Much like a stockpiler's shopping basket, my brain is currently stuffed to the brim.
But instead of 87 chickpea cans, it’s the news; live instagrams; step-by-step cooking videos; Facebook updates from the front line; fake stories from family members who aren’t quite sure how to work Whatsapp; emails with “unprecedented” used 5 times in the opening sentence.
I am tiktokking between dancing videos and zooming between houseparties; I am tearing open Whatsapp messages with the unbridled delight of a mum who just discovered emojis and the fervour of an early-2000s teen who just upgraded from a Samsung flip phone to a Blackberry and the wonders of BBM.
It doesn’t help that I have actually just procured a new phone for the first time in 4 years, and now have the battery life to keep up with all of my worst tendencies (if I haven’t mentioned it to you already, it’s an iPhone 11 and we are very much in love).
Some days feel ripe with opportunity: I exercise more than once, I organise my sock drawer, I manage to balance screen time with chatting to people I love. I write, read, embroider and paper marble. I get dressed, I avoid the news. I am one big Pinterest board of baking and artistic projects. I am a fruit-and-vegetable-eating machine and nothing can hold me down. Who needs the outdoors! Certainly not I.
But on some days,
Life unravels spectacularly at the seams.
My phone is surgically attached to my body. The thought of picking up my book feels like too much effort. I conveyor belt snacks into my mouth like I’m on a one-woman mission to bring about a national crisp shortage. I social distance from my hair brush. Forget washing my hair, cos I won’t be seeing anyone til the end of time. I start to dwell on the unknown – what if I’m jobless come summer? – and the rising panic is directly proportional to the amount of wine pouring into my glass.
We’ve all read a million articles on how we should be using this time to blossom into the best version of ourselves, rising from the ashes of corona like some kind of hyperactive phoenix: a little jaded, in desperate need of a party, and please god a lot fitter due to all the IGTV exercise classes I’ve been streaming – but there’s no way of knowing what our world will look like in two weeks, let alone two months, so why are we in such a rush to get it all done right now?
You are allowed to feel powerless and perplexed; to have the disastrous days take over before you realise tomorrow is a fresh start. You don’t need to do so much, so soon, and when it feels frustrating, we need to remember that it’s a privilege to be able to dwell on the superfluous; to consider emotional stability above financial security and physical wellbeing; to be able to work from home; to self-isolate in safety.
There’s no right way to navigate a moment we could never have prepared for, and in the meantime, we find lightness where we can. We cling to hope and human connection. To the laughter with friends, no matter how manic, because even in the darkest moments, it feels good to muster a smile. Instead of cleaning the kitchen, we write 10-point eulogies to the futile activities which have become part of our daily lives but mostly, we remind ourselves to be gentle, because we have our health and we have each other, and for now, that has to be enough.
In the spirit of oversharing (because really – who cares at this point), here’s a cross section of some moments in which I well and truly exasperate myself.
Eating pesto out the jar with a spoon
I’m not sure how this started, but I’ll blame it on the Monday I decided to remove all Temptation Foods from my kitchen. No peanut butter, no back-up biscuits, no lonely crackers dwindling on the top shelf, lost, afraid and waiting to be rescued. Sans vehicle (cracker) and sans anything sweet to spoon into my mouth (PB), I reached for the next open jar: the pesto. And so it began. Perhaps it was a form of late-20s rebellion – the modern-day equivalent to drinking straight from the milk carton. All I know is that it’s not very satisfying, but it is liberating, and until my fridge starts 3D printing snacks, I probably won’t be able to stop.
Staring at the wall
This one’s HUGE. If I dedicated as much time to anything as I do to staring at the wall, I would be the Elon Musk of my generation (except not horrendous), or at the very least, I’d have two more pennies than I do now.
I’d like to say I am using this time to reflect, but I am not. My eyes are as vacant as the toilet roll aisle in a supermarket, and I am able to blackout for minutes at a time. This usually takes place lying on the floor of my bedroom with my feet on the radiator but you can swap it out for a scenario that feels familiar to you: aimlessly wandering the corridors of your apartment, opening and closing the fridge, staring out the window, colouring almonds in with a silver pen and only realising what you’re doing after you’ve done it, and so on.
Buying emergency wine
Some people panic buy pasta, I panic buy wine. Not in the sense that I am building a private cellar of moderately priced rosés with notes of vinegar and hints of regret, but in that I initially dallied with the idea of not drinking until this time was over. This was the least intelligent idea I’ve had all year – and I’ve had a few.
It took approximately one trip to the shop and two empty spaces on the shelf where bottles should have been for me to cave. So I have bought wine and I will buy more, and I have accepted the fact that this is no time for my empty promises. Wine is not a coping mechanism, but there’s only so much crazy the meditation, yoga and my 472nd lap of the greenbelt can quell.
(Disclaimer: I am based in London, and am not some kind of quarantine-flouting maniac with black-market access to a lockdown alcohol supplier).
Forgetting what I’m doing, as I’m doing it
I’m worried that the lack of stimuli is making me stupid. First it was the little things like mixing up ‘their’ and ‘there’. Then it was using words in the wrong context, and recently, this has evolved into forgetting what I’m doing, as I am doing it.
Was I trying to Zoom someone? Add 17 000 throw cushions to my online basket before realising I should be saving money? Preparing myself mentally for staring at the wall? Trying to see what I would look like with a fringe?
Can’t confirm any of the above, I’ll have to get back to you when I remember.
Oh, The Sims
As a young teen, I had a serious problem with The Sims.
We had one computer and three siblings desperate to do what all children do on this suburban simulation: cheat so you become filthy rich, build ostentatious games rooms complete with heart-shaped hot tubs, and force the heads of each household to practice free love.
Eventually I was playing so much that my mum started timing our sessions. I began to adjust the timer when she wasn’t looking. Friends would come over, and I would make them watch me play for an hour, while they were allotted 20 minutes. Distraught, my sister would log on to find half of her happy families in total disarray after I sent one of my Sims on a neighbourhood-wide woo-hoo mission. This all came to a head one day when I woke up at 5am to get in some extra hours, and was caught by my mum, red-eyed (and subsequently red-faced), staring manically at the screen. She took the game away, and left a Sims-shaped hole in my life for the next 17 years (barring the summer I rediscovered it in university).
Anyway, the moral of this story is: I’ve downloaded it again, I am almost 30, and my mum now lives in a different country.
Fact checking fake news
“Bill Gates didn’t say that. But also, have you listened to this song made with 8D technology? Yeah no clue what that is but it’s absolutely unreal.”
Deciding I’m going to do something productive and then organising my plants in height order.
They look really good now, so there’s that.
Panicking about what I did or said on Houseparty
It’s 9pm on a Friday. You are wrapping up an 8-way video call on Houseparty with the pretence that you are tired, but in the back of your mind, you could dabble your way into another chat. You exit, and immediately lock yourself into a room with four other friends. You drink, you realise how bad you are at drawing, and you emerge, 3 hours later, bright-eyed and ready to converse with the entire world. Unfortunately for you, the entire world is also on Houseparty, waiting for you to make your rounds...
...It is 8am on a Saturday. You wake up, and for a fleeting moment, you are bathed in the blissful ignorance of early morning light.
But then, it all comes creeping back. You said WHAT to Gemma’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend during a particularly heated game of Guac and Chips?
Enough is ENOUGH: you have had it up to HERE with yourself and this app. If anyone needs you, you’ll be digital detoxing your way into 2025.
It is 8pm and you are feeling restless.
You’re done thinking about Kanye’s next reinvention, and you are finished stalking your lockdown lord and saviour Britney Spears. Those little red notifications start filling up your screen, and you think to yourself: I’m just going to see who’s around. And then I’ll leave. Or maybe not. Whatever, I don’t answer to anyone! It’s a Saturday! *Messages every Whatsapp group telling people to come online*.
Rosie is in the house.
Putting glasses on my dalmation teddy and setting him up in various scenarios. It’s for WORK.
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Imagining my first night out after lockdown
Oh sweet, sweet freedom. I want to say I can taste you, but I have absolutely no idea when you are coming, and what you will look like.
All I know is that I will be so overexcited, I will overshoot the mark and will have to retreat into my house for another period of quarantine, but this time, it will be self-imposed.
So there you have it.
I would like to leave you with some parting thoughts, inspired by the most annoying post I have seen on social media during these unprecedented times.
And so the people stayed home.
They got riled up at celebrities singing Imagine like this was supposed to help anything; they turned snacking into a full-time job while they wondered where their next paycheck was coming from. Some days they were productive, and others they were just grateful to find a pair of matching socks. They forgot what wearing jeans felt like, let their housemates cut their hair and watched shows about a crazy man who kept tigers as pets.
They relaxed their pursuit of perfection and gave in to taking things one day at a time, because after they finally got round to cleaning the kitchen, they realised that it was as they had always suspected:
The rest of the world was also a bit of a mess.