I’m so sorry there hasn’t been a diary for a bit. I rather ran into a wall.
I realise I have this stiff upper lip think of trying to do the coronavirus well by being cheerful and optimistic and not making a fuss. I have a tendency to not allow myself to feel negative emotions because I am so lucky. How dare I feel melancholy when I have my arms and my legs and my health and my dogs and a roof over my head and my mares and the beauty of Scotland all around me? I have a brain that works and I have water coming out of the tap. It is absolutely forbidden that I should feel baffled or unsettled or a little lost when I have that festival of good fortune. (Even as I write these words, I realise how bonkers this is. But it is dug deep, deep into me.)
And I started to see all these extremely chipper posts on social media about how people are loving the lockdown and how their lives haven’t changed and how it’s terrific because they can hear the birdsong. I yell at myself, ‘Look! All those people are having a perfectly wonderful time. So what is wrong with you?’
Maybe it is too much John Donne. I am not an island; I am involved in humankind. I can’t not think about the nurses and the doctors on their gruelling shifts and all the bereaved and the people who’ve spent years building up their small businesses or charities from scratch only to see everything crumble to dust. And the idiotic thing is that none of that thinking is going to help all those people, but I seem to do it anyway.
I can do about two-thirds of a day at a tremendous clip. I have the morning joy of my horses and they work as a kind of mediation because they are mistresses of Zen. And Scotland works, because it is so beautiful. And then my work works, because there is so much of it and most of it feels meaningful. Lovely other humans work, because they ring up and are funny and real, even though I only see them through a video screen. I stomp about, calling in the Perspective Police and positively thinking all over the shop.
And then, just as I think I have it all licked, like the Loving It people, I get whacked with the big old world, and the uncertainty, and the sorrow. I think of those people who say their lives have not changed and wonder how they insulate themselves. For me, this thing feels like a massive swerve in the collective unconscious, as if one can feel the emanations of a rocked planet in the very air.
And sometimes I’m so tired that I go to bed at eight o’clock like a very, very old lady. That’s where I am now, writing this. The dogs, who feel no emanations, are snoring gently. I dream, for a moment, of the day when I will once again see other human beings and feel myself connected again. I hadn’t thought I would mind being alone, because I crave solitude like a drunk craves whisky. But I do mind. I miss the smiles and chats, even in passing. I feel as if I’ve been violently unplugged from my community and that’s thrown me off balance.
But here is the lovely thing. Tomorrow, I’ll get up and do the positive thing and almost be like those cheerful, sturdy Loving It people for a few hours. If I keep practising that, I may get it to stretch for a few minutes more and few minutes after that and then I won’t have to go to bed feeling as if I’ve been bailing out my boat as we sail over a stormy sea.