Drafting a new normal

I keep sitting down to write and before I know it the moment has passed, my attention has slipped elsewhere.

Somewhere, between the act of deciding to write about something and the physical machinations that are required to start that process, I lose complete track of what I was going to say, the thoughts flitter from my head unformed and not matter how hard I try I cannot catch nor wrestle their jittery forms into anything coherent. No sentences are rendered, few are even started.

I am reduced to epithets and cliches as I bumble about, trying to capture the myriad emotions and fleeting glimpses of what I can only hope passes for reasoned thought during these seemingly unreasonable times.

This is the umpteenth time, in the past however long, I have sat here and started writing. The previous nonsense has been cast aside, deleted and forgotten already, and I should probably do the same with this but no! I will not be defeated, I will prevail, the Publish button will taunt me no more.

This ennui-etic block (for that’s all this really amounts to, the boredom of enforced routine and all that) is not particularly worrying nor of any weight. Whilst this blog is a mouthpiece for parts of my brain it is not a required entity, it serves little purpose and holds no value to anyone else bar me. Yet it’s been my friend and companion for over 20 years and when that connection breaks then I find myself casting around and finding little of note for me to write about (so I’m now relying, once again, on that old writers trick of writing about not being able to write so as to have something, anything, to write about).

Yes yes we live in difficult times, the world has been turned on its head, and though I am definitely, define-ably, not giving myself a hard time over the paucity of both content and quality here – I gave up on that very quickly – I do still stride to my desk with grand intentions only to have the acting of sitting down and staring at the keys halting all my momentum. It troubles me. A little. A smidge. What am I if not a blogger?

It is a little puzzling though, it’s not like we are doing absolutely nothing during these lockdown days. We are still living our lives and, aside from the aforementioned chocolate raisin incident ohh and lightly stabbing myself the other day, we are both well in body and mind, our spirits remain untarnished and we laugh regularly, both at and with each other.

Yet this block seems to be deeper than it has been before, it’s more than casual procrastination (to which I am prone) and feels more like a stuttering, faltering notion of losing ones way, despite there being ohhh so much to say.

Perhaps that is the problem, with so much on my mind I am lost in the woods. Despite being amidst a common forest of words and thoughts through which there appears to be many new paths, I remain stuck. I find myself venturing down one path for a few steps only to lose my faith and return to the junction to try a different route, only to give up yet again and return moments later, still unsure, still lost, aimless.

Perhaps all these paths lead to the same destination as is usually the case, or perhaps they all lead back here again and there is no way past this? Regardless I find myself less and less inclined to be bothered to find out. I’m quite happy where I am thank you. At least, I think am?

I guess part of this is my own ornery approach at times, pushing back against the waves of productivity battering the shores of my social media and I might well be positively revelling in NOT doing what others are doing. We are not proving sourdough, nor undertaking a lockdown challenge of any sort, and I for one am quite content with the hobbies and past times that I already have and have no need to learn a new language, or take up crotchet.

Thinking on it further, it comes to pass that all of this preposterously ponderous procrastinating has made me realise just how much of my brain is fed all day long by all the tiny moments and thoughts that would normally pepper my day. It could be something overheard on the bus on the way to work, a random comment from a co-worker, an article read on my lunch break, or something seen walking home, they would register somewhere and slowly form into ideas to be borne forth here on this blog, or perhaps in my journal or even on rare occasion be committed to the vaulted tomes of the novel I am continuing to fail to complete.

It seems that, without those additional prompts and nudges, my brain seems to be losing the ability to process things the same way. I’m not reading as many articles as I used to, despite receiving the same email newsletters, and skimming the same online sources as I was even if they too are all noticeably more focused on the current preoccupation than they have been. Yes, try as I might I cannot escape the covid, corona, catastrophe that spills forth from every screen and speaker on a regular basis.

And rightly so I suppose.

It’s just that it’s getting rather tiresome and I find myself irked at yet another mention of government this, or NHS that. It will be weeks until we are clear of this, months before any notional semblance of ‘normal’ is returned, and 2021 before we can all start to properly go back to the things we all enjoyed. And yes the pubs can just bloody well stay shut thanks.

Now, that all sounds churlish so let me be clear. In my opinion, and I’ll let you be the judge of any aperture of humility that these comments may be viewed within, the government fucked up. It wasted time we didn’t have and still seems to be struggling to provide clarity and cohesion to the nations it is supposed to govern. I did not vote for these bumbling, self-interested, loathsome cretins yet they there are on my TV screen, fumbling their way through platitude after platitude whilst thousands of people die. It’s hard not to presume that the underlying thinking is ‘well as long as WE don’t get it, that’ll be ok, now how do we come out of this better off’? And then, of course Boris ‘got it’ yet the attitude appears to be retained.

And so I veer away from the news almost purely to keep my own blood pressure and anxiety down.

I am lucky, I am working from home, in a safe environment and the main contention we have is which local business to support next. Slowly they are re-opening for takeaway/deliveries and we are picking our way through them as best we can. Far better our money goes to a small business.

Social media offers some respite, with lots of sharing of beauty, comedy, and thoughtful posts. Yet even there it is a slippery slope to a place I don’t want to be. From a chuckle at social distancing attempts by neighbours to the calling out of those improvising masks and full body binbag outfits at the supermarket. Such stupidity! Let us mock them mercilessly, and so what if they are utterly terrified by this unseen killer that now lurks among us.

I’ll let you into a secret. I’m terrified too.

I’m 46, overweight and take medication for high blood pressure. The best medical advice I’ve seen puts me in the low-med risk category of being very ill/dying if I catch this. In the first couple of weeks as this pandemic spread I read reports of how it attacked the lungs and, having had a very bad chest infection a few years ago from which I can still vividly recall the wheezing nights I spent wondering if I would suddenly not be able to breathe at all, the thought of catching this virus scares me deeply and vividly.

I am staying home as much as I can, but when out walking it’s very noticeable that some people don’t fully understand the basic concepts of how this virus spreads and I am rendered a scowling, Hyde-esque character, growling as they pass.

But I am healthy, and fit, and the logical parts of my brain kick in with the usual admonishing tones, telling me off and reminding me not to give in to fear, as fear leads to anger, and anger leads to hate. I do not want to come out of all of this mentally suffering and full of hatred.

Our glorious NHS is bearing up admirably but against the long and continuing move to privatisation is creaking at the seams. I stand on our verandah and applaud with my neighbours (which is still genuinely a lovely moment in the week) before returning inside to rant about how many lives would’ve been saved if the very government that is slowly killing it would’ve backed and supported the NHS for the greater good. Ahhh but now we venture in conspiracy theory and false news and my boiler runs out of steam for this part of the journey. We are powerless to change things and so we are where, it could be claimed, they want us to be. Under control and in fear. Right?

And yet, and yet, I will social distance and stay indoors.

Ahhh, what a strange dystopia this is, all the control, the military overtones, the disaster unfolding on our doorsteps as an invisible killer randomly picks victims from our communities. It is not what we envisaged I think, having watched disaster movies of various flavours over the years.

But no, I will not succumb to these thoughts. We can’t change how we got here (although by god I wish we could change the people in charge) so all we can do is get through it day by day. Yes, I am actively refusing that line of folly, the what ifs will remain where they are, they are not needed here today!

And, with a passing nod to social media (I suppose) I turn my thoughts forward, I look for the positives and I wonder if I can bring the good things I’ve learned during the past few weeks, and those I’ll learn in the weeks to come, to help shape and mould things differently to make the future better, my future, our future.

Enter Gratitude. If this period of isolation is going to bring anything then, for those lucky enough to be able to process things thus, it will maybe see the emergence of a new found appreciation for the simple things in life, one of which is finding the ability to remember them and be thankful for them.

I am grateful for many things.

My amazing partner, who has spun my world entirely on its axis (in the very best way, who makes me so happy, who supports me, loves me, takes care of me, and sees me for what I am and who I am.

My family, without who I wouldn’t be here. My parents for bringing me up to be the man I am today, my sister for tolerating me and still loving me, my brother-in-law for adoring and loving my sister (and continuing the rich vein of mockery she leaves herself open to) and of course my adorable niece who is growing up a little too fast!

Also my friends who have maintained the same level of sarcastic nonsense throughout, even if there has been a more serious and definite consideration to each others well being.

So yes I have much to be grateful for and I find the more I focus on those things, the quicker my mind casts forward to the future. Not with any grand schemes or plans in mind, but more with an acceptance of the changes times like these naturally bring. It’s odd to think, right now, that these moments we are living through will be, for many, defining moments into which their lives will be split. Pre-Corona/Post-Corona.

Where were you when lockdown began? We will ask in years to come. Who did you spend it with? Did you make sourdough bread too?

Perhaps learning to be thankful for what we already have will be one thing we can take with us, and if we can do that then maybe this, for lives that haven’t been formed and shaped by a world war, or had their trajectory shifted by planes and buildings, will be a way to look to a new future. One of compassion perhaps, one where we don’t immediately think the worst of people, but presume the best. One where we push back against our inner cynics that say that this won’t be possible.

Maybe then we can change things for the better for everyone, get rid of the hateful self-serving government, keep in contact with all those neighbours we see applauding at their front doors and windows, and be more mindful of what we consume.

But maybe I’ve been blinded by focussing my gaze at all the inspiring, positivity that I’m seeing everywhere?

Or maybe my difficulty in seeing much else is the point? For the first time in a long time, this trend towards positivity seems to be everywhere, a noticeable, pervasive trend. It’s understandable given how the world has changed, so dangerously and uncertainty, that people are reaching for something ELSE to focus on, but perhaps, after all this starts to fade away all those posts and words and images full of love and compassion will come to the fore, and the aftermath of this pandemic, alongside the grief, will be one of hope and renewal.

I hope.

Post image courtesy of https://www.instagram.com/gabrielletreanor/ (full image here)


  1. Like you, we are giving our money to local businesses. We’re lucky to have them and we have always supported them; never more so. I spent the first few weeks blogging about other stuff but it’s all pervading, I’ve given in. Life in the time of pandemonium/pandemic.

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