You know that Tame Impala song, “feels like we only go backwards”? Well, word on the deserted city streets is Tony Holohan has started a secret petition to make it our new anthem-elect until 2047 when all of this shite ends and we remember what it is to shake hands and walk up to a perfect stranger or dearest friend and not begin our greetings with an agonising three-minute interpretative dance that aims to gauge the other’s openness to an illicit hug, fist-pump, arm squeeze. A half-hearted hokey-pokey: that is the sum of my social interactions these days.
Greetings, old comrade. We meet here again. In our respective dens of enforced hibernation, listening to the same old playlists, slowly sweating our way through the same, tired workout routines, and still – resolutely and with maniacal grin – continuing to set and then fail to reach unrealistic quarantine goals that, truth be told, are largely motivated by the desire to brag – subtly, of course – about them on social media.
I don’t really know what to say – a first. It’s all a bit blah, isn’t it? Blah like hardened porridge that’s congealed into an undistinguishable gloop in the forgotten saucepan. Blah like Ray D’Arcy’s interview technique that manages to reduce even the most interesting of guests to a prism of disinterested inanities. Blah like a dude in chinos. Blah like Enda Kenny. Blah like the West Cork Mist that I’m pretty sure contains secret sedative properties so nefarious is the apathy, lethargy, complete and unrelenting paralysis it induces in me.
This time, I really don’t want to be an old sack to be upcycled, trimmed, cultured, enriched.
It’s just, don’t you just feel there are so many WORDS in the world right now? I feel trapped in an endless cascade of content, my mouth stuffed with other people’s sentences, ears filled with the podcasts, panderings, political soundbites of people I’m supposed to care about and don’t, or shouldn’t care about and do, my eyes are one dilated projector of other people’s breakfasts, pets, fundraising pleas, productivity hacks, petitions, “this time last year” tributes, TikTok memes. What can I possibly say that hasn’t already been said, thought, expressed in a multitude of languages, formats, emojis, op-eds? A sea of sameness – that’s all I see.
boring boring boring boring
Banana bread = boring. Pictures of people who have only just realised the sea is a body of water that can be swam in and are acting as if they’ve made some novel discovery = boring (don’t get me wrong, I’m shwimming every day and fecking delighted for ya – what a buzz!) Uttering the phrase “Let’s do a Zoom next week” = boring. People behaving as if Biden’s win signifies the end of something = boring.
I’m just a little done.
And I am telling you because, personally, I find nothing more healing, more soothing and comforting, than hearing someone else express their dissatisfaction, fed-upness, angst, without the gratification qualifier or “I’m so lucky” caveat. We’re all lucky. We’re all grateful. And we’re all still allowed to find this annoying, hard, trying, even as we might equally find it happy, joyful, tranquil. You’re allowed to float between both, often twenty times in a day. You’re allowed – as is my wont – to hurtle between the two like a rogue pinball let loose from its cage or a graceless wrecking ball mounted by Miley Cyrus at her most tempestuous. What a perfect image of my own haphazard trajectory through this world!
I am taking a dark pleasure in self-sabotaging: of knowing I should do a yoga class, or respond to that email, or cook a nourishing meal, and instead am wantonly scooping hunks of bakewell into my mouth and calling it lunch.
You see, I am growing increasingly weary of a social media space that makes me feel less than and inadequate for not wanting to approach this quarantine as a time to view myself as a cool project, a fun hobby to keep me busy in never-ending improvements. This time, I really don’t want to be an old sack to be upcycled, trimmed, cultured, enriched.
Perhaps it is once more living in my childhood bedroom, but I find myself regressing to the wild neurosis and unbridled obstinacy of my toddler years: I am once again the two-year-old who, sparked by some dislike I’d taken to a house guest, would stride into the centre of an adult-filled room and begin to bang my head against the floor, while kicking and screaming like a cherub possessed. That is how I am handling lockdown #2.
Every post that tells me, directly or otherwise, that I should be “doing something” – please don’t ask me what the something is, I only know it as the sick guilt of Sunday night fear in my belly – is met with a spasmodic pounding of whatever surface can best imbibe sound and therefore save family from genuine alarm. I am taking a dark pleasure in self-sabotaging: of knowing I should do a yoga class, or respond to that email, or cook a nourishing meal, and instead am wantonly scooping hunks of bakewell into my mouth and calling it lunch. The hourly vibration of my Fitbit telling me to move – once the siren call that would see me sprint up and down stairs in kaleidoscopic haste at 14:58 – goes unheeded and I revel in the liberation of the disobedience, of the bizarre rush of control I feel in giving two slow and deliberate fingers to socially-constructed health standards. It feels deliciously transgressive, subversive – my one silent act of rebellion – to refuse myself the liberation of doing the small things to make this whole situation better which is, of course, abominably pathetic. But it is also really frigging good.
I am weirdly proud of this pushback refusal of mine to engage in the peppy culture of productivity unfurling around us. The seeming personal regression is rather a beacon of progress for me. You see, I am someone who finds stillness impossible and purpose essential: these diaries alone are proof of this. My brain is one pulsating reminder of everything I haven’t yet achieved and my fear of wasting time, underperforming, missing out, is constant. I feel genuine shame that I haven’t yet written a book (that nobody has asked for, expects, or even wants); I compare my fitness level to the qualified personal trainer and ELITE ATHLETE whose tutorial I’m watching and genuinely bemoan the disparity; I berate myself for not getting more out of “relaxation time” which is, of course, wildly unhinged. I am the person in a yoga class who uses Shavasana as a time to plan the rest of their day, think of a million side projects I simply must start NOW, or merely skips it altogether to continue on my hedonistic hurtle through life. In other words, I’m mildly unbearable and the very worst kind of millennial.
That is why, though this piece might read as a little melancholic – and just a tad melodramatic because honestly, exaggerate or go home at this point – it’s really a quiet celebration for me. This is me sitting in the slightly acrid pong of dissatisfaction and not trying to magic it away with the smells of home baking. This is my painful rebellion against the need I often feel to be the person who takes everything in their stride.
Perhaps I’m the only one who needs to hear this, but it is perfectly acceptable to take the to-do list and HURL it out the window. It IS actually ok to stumble, falter, lose your way a bit. As the Byrds once warbled, there is a time to every purpose (yes, if Sleepy Joe is going to quote the Byrds then you can bet your bottom dollar I will too) and perhaps our purpose this time around is, well, to sloth.
To vegetate and procrastinate.
To wring the hands a little, torture ourselves with masochistic scrolling through last year’s photo albums, watch the same rom-coms again and again knowing perfectly well they barely pass for acceptable in today’s society.
So, in response to the unasked question of how I will be “using” this lockdown, the answer is I won’t be. I will not be stressing myself out wondering how best to contort the short days and dark evenings into A CONSTRUCTIVE AND VALID USE OF MY TIME. I won’t be plotting masterpieces – culinary, literary, or otherwise – because “I will never get this time again so I have to make the most of it.” I will once again be undertaking my bi-weekly conscious uncoupling from the tentacled suffocation of ‘should.’ I will listen to the complex collection of exhausted and overstimulated cells that is my body and feed it with every slather of butter its fattened heart requires. AND I will keep writing to you, in the desperate hope that if I can distract you long enough, maybe you can join me in the hammocked warmth of placid unproductivity too.
Perhaps a bit of a morbid reintroduction of #500DaysofCorona 2.0 but it would have felt disingenuous to begin with anything other than a brief summation of some of the darker feelings I’ve been grappling with and that nobody is giving due attention to. I promise there’ll be lols and outrageous anecdotes to come. But, for now, can we all just sit in the collective recognition that uncertainty is stale, Facetimes no longer satiating, and another week that brings no real weekend a difficult and daunting prospect?