Coronavirus Shutdown: day 49

An isolated walk in Wicklow just before shutdown. I miss this.

What happens when this is over?

It’s a question that haunts me right now. Humans, of course, are hugely resilient. As a broader society, at least, we’re capable of overcoming war, famine, economic collapse and, yes, disease. We’ve seen it all before.

That said, the reality now is dark and difficult. I went shopping yesterday, a necessary evil that I hate to the point it makes me feel het-up and uncomfortable for the entire day I have to go. Then I head out, with a mask wrapped across my face as I pace slightly understocked aisles and try to feed a family for as long as I can. We’ve stretched it out to 10 days or so per shop, now, with a vegetable delivery arriving in a cardboard box in between.

But we’re the lucky ones, of course. Our combined potential exposure to the virus is minimal. We’re able to exist in a frustrating but functional cocoon of our own making, restrained by four walls but certainly not threatened by them, or forced to go outside and carry on like millions of others. We might end up another number of the 3 million people who already have, or have had, corona, or the more than 200,000 who have died globally. We know we’re privileged, because that chance is relatively small.

But it’s hard not to mourn what’s gone, too. Not just the people, though that’s devastating, but also the lifestyle. Humans are instinctively social, after all. Things like going to sports games, just one of a crowd, or travelling fairly freely around Europe every so often, or spending a weekend back home with family, or cinema, or gigs, bars, those are normal parts of my life. And it’s spurious to mourn them in this context, but it’s also very, very hard not to.

Coronavirus shutdown: day 41

Is it okay to be occasionally enjoying this? I mean, a lot of people are dying, and obviously I understand that, and at times I feel overwhelmed with the doom and gloom of it all.

On the other hand, though, modern life can be frantically paced, and being sat at home with my family, who I love and are great company, without commute times or particularly high-stress work, is often a really quite enjoyable experience. And yes, it feels very weird saying that.

Modern life has a way of creeping up on you. There have been occasional times in my life so far when I haven’t worked full time for a month or two (well, one at home, and a couple of travel-based lulls), but aside from travel I was caring for a very young child. In some ways, our current reality feels like the kind of temporary ‘weight lifted off’ situation that can be really good for general stress and anxiety that’s built over a long time.

There’s a different kind of stress and anxiety, instead, of course. One that involves a genuine fear of going to supermarkets, or taking my son out for exercise and someone coming too close to us, or relatives dying. But sometimes the silver linings, meagre though they are, are worth mentioning.

The situation outside, of course, is still pretty awful. People are dying by the dozen in Ireland, though the new infections are down, and there is some suggestion we might be nearing a peak. It’s a kind of long, drawn-out suggestion that isn’t entirely convincing: though the slow reopenings are happening in some countries, we’ve announced a shutdown of major events until the end of August.

The case numbers are up to 2.5 million worldwide, with the US now by far the epicentre, due in part to what most people seem to acknowledge are really insipid policy decisions by Donald Trump. 170,000 are dead worldwide, a number that rises by thousands every day.

The reality is, though, that things will have to start reopening before too long if we’re to avoid total economic collapse, it’s simply a question of timing it to reduce risk.

Adam had his first school class over Zoom yesterday. It didn’t work very well but he’s really missed his friends, so seeing them was something a little bit special. I miss socialising too. It’s low, at times, and oddly fine at others. What strange times.