Lockdown limbo: we’re all in this together (and we’re all sinking) | Deirdre Fidge

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The information below is based predominantly on one person’s experience of living through five lockdowns in Melbourne. If you find that this does not match your own, by all means do not accept that there are differences in individual lived experiences. Instead, please become irrationally enraged in the comment section and call the writer an idiot.

Stage one: you got this, city!

As soon as lockdown is announced, a brief period of hope and optimism emerges. This phase lasts anywhere from seven seconds to seven hours. Wealthy and notable people attempt to motivate the lower classes by posting “we got this!” messages while straddling a jetski in their private ocean wearing a solid gold cape.

Advertising agencies scramble to obtain the rights to use We’re All In This Together, which can be heard approximately 87 times a day. We can do this! We’re strong and resilient! Everything will be OK! This is without a doubt the most delusional stage of lockdown.

Stage two: reality

You sit bolt upright in bed at 3am covered in cold sweat: the reality of what actually happens from today until The Mysterious End hits you. The uncertainty, fear and dread weigh you down and paralyse you, which is not helped by the weighted blanket you bought last lockdown that is literally pinning you to the bed. (It was bought from a specialty store for horses with anxiety, and it is far too heavy for you.) Every few hours you have an overwhelming urge to roundhouse kick Ben Lee.

Stage three: productivity pendulum

Your house is no longer a home. It is now a Steiner-Montessori hybrid living faculty, a hub of production and goal-setting. Parents maintain strict screen time limits and research home gardens. You sign up for online fitness classes hosted by either zen-like, gentle yoga ladies, or shouting bootcamp men who can remotely sense that you deserve to be punished. You structure your day and vow to meet goals. “I’ve weirdly gotten more work done despite all this!” a colleague enthuses over Zoom, her left eye twitching.

Stage four: lounging in our own filth

All bets are off in stage four: screen is good, screen is your friend. Photograph: Juice Images/Alamy

This stage resembles the second from the outset, but don’t be fooled: this one is far more disgusting. Why bother showering? Why bother with cutlery? In fact, why even leave bed? Breakfast curry scooped directly into your mouth suddenly doesn’t seem too alarming.

Not only have parents thrown out any screen time restrictions, screens are now embraced. Screen is good. Screen is friend. Your child refers to their iPad as Mama and everyone is OK with this. Unhealthy habits are relabelled “self-care”, as we scramble to tell ourselves we’re surviving. We surround ourselves with multiple screens and devices at all times to drown out that distant shrieking we can hear (it’s actually coming from our minds).

Wine is lunch. You text an ex. You email an old boss. You post a “sexy” selfie that only draws attention to the curry stains on your pillow. You handle your devices with the fearful fragility of a loaded rifle, as you can no longer be trusted.

Stage five: settling in

Welcome to limbo. You are no longer obsessively checking the news or latest statistics, because who cares? Nothing matters. The distant shrieking has stopped, or at least been reduced to a mild hum. You’ve started noticing minor changes to whatever view you have from the front window, and find yourself re-enacting Rear Window. “Honey, look! The neighbours have a new dog! What happened to their old one? Did it die? Is it possible they murdered it? These fools – did they really think we wouldn’t notice they’ve replaced a member of their family entirely? HEY YOU, I KNOW THAT’S A NEW DOG! THAT’S NOT LARRY. Was that his name? Larry?” You wait for a response, before remembering you live alone.

Stage six: memory loss

In an act of self-survival, our brains have erased all memories of the Before Time. We dash to the letterbox to collect mail and realise with horror that we aren’t wearing a mask. We feel completely nude and thus full of shame. Don’t look at me!

But as soon as we become accustomed to life in lockdown, newspapers publish reports of an actual end to the current restrictions – a glimmer of hope rises in our chests. State politicians begin making jokes during press conferences and saying things like “we’re on track”. We whisper to an empty room, “could it be true?”. Slowly, but surely, we see light at the end of the tunnel.

Stage seven: Sisyphus

We emerge slowly from lockdown, like timid moths. Once we feel mildly confident that lockdown is behind us, another is announced.

We sigh, dust off and sanitise our hands, and begin pushing that boulder uphill once more.

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