Something bizarre has happened over the last couple of weeks. Lockdown has begun to lift. This is happening across much of the country despite the warnings and red flags from all respectable scientists. Following this, we are being encouraged, no, pushed to go back to more real activities, to get back to the life we had before. Or the ‘new normal’ as it is more commonly called. An announcement made today said that, every person in the country will receive vouchers for hospitality industries in the name of a new campaign ‘eat out to help out‘. I keep hearing people say ‘if it wasn’t safe, the government wouldn’t lift restrictions right?‘ Wrong.
While I understand that economic damage accelerates with lockdown duration, the danger has not subsided and this is vital to remember this as you settle in at the pub this weekend. To me, the idea of stepping out in to the world and being around people for the first time in months still feels like quite an absurd concept. I flinch at the slightest touch of another human, strangers still feel dangerous and pose a very real threat. Before lockdown began I used to love going to the gym for group classes, getting dressed up and going out for a nice dinner, popping for a mid week drink, in short all things which make avoiding people pretty fucking difficult. When I consider doing these things now, it fills me with pure dread and an untameable anxiety. I am genuinely fearful of the outdoors and the idea of facing the shops or public transport feels both unnatural and daunting in equal measures. Our comfort zone has shrunk seismically.
When will it feel ok to, hug and kiss again? When will we feel comfortable to say hello or goodbye with a peck on the cheek as we used to? To shake hands with a stranger or pass something to someone without immediately applying copious amounts of hand-sanitiser? When will we stop recoiling as someone passes too close in Tesco? Wincing at the sound of a cough?
I have spent four months speaking almost exclusively to my boyfriend and more often that I should admit to, my cat. As a result of this I seem to have forgotten what polite society actually looks like, and how to function within it. I am concerned I may have developed mild agoraphobia. Found that I have forgotten how to maintain any kind of engaging conversation that doesn’t involve taking about what I ate for dinner. We are going to have to re-learn old habits, habits which have changed so dramatically since we last knew them, they are almost unrecognisable. It will take time to acclimatise to this normality.
This doesn’t mean that we can’t be optimistic, things will get better, with any luck there will be a vaccine on the horizon. Until then, be patient, only do what you feel comfortable doing.
Keep safe, keep positive.
What does normal look like for you?