It’s ok to not feel like this is ever going to end – like the aloneness and vitriol and invisible fear will always be overwhelming.
Like we’ll keep forgetting bit by bit what it’s like to be human, to ourselves and each other as we turn into nothing but icons and likes on screens, at the ends of zoom calls that don’t load properly, messages that don’t send properly, agendas that don’t suit or reflect who we truly are, because how can they?
Human communication is being reduced to the capacity of bandwidths, at the mercy of character limits, experiences limited from communication by the fact no one can have ‘a quiet chat over tea’, even though for some half our experiences are impossible to talk about publicly with anybody?
Because even though the clock seems to have stopped, there are still threats in the ‘real world’, out there where the sun shines on silence., which if we make it back alive one day will prove how little digital natter might actually matter, how little comfort the digital actually provides as a replacement from genuine humanity in these times.
The humanity that’ll jump out of the screen to feel the in-person, real-life fallout with you, when all of this is over.
It’s ok to fear it’ll never be over.
But, do fight for the world you want after this tabula rasa is complete. I can’t stress it enough.
Hope for it. Talk about it. Create in acknowledgement of the fact that you’ll outlast this isolation, and that there are things you do and make that will far outlast you in the grand scheme of things. Share joy and encouragement to grow for the growing itself.
Learn to create and foster creativity for future beauty alongside current productivity if you must, as many of us will. Learn to value people for future relationships of love, alongside their current utility if you also must, as many of us will.
Also, learn to value silence, yours and others’. Some of us reel from it, others revel in it and for some who do a bit of both, it highlights how their energy should be spread in their lives.
No one’s attention, patience or means are infinite, and certainly in this time many will receive sickness, death, absolute hardship alone. Realize distance will happen as a result, in time and space and talking. Working from home and virtual house parties might be elegant solutions when the opportunity arises, but there are people who die a thousand times over behind a smile every day, to whom doing the same again behind a call or screen doesn’t appeal.
And that’s ok. It has to be, because they don’t deserve to have to take on more energy, more questions when enclosed in the same way.
Realise everyday you’re stuck in this unchanging pocket of air, and toilet roll, and bags of flour, and time, is your opportunity to build the relationship you want to see with people, whenever we all emerge from our boxes, our cocoons.
So … write, create, choose to say something today that looks forward to when it is over.
Message somebody you’d never imagine you’d ever get to speak to.
Plan that socially distanced walk that might turn into dinner when it’s all over.
Plan that date that will be non-socially distanced, and tell each other about the warmth in your chest you know will come the first time you’re holding hands, finger pads interlaced and tapping.
Thank for their time and send on their way, any demands generated or met with hurt and anger because that’s a choice you can make to escape being part of, when all this is over. Because, as Ireland’s favourite wordsmith once said, “there is so much to fear and nothing worth fearing”.
I think while there is much worth fearing to keep perspective in this time, to be cautious to keep you and your loved ones safe, there is also keeping perspective and hope in this time by looking forward to when this is all over, with the same love.
Many of us have lost someone to this pandemic already. Or many people. And lost more again not in death but from our lives in a tangible final way. Many of us have lost something to this pandemic already. Or many things. And lost more again, maybe not in jobs and rent but in returning to our jobs when this is over and feeling a little more like strangers, returning to our homes and playing a terrified hide and seek with our erstwhile friendly neighbours.
Before this is over, we will have two weeks of feeling a little more alien, a little more repulsed and repulsive of each other. And if that’s not worth fearing, or that intrinsic ‘yuck’ response to people mild as it is, distilled over a paranoia of two weeks, maybe longer, doesn’t terrify you — I don’t know what to tell you, except that from my perspective it really should.
But alienation, too, will pass.
The time for zoom calls alone to commemorate those we have lost in the last weeks, the need to be shut in to not visit a mum or commemorate Mother’s Day, the inability to discuss your worst self-injurious thoughts obscured in the pleasant white-noise sea of pub chatter and a pint, because you know if it’s just you and your friend on the phone or in a room then it’ll suddenly feel like all the air has been sucked out with what you have to relive and live with splattered against uneasy silence.
This should be scary now, but this too, will be over.
There will be flowers we pluck for joy and grief, thrust into loved ones’ hands or placed in their hair without fear. There will be slices from the same cake, and tea from the same pot, and silent smiles with warmth in two hands, other two held in a soothing looseness. There will be pub quizzes actually in pubs, an actual fight for a round, a real sheepishness for a real clip around the ear when you quietly admit a less-than-idle, more-than-dangerous thought about yourself from these weeks.
And above all, there will be hugs, again, from co-workers. Kisses, again, absentmindedly stolen in a cinema. Love, again, old-burning and new-budding.
When this is all over, all we can do is to make sure we remember the fear of now, but remember we created and grew to not give in to this being the end.
Let us remember when we create, that far from appeasing rote obligation or anxious clamouring, we create looking forward with a gaudy, egregious hope.
So we walk out in a week, two weeks, as many as it takes — to relationships, and to roads filled with love.
For when this is all over.
Shubhangi (she/they) is a 23 year old medical student, researcher, writer, creative and advocate. She is currently working in freelance journalism and content creation, while using the pandemic to cobble together two manuscripts, and runs #OnceUponAPandemic every evening, sharing stories and talking with guests from all areas of fictional, non-fictional and archival, literary an multi-media storytelling.. You can find her on twitter and the stories at twitch.tv/swipensnipe.