Opinion: ‘Everyone else seems to be doing isolation better and more fashionably than me’
The country is now heading into week 4 of lockdown and the pressure to stay productive is mounting
In Kitty O’ Meara’s untitled prose poem she wrote “And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still.”
The poem was written as a way for Kitty to deal with the anxiety she felt about the pandemic. However, I feel she left out a few vital lines. If she were to rewrite it, I think a good addition would read: “And the people stayed home. And made TikTok accounts, and bought lounge sets from Nasty Gal, and baked banana bread and did an Instagram live of their workout.
“And weren’t sitting very still at all.”
Lately, I have been grappling with my own reaction to the crisis because I have done all of the above. I bought the dreaded lounge set. I baked the banana bread. And I posted about it on my Instagram stories.
Am I basic? Or am I just conforming to a societal norm that we have all bought into? I for one have worn the t-shirt and paid an astronomical amount for the picture more than once.
In between the good days where I wear a dress and put on make-up, there are very bad days. Yet I feel overwhelming guilt for those tedious 24-hour runs.
We all get them but more frequently now.
These are the days where you get up, make a cup of tea, eat toast and then simply move through the day. There is no great physical exertion nor considerable mental effort.
This is called surviving.
And if you do it then you are doing more than enough.
I have become jaded at hearing people say we are living in extraordinary times. Yes, we get it, but it doesn’t make it any easier for the listener. It is nearly four weeks since Leo Varadkar made his life-altering announcement and I think it’s safe to say we are struggling now.
The first two weeks were a novelty. The baking was great and the feeling of working from home felt like meeting a longtime crush for a first date. We were all having fun on social media, sharing quotes and drinking wine on Houseparty.
But then the pressure started.
Ironically, the one thing keeping us in contact has the power to alienate us. As always, social media is showing us that everyone bar ourselves is having more fun.
I pride myself on being able to separate real life from its virtual equivalent but I would be lying if I said I don’t think I am failing.
Everyone else seems to be doing isolation better and more fashionably than me.
Should I not be creating a lucrative side hustle? Or baking more bread? Maybe if I get all my family involved in a TikTok dance we might go viral and not have to worry about a global recession?
We are being told do this and do that to feel better but sometimes all you want to do is the bare minimum of what is required.
Escapism through social media is fine once it doesn’t get inside your head. It’s perfectly okay to skip through the nice stories about fashion, make-up and workouts, but be wary. All of this was selling us something before and that agenda hasn’t changed.
If your mind starts to wander into the land of comparison shut it off and be present with your situation.
It is okay to feel completely sh*t and only do the daily basics. In my experience of dealing with negative emotions, the best approach has been to acknowledge them. To feel them and let them wash over you – because they always do.
Forcing yourself to do more and be more doesn’t kill them off, it just puts them further down on your to-do list.
Mental health experts often say anxiety comes from irrational fears but this current situation does not fall within that spectrum. There is an entity present that we should be afraid of and it’s perfectly acceptable to be.
We don’t need to place more pressure on ourselves, particularly when it comes from external sources. I have seen commentators online say there are no excuses for not being productive during this time. I call bull. This is not the time to be a Duracell bunny nor is it a time to force positivity.
The last few days have been tough and the uncertainty being felt is palpable. We have no clear end date to work towards so the struggle continues.
Until then, we have to ride the wave. Until then, you can admit that things aren’t alright.
Until then, you can cry however much you want.
Until then, you don’t have to bake, learn a language, join TikTok or do an online Pilates workout.
Until then, you don’t have to be successful at anything.
Until then, all you have to do is breathe.
And until then, all you have to do is get by.
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