Before anyone had ever heard of Covid-19, I went out. A lot. Every week held the excitement of drinks with friends, date night, lunches, gym visits, shopping trips and spa days. Like most Dubliners, I made the most of living in such a vibrant city. Other than when I broke my ankle 15 years ago, I don’t think I have spent two consecutive weekends at home. Then Covid arrived and all our lives changed. We no longer controlled our own destiny. The pages of our packed diaries were suddenly ripped up before our eyes.
Now we are being offered more freedoms, and my steps back into the world have been much more tentative than I could have imagined four months ago. And I’m not alone – many friends have suggested they won’t be rushing back to make restaurant reservations or setting up get togethers. I have been pondering why this is the case and I think I have some ideas…
We have been told to stay at home because there is a life-threatening virus out there. Just because lockdown restrictions have eased, that does not negate the fact that Covid is still out there, possibly lurking on a door handle or a pin pad. I know that cases are falling and that the changes of community transmission are now low, but as someone who has a history of asthma, I must confess to being just a little bit terrified.
Do you know that if you keep a wild animal in a cage long enough, it will stop trying to escape? During the first few weeks of lockdown I was forever raging against my captivity – “let me out… I’ll take my chances” was my war cry. Now I am used to living in a 2km circle. I am used to spending 23 hours a day inside. My world shrunk and my expectations shrunk with it. Freedoms may have been restored, but our minds may not quite be there yet.
There is a small part of me that knows that as long as I stay at home, I don’t have to face the fact that the world has changed immeasurably for the worse. I can deny all the things that would have been unimaginable a year ago – long queues, wearing a mask, not being able to see or hug my friends, being terrified to get on a bus…
Many amongst us have come to the realisation that not frantically filling our days with frenetic activity is just the tonic that they need. That a slow, measured, and calm weekend is just what the body and mind need after a week of Zoom calls or home schooling or online interviews. This health crisis has put pressure on all of us, in all different sorts of ways – peace and quiet can be a balm for the soul, and many of us need that right now.
Over the last four months, I have lost the will to care that colleagues have seen me without my signature red lipstick, and I have often been out of the house without make-up, which would hitherto have been unthinkable. I’m sure there are some die-hards among us who don’t want to face the world until they have been to their hairdresser or Botox provider. That is entirely their right and I’m not going to judge.
I know that I need to start taking some Bambi-esque steps back into the world, both to build my own confidence and to support local businesses. Having a smaller life these days means that I will be sticking to my favourites for now, people and places. However, I look forward to a day in the not-too-distant future where we can all make bigger, bolder plans for ourselves. We all need to be brave to deserve our brave new world.
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