I’m not exactly sure how to start with this one. Finding words to describe the utter madness in which we find ourselves ain’t all that easy. We’re treading in totally uncharted territory, a global shutdown not experienced since the last world war, and a global push to combat one disease perhaps unseen since the plague. We’re doing okay, I think. Other than the morons buying all the bog roll, that is. But Costco have just announced they won’t accept returns on such rampant bulk buys, so that lot can shit their way into oblivion. As for the rest of us, it’s pretty astonishing how we’ve rallied, and even the ‘rebels’ in society have swiftly stepped in line to support the cause and to stay at home. Is it because they’re scared? Probably. But overall I think the weight of societal responsibility has put us in our place, quickly realising the brevity of the situation (that is, apart from our dear old Prime Minister who figured almost 300,000 deaths nationwide to be of no grave moral issue, so encouraged us to keep on popping down to our local pub, to ignore reality, unquestioning of the lockdowns occurring in ‘most every other country on this planet, just like a good Brit should).
Britain aside, it’s filled me with hope, quite frankly. We lived in a time where community values seemed somewhat overwritten by the limitless selfish possibilities afforded to us; technological advances enabling a yet more individualistic approach to life; community mindedness less relevant and competitiveness and one up-ness thriving in the zeitgeist in which we are cradled. And yet, people are singing from balconies, offering help with peoples’ daily chores and shopping for those less able. They are using the time to educate themselves and are really listening to what is needed of them on both micro- and macro- cosmic levels. It’s not something I’ve quite seen in my short time on this earth, not least in cities. Yet in Granada, Spain where I’m holed up until life makes a little more sense, we’re applauding the doctors, nurses and public service workers from our terraces every day at 8 o’clock. We’re giving live dance classes through our phones in our garden! And online there is an endless stream of goodwill being proffered: ears to listen to ones’ problems, free creative performances, and even one friend providing professional advice as a therapist.
Times of crisis have always brought people together. We need each other more than ever before. And what better chance for robust solidarity than all of us, worldwide, going through the exact same thing? It puts things in context and leads you to understand what is truly important. Family, close friends (not those you meet tipsy in a hostel for three days who ‘really get you’; not travel buddies!…), your health and the well being of your local community and our planet quickly take precedent over all else. Though I have found myself (after a couple of days burrowed under my duvet, sleeping, drinking tea and playing old millennial computer games in an attempt to escape reality) quite swiftly racing to do this that and the other, assuming that the rat race MUST continue. I’ve not worked, busked or travelled these past couple of weeks; what is wrong? I must fill my time with ‘rewarding’, ‘productive’ projects. I couldn’t sit still. Not for more than half an hour without getting restless and feeling I needed to ‘achieve’ something. What’s more, there was no excuse – now with the gift of time that article that was never written, that instrument never practised, that garden never tended and that old friendship never reconciled could all be addressed! But week two of quarantine (a word I only understood from Star Trek until last week) has now dawned in Granada, and the washing isn’t done, the guitar hasn’t left its case, my inbox is still cluttered and I’m only half way through the article I swore I’d write!
Though maybe that is all okay? It is the human condition to be lazy, to procrastinate, to make excuses and to ‘fail’. I’ve often described one of my greatest successes as the failure to complete my Masters’. I claimed that it taught me about the acceptance of my own limitations and my human flair for failure. Though this is something I’ve not taken on board as much as I’d thought. Despite electing for an astonishingly ‘free and easy’ life by busking the world (at least, this is how most people seem to see it), I find myself still pushing to ‘do better’. I’m a perfectionist, and thus won’t accept a busking set unless the acoustics are ‘perfect’ the audience receptive, the sun shining. I won’t take a bloody train anywhere unless I’ve secured the ‘best’ price and most satisfying, scenic and logical travel route. And here I am, living in an arts residence in Granada, populated with some of the most inspiring, creative and warm creatures I’ve had the pleasure to meet, looking out at what is truly the most beautiful city I’ve stumbled upon in all these years of travelling, presented with the gift of time and the promise of absolutely no stress required, to sit back, and enjoy.
Instead, I’m planning ahead. Of what I’ll do, where I’ll go and how I’ll get there, once we’ve beaten this thing. I’m holding myself accountable for each wasted extra minute in bed, for every hour pissed away reading up on something which I shouldn’t, or blasting away messages on (insert predictable social media platform here). Was I always this neurotic? Perhaps. Though keeping busy all my life never let such a character trait bubble to the surface so blatantly. Now I’m not busy. Many people aren’t. And the mirror is up. Maybe we don’t like what we see. But that’s okay too. We’ve got oodles of time to fix it. Or not. And that’s okay, also. Because this pandemic is an opportunity to come to terms with our mutual, insignificant mediocrity. Without that rat race dragging us all along we’ve the space to be genuinely lazy and approach life at a rewarding and slower pace at last. If only we can let go of so many years of competitive funnelling and ‘expectations’ of society, our peers, our parents, ourselves.
And honestly, I’m quite excited. At last we’ve the time to reflect, readjust, and consider what works best for us. We choose. The world is slowing down massively (much to the delight of mother earth) and we should too.