I’ve been struggling to write this blog recently. My mental health dilemmas seem pretty insignificant in the face of the horror and hardship that has been crammed into the last six months. I’m not particularly hopeful about the immediate future because our country is run by clowns. The new restrictions in Leicester prove the virus is still very much in circulation and we’re a long way from resuming normal life. Although the last thing I want is another lockdown, I’ve found easing restrictions more stressful than lockdown itself.
Back in March, the rules were clear and the stakes were high. It was scary and difficult for a multitude of reasons, but there was a feeling of Dunkirk Spirit as we came together over Zoom quizzes and Thursday night applause for the NHS. Such naive exuberance seems like a long time ago, an innocent era before we understood the full ramifications of Covid-19. Now there’s more choice but also more room for error. I’m desperate for normality to resume; how I appreciate the freedoms I used to enjoy with no awareness that they were conditional. However, I worry that the rules are lifting too fast. This government have demonstrated that they are incompetent at best, self-serving and negligent at worst.
Since my dad died, I’ve known that all happiness balances on a knife-edge and can topple at any time, but I didn’t understand the true extent of human fragility until the pandemic. Lockdown has, at least, helped me re-prioritise. When dad was sick with a horrible degenerative illness, I learnt the value of decent health and making the best out of every moment, because you never know when your time is up. But it’s easy to forget these lessons when distracted by the humdrum stresses of daily life. I now appreciate the luxury of being able to spend time with my family, untroubled by the possibility of passing on a deadly virus. How I long for the freedom to be able to meet a friend for coffee, take my son on playdates and the enjoyment of going out for dinner, a drink or to the theatre. Many pubs and restaurants are now open, but I don’t still feel safe enough to brave normal socialising. I’ve started seeing friends again, albeit at a very safe distance. Although it scares me, being with people I love is a relief because it is a reminder of how life should be.
I worry about my friends and colleagues who work in theatre or music, the situation in the live performing arts sector is still very concerning. Rishi Sunak has pledged 1.57 billion to the arts, which is very encouraging. However, it’s too late for the venues that have already shut their doors and I’m sure that freelancers will still slip through the cracks. I was supposed to be touring a one-woman show this year, which obviously won’t happen, but I was lucky enough to record it as a podcast. It’s not the same as being in front of a live audience, but it’s better than nothing. The frightening reality is that some of the venues where we were hoping to perform may have closed permanently by the time this is all over. The images of Soho at the weekend, thronging with people getting drunk is distressing for those who work in the West End theatres. They have to stay away from their jobs, with uncertainty and unemployment stretching out ahead, while the West End is teaming with people regardless. And yet, there is hope and at least the government is taking action; good news is scarce and it’s important to take it when we can. How many people will actually benefit remains to be seen.
It’s hard to know what to say. Usually, I might trot out some line about the importance of self-care and the certainty that things will improve, with enough time. This is still true, but in the face of massive turmoil, it is perilous to maintain any sort of conviction. I don’t want to abandon all hope and positivity, but I suppose the way through will be to be kind to oneself and focus on survival. The well meaning, early lockdown intentions of mastering the perfect sourdough, honing a six pack and learning a new language have mostly fallen by the wayside. All anyone needs to do is get through today, and that is more than enough.