The end of lockdown is just around the corner. Data permitting (oh yeah?), we’re going to be released in stages, end of March, mid April, mid summer. Travel companies have started to beg people to book holidays. People are planning their catch up parties. It’ll be a summer of celebration.
Even writing that paragraph has sent a shudder of buzzy anxiety through my system. Hang on while I take some deep breaths. Asking around, it seems this feeling is common.
There are some obvious reasons for this growing panic: the loss of life over this year, and the wider health impact; the disproportionate affect of the pandemic on the already disadvantaged; what’s happened for a generation of school and university students; the rise in domestic violence, the mental health fall-out, the implications on the economy; the stagnation in the arts and sports; the businesses that have gone belly up, delicate routines interrupted; that the virus hasn’t gone away.
On top of that, and speaking more selfishly, there are all the aspirations not quite fulfilled; the exercise that wasn’t done; the language that wasn’t learnt; the musical instrument that hasn’t been mastered, not to mention the novel that didn’t (quite) get written.
But there’s something else, less anticipated, and harder to describe.
There were plenty of us who secretly, and openly, relished the lockdown last spring; happy to stop going out, thrilled at liberation from FOMO, loving the new slowness and simplicity of our lives. We’re flattened now by the attritional lack of stimulation, no visits to the cinema, the theatre, the Tate, but we’ve grown kind of cosy in our cages.
Whether you’re a lion or a chimpanzee or a hamster, the world outside captivity might well look a bit scary. FOMO has given way to FOGO, fear of going out. The instincts may have dulled, your sense of direction may be a little off balance, interaction with others of your species (not to mention other species) might take some getting used to. We must give ourselves time to remember what we knew and get used to what’s changed. We should be kind to ourselves and all those other lions, chimpanzees and hamsters as we edge back out into the wild.