPhone notes to haphazardly record YET ANOTHER PODCAST RECOMMENDATION, I found the phrase responsible for the combustion. Ladies, and gentleman, in the course of this pandemic I have only been moved to tears once thus far and it was not during Leo’s state of the nation address, nor Simon’s endearing tweets about Easter bunnies, nor even the candle-lit vigils or thank you hours dedicated to frontline workers. Oh no. Far too mainstream for my innate contrariness. Instead, it is a Dunnes Stores ad consoling me with the promise “they will keep the bread fresh and the chips frozen” that has me wiping my eyes with shaking, sanitized, alcohol-rubbed hands.

I’m sorry, WHAT?

Who in their right mind cares about bloody frozen chips at this point? Who, whenever and if ever this all ends, is going to decide, on their first leisurely trip to the shops, that the number one item on their shopping list will be a 2kg bag of McCains oven fries? And WHY, in the name of all that is dystopian, unfathomable, and unprecedented, does this sentence – which is honestly one of the funniest pieces of advertising I’ve come across – have me washing my aubergines in hot, salty tears?

Ohh the enigma of the perpetually mysterious.

So yes, today is a strange day, characterised by this odd panic that only seems to appear after I have bragged to someone about how well I’m coping in this whole lockdown, living-at-home, is-the-world-ending, won’t-have-a-pint-of-Guinness-until-September madness.

Sidenote: WHY DID I SEND MY SISTER A NINE MINUTE VOICE NOTE EXTOLLING MY THREE FOOLPROOF LIFE MANTRAS THAT I BASICALLY INSINUATED MEANT I WAS ABOVE BAD DAYS AND/OR SUFFERING? WHY DID I DENY MY IRISH HERITAGE AND EVERY INBUILT SUPERSTITION AND OPENLY DISCLAIM I WASN’T JUST DOING WELL BUT VERY WELL???

I deserve to be smited. I deserve the shame of my Dunnes Stores cry.

Ok, back to panic. Without identifiable cause or origin, it manifests in a restlessness, lethargy and despondency that can really just be described as anxiousness. NOT anxiety but something simmering in its nether region.

By the way, now feels like a good time to point out I am legitimately hating every word I’m writing and don’t want to publish this but also can’t stop and am just hoping if I keep going I’ll somehow write my way out of the bullshit? That happens a lot. Assume that’s always happening.

Reasons for my mood that has me staring out the window on the brink of emotional collapse then five minutes later finds me loving life whilst doing a Hip-Hop Tabata Dance Video with my sister. Again, these are not metaphors – these are two specific events from my day. I need to write these down because I DON’T UNDERSTAND MYSELF. And some general points of observation from my day:

US reporters are being – have been – kicked out of China and my penchant for conspiracy theories and my overactive imagination are running wild on the reasons for this. Journalists who have dedicated their careers to China were given a mere few days to leave their home of many years, followed around by police in their final reporting and then booted out unceremoniously just before borders were closed to US citizens. Why? And why are the Chinese now alleging it was US military that brought the virus to China?

Coronavirus is now spreading itself among the lovely citizens of my lovelier small town. Patients have died and are dying in the pink hospital at the bottom of my hill. I imagined COVID like a noxious mist, a cloud of toxic air pollution that hovered over urban areas but now that fug is here, mixing with the air I’ve been taking such big lungfuls of on country walks. I am 400m from it. My family is 400m from it. It’s not scary but it is scary.

Marmalade is fast becoming one of my favourite things and I am disgusted with myself.

A family friend and nurse at this hospital had to be rushed to A&E as she struggled to breathe. She’s on Day 8 of the virus and suddenly the world went quiet as we stood around my mother and listened to how this woman of supreme health and strength was so swiftly felled by this illness. We thought my mum was going to have to drive her – we are a family of six with an elderly grandmother living next door, a daughter with pre-existing respiratory issues (moi) and a pops over 65 and very susceptible to any kind of virus. We all looked around at each other and suddenly my quips on how lockdown is really just a great time to reconnect and plug back into the meaning of life etc etc felt very frigging naive.

Oh god oh god oh god oh god I’ve just remembered the email I’d sent to my editor while on the “coping super well, life is wonderful” swing of my mood pendulum – I pitched an idea that now seems so outrageous, insensitive, and out-of-touch that I cannot bring myself to check my emails and read what is surely a disbelieving rejection. I pitched a piece in praise of stoicism and basically why my “live as if I’ll die tomorrow” approach to life is a mantra everyone should adopt. Today, watching the colour drain from my mum’s face as she listened to her close friend unable to breathe on the other end of the phone, I could kick myself for being so naive, short-sighted, self-involved. I can afford to live as I do – I don’t have children to worry about, a mortgage, a significant other who relies on me. I am at my own mercy. Of course I can indulge every whim, sprint through my day at five million miles an hour and give two fingers to the “what ifs” and “whens”.

I have listened to Saint Sister’s ‘The Mater’ probably twenty times.

I just started watching an IGTV of a personal trainer – not mine, I don’t have one – doing some sort of 10,000 calorie challenge. I didn’t follow closely so have no idea what the point of this exercise was. It made me so angry however, watching this person who is supposed to have a certificate that qualifies him to advise people on their health and wellbeing, fill his basket with a load of unnecessary, nutritionally-void, palm oil-laced shite. I’m sorry, what are you promoting, mister? I shout at my phone (as I still continue to watch the video). Pig meat shoved into a synthetic casing, processed junk wrapped in superfluous packaging – nothing about this is good for anybody’s body. I watched him eat 2,460 calories in 12 minutes – three pecan danishes, two rasher sandwiches, a quarter of those generic carrot cake loaves your work colleagues buy and you eat of politeness then instantly regret. I became angrier. Half the world is worried about food security (even without corona) and where their next meal might come from and this guy is making an unnecessary journey to Supervalu so he can eat four caramel squares in a row and then put it on the internet to achieve what? Some sort of Herculean status?

Watching him shove the cake into his mouth, Bruce Bogtrotter style, while still chewing the remnants of a ketchup-dipped bacon butty, felt voyeuristic because I felt I was watching an act of violence. He was willfully violating his own body, treating it with more disrespect and ignorance than if he’d starved himself. Is that too dramatic? Am I overthinking? Ahh, the two most frequently asked questions to scurry around in our brains these days.

My dad’s laugh – because it’s rarer than most – is one of my favourite sounds in the world.

Do you think emotions can sync the way periods do? The moods of my siblings and I are closely mirrored and not in the usual cause and effect rollercoaster of family moodswings where one person foul’s form automatically casts a black shadow over everyone else’s humour. We’re all very blah today, like we all met up in our dreams before waking and had a pep talk about how we would all be sad and drawn and pale today but we’d get through it and ok, time to go and wake up now. Perhaps we’re taking our Brady Bunch closeness too far and subconsciously mirroring each other’s emotions to be more supportive? I mean, it would absolutely be outrageous but not really surprising for my family.

We finished our final 1,000 piece jigsaw which is one of the most beautiful pieces of art I have ever seen and I don’t know what my life will be like without beginning each day knowing that, at some point in the interminable march of hours, I will get my daily ‘puzzle time’ – a designated period where my sister and I lie on our bellies, eat cake, drink tea, and listen to Bombay Bicycle Club or She & Him and all feels right and wonderful with the world.

Tree Tings

I normally feel like this list is more for the reader than for me but today I really needed to stop and find things to be grateful for.

  • Marmalade
  • Bread to put marmalade on
  • That moment when you think you’re out of bread and you’ve been dreaming of hot-buttered toast and marmalade all night long but then you check the OTHER bread-storing location and find not only bread but SOURDOUGH.

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