In Britain today, the 23rd March, we were asked to have a day of reflection one year after going into our first coronavirus lockdown. It has felt like a sombre day all round, and I have had a feeling of underlying sadness about me all day.
This, I think, was a culmination of things: being close to getting my first vaccine but still being over a week away has left me feeling strangely vulnerable, perhaps fearing that something would happen just before I got it; together with an irrational belief that with so many vaccinated now the virus might turn its attention towards me.
Then there is the fact that both my children were sent home from their respective schools last Thursday morning after being in close contact with other pupils who had tested positive. So while no one has subsequently displayed symptoms, the proximity of the virus somehow felt closer… a sense of claustrophobia as cases begin to rise in Sheffield again. However, the real hammer for me was that it felt like such a step backwards after they only went back the week before… it was back to the old homeschooling routine again, which is no substitute for being there even though their teachers work incredibly hard to make it so. I worry that they are missing out terribly, although I am also amazed by their apparent resilience.
Today it is the sheer exhaustion of the last year that has perhaps caught up with me. The realisation that we have been living under these necessary restrictions for so long. The realisation that we are still pretty much in a full lockdown with, at best, months of incremental easing before we can even start to think of a ‘normal’ life again. The realisation that my sense of exhaustion does not include the extra levels of fatigue that comes with being a key worker, a single parent, having a relative out of sight in a care home, or someone I feeling isolated or working through a bereavement… I cannot imagine how hard the last year for those how have experienced so much more than me.
That I have not had to contend with any of these things would normally give me a feeling of gratefulness, but not today. Today I just feel sad… not particularly in a self-pitying way… but rather a sort of innate sadness that perhaps comes from being on this desert island with the songs of my life distilled down to eight tracks of existence. No access to full albums and no chance of variation… just the bare bones of life on repeat. A sadness for my children that they are missing the experiences in life that they should be treasuring at their age. A sadness that we have not seen any other family for well over a year. A sadness that this is a year that we will never get back… and a sadness for who and what will not be there on the other side.
I am sure that there will be days to come when hope will be much more in the ascendancy… when the pandemic begins to fade into the distance. But this is not one of those days… today for me is about sitting with what has gone by in the last year… to reflect on the ups and downs, but also express incredulity that this is what we have been through… a year like no other, and a year that I’m in no hurry to repeat.