Nothing could have prepared me for the realities of 2020, for a pandemic and blanket lockdown, then for the onerous post-lockdown restrictions we have to contend with that will no doubt remain in place for the forseeable future. We may once more be open for business as a country but we are not yet open for the carefree life we knew before.
Things are not in any way back to normal – how can anything ever feel normal again? No easy human touch, no closeness, no community gatherings, no real socialising. Physical barriers to personal contact everywhere – screens and masks and gloves and sanitiser between us and others – and inevitably I fear emotional barriers will soon grow too.
Suspicion and fear and avoidance and caution are becoming built in to the fundamental fabric of our existence. We all have to learn to expect the worst but hope for the best, keep our distance, keep away, keep vigilant at all times while outside of our own little bubble of safety and security, and even be wary of those we invite in to join us at home.
We can’t automatically trust people any more, even our nearest and dearest, and that hurts us all. We can’t know who has touched something somewhere that someone else has touched who has the virus, who has not washed their hands enough or changed their potentially contaminated clothes or inadvertently touched their masks too often? We just can’t take risks.
People have become inherently dangerous just by being out there in the world, living and working and making the best of a bad situation as best they can. I don’t like stepping back when someone gets too close, turning away when someone breathes on me, flinching when even the slightest contact is made accidentally. But I know I must keep myself safe.
Nothing could have prepared me for any of this, and yet here I still am, bewildered and beleaguered, through spring and summer and soon heading into autumn with no end in sight. Simple self-preservation should not require such levels of separation, so all I can do is make sure to smile at people with my eyes and say rather than show them how I feel.