One Year, One Place, Two Minds

We’ve been at home, oscillating between hope and fear, for a year. But we still don’t know if the world will emerge from Covid-19 a better place.

Image: Victoria Borodinova/Pixabay

THERE’S A GUY I KNOW, once sort of a friend, who then grew really to dislike me.

It wasn’t as if I loved him, either: he was a call-a-spade-a-spade sort of person, and could be blunt and insensitive. But it still hurt me when – abruptly – he decided that I was a wrong ’un.   

A few years ago, I heard that the same bloke had suffered a serious – and surprising – bout of depression. Word had it that he’d been signed off work for weeks after telling his doctor: “I just can’t get out of bed.”   

Having suffered with the condition for much of my life, I’d never have wished depression upon him, however much we disliked one another.

But, at the same time, I wanted him to learn something from it.

Now he knew what depression was like, maybe he’d be a bit humbler? Perhaps a little more understanding about what people like me went through?

In other words, I hoped he’d come out of his dark place somehow better.

But it never happened: this bloke recovered, he went back to work and normal life, and the next time I bumped into him, he was spectacularly hurtful and rude. In other words, just the same boorish prick he’d always been.

So why am I telling this story? Because, when I think about the post-Covid world, I worry that it’ll be like my former friend after his ordeal: just the same…

Despite all we’ve been through, and all we might have learned from the Coronavirus, I fear we’ll end up no better.

Time passes, and still I vacillate between hope and fear”

For the last year, we’ve all been stuck at home, flip-flopping between hope and despair, as we follow the news and wonder how things will pan out.

And, while the emotions that we’ve been through – limbo, terror, flatness, isolation, sadness – are bad enough in themselves, it seems to me that they’ll all feel worse, somehow, if we learn nothing from them.

Last May, I wrote a blogpost about all the good things that might come out of the pandemic – such as an end to austerity and homelessness, proper funding for the NHS, and society taking mental health seriously for once.

I found reasons to be cheerful in our changed lockdown habits (like the increased popularity of cycling and running), and calls to ‘Build Back Greener’ by making the environment a central part of the recovery.

But I didn’t publish it: all that optimism never made it out of my Drafts folder.

There was something about all that possibility that told me it could never possibly happen – not in this world of ours – and that I was being naïve even to suggest it.

And so more time passes, and still I vacillate between hope and fear. The vaccine story is – in the UK at least – wonderful news, but I still believe that the Tories will botch things up somehow. God knows, they’ve made enough mistakes already…

Is a Happy Ever After ending too much to ask?”

I’m also worried about things going back to they way they were before – after a year of more sleep and small kindnesses, of no commuting, and being able to stop work whenever I want a walk.

Simultaneously, though, I’m desperate to get away from the overall feeling of Blob, the sense that everything and everyone has slowed down, and nothing is going on.

I want reassurance that my career isn’t fucked, and it’s just Covid dragging everything down. I want to know that, at the end of it all, there will be better times and greater opportunity for more and more people.

After more than a year of feeling at the mercy of events – of suffering from our lack of agency, and being stuck in two minds about what might yet happen – is a Happy Ever After ending really too much to ask?  

4 thoughts on “One Year, One Place, Two Minds

  1. My happily ever after was going just fine before COVID, it’ll be just fine after. My happy ever after is about accepting the world as it is and doing my part to make it a little better.

    Know what I mean? Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s all small stuff.


    1. Hey Jim,

      I’ve been thinking about what you wrote on and off for a day now!

      At first, I thought I disagreed about the ‘small stuff’ bit – surely I was thinking about the really big stuff here, and worrying that I wasn’t able to influence any of it.

      But, like you say, the important – perhaps only – thing we can do as individuals is our own little bit to make things better.

      I had a little sit down in the garden this morning and thought about the (small but) good things I do in the world, and that kind of freed me from feeling more responsible for the bigger things than I should, so in the end it all became small stuff. So, I think I do know what you mean!

      I’ve been writing a (work) article about the technique of distancing ourselves from our problems by imagining what “a well-meaning third party” would say about us, as it’s usually a lot kinder than what we would say about ourselves. And then you proved it – you are that kind and well-meaning third party! Thanks, mate!

      Liked by 1 person

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