Six weeks. Six weeks ago I had just come back from Venice. I came home feeling like I had a grip of where my life was going in the run up to 32, motivated by my travels and filled with a sense of contentment I hadn’t felt in a while. Italy had just started to report on the coronavirus outbreak, locking down some small towns far away from where I had been, yet close enough for my work to ask me to work from home for two weeks as a precaution. Fast forward to now and the whole company is entering its fourth week of remote working, the country is on lockdown and the person supposed to be in charge is in the ICU.
Life is unrecognisable from six weeks ago. Everything has changed and life is on hold. It’s been gradual and sudden all at once. Time doesn’t really mean anything anymore, a day is slow but a week is fast. It takes me longer than it should to know whether today is a day I need to log on to work each morning. Only three months of the year have passed but so much has happened in the past six weeks that it feels like they alone have lasted three months. There’s no end date. It doesn’t matter what time you eat, who cares what time you go to bed. The only part of time that matters is the attempt to take everything one day at a time.
The streets are quiet, the birdsong loud and the ambulances louder. Drawings of rainbows brighten windows of houses and messages thanking the NHS are sketched on the pavements in chalk, because the playgrounds are closed now. Dogs bound up to you on your daily walk but you can’t pet them. You notice plants and trees more than you did before. You physically stop to look at them, take in the particular shade of pink of a magnolia, or the shape of an ivy leaf. The sun on your skin has always been a gift, one of life’s greatest yet simplest joys, but even more so now.
Every day problems still creep in, though. Boredom is long and trying, yet among the highest of privileges. Virtual catch ups with friends lose the shine of their novelty, becoming briefer and fewer between, because answering the question ‘how have you been’ is short when you can’t leave the house, and dreaming up plans for the future doesn’t seem possible yet.
The boy who isn’t texting you back is hurting your heart, as padded as it is by the comfort of your home, safely behind your front door. You get angry time is being taken away from the opportunity to find your person, but then you realise that having the capacity to be worried about these things at a time like this is a blessing, because as much as it can hurt, it’s a familiar kind of hurt, at least. It’s not the kind of hurt others are feeling as they compute the death of their loved ones from a distance, not allowed to be with them at the last.
It’s still irritating when your parents can’t fit their faces into the screen on FaceTime like everyone else seems able to, until you remember your parents are over 60 and it’s the very thing you’d miss if this invisible killer takes them from you. A poor run still pisses you off at first, until you note that it doesn’t matter you’re a bit slower than usual or not going as far – you’re running through a global pandemic, after all, and any step forward is something. You’re moving, and you’re getting fresh air, and that’s enough. You never used to think that way, always striving for faster and better, but six weeks ago you were different.
Six weeks is nothing, and a half a lifetime all at once.