• R E J Saunders

Sands of time in this Covid age

2021 is turning into a great year for me on so many levels, the sort of year that flows from one positive to the next; except, well, the obvious. In this Covid age things swell and ebb, lockdowns that seemingly bring the world narrowed to small screens have disconnected all but the bytes streamed in front of us. There is so much more to life than two thumbs scrolling, yet the very act of getting up and out is just this side of forbidden. I feel like the will to move forward is swirling away down this Covid drain, yet for all the blues painted over what should be joy I have to, no, I must take one step after another to plot a path forward.

Mental health is something of a dragon for me, as often ignored and left alone in the good times as it is to come back to bite when things swirl in life’s maelstrom. For me Covid has been part liberation, part experiment, and part trial, with no real binds that have made life so hard for so many. I know I am lucky, almost to the point that doubtless someone in times to come will ask me what I did during the great ‘rona. Yet, for all the blessings the one thing that trips me up is this inertia, a sluggishness that hints that I need to pay closer attention to time and not let it slip away.

However, a wise friend mentioned that personal worth is not measured in new hobbies or excellence, rather, it is the quantum of satisfaction we find in ourselves. One foot in front of the other, one finished book, a conversation, all worthy goals that merit personal satisfaction writ against who we are and not social expectation. Yes, making soughed dough bread, painting an epic landscape and publishing that book are laudable, but so are the small things, the small triumphs that make life worthy of that satisfied smile.

None of this is easy, for Covid has sapped the zest and colour, making those small things trifles and seemingly mawkish compared to the world beyond our screens and windows. We see things in bits, crumbs that lead us to see a wider narrative, yet without the support networks to fully make sense of it all. What is an R number in abstraction to times before but another marker on our journeys to slowed time and inertia? Those small screens overload, fatigue and make us wish for things just 18 months past. Our minds ache for the times of yore, as if 2019 were somehow a hallowed place. We all crave, all want, yet Covid singularly has made us scared of the one thing many of us need, human interaction and conversation.

None of us are glib about the severity of the disease at hand. We all know people who have suffered, and tragically died, in Covid’s clutches. There is no hiding the deep unease that sits within us, lingering to fritter away these moments in the hope that the day after tomorrow will somehow let us walk once more on hallow ground of pub and restaurant. The mundane things granted an abstraction of survival, that to see the before times free of masks and screens is somehow to make one freeze and ask how we ever coped.

I could wax on about taking care of ourselves and others, but the truth is we are all just that little bit burned out from self-care. We all try, we all tuck in at night and must sleep with the world as is, the day after we wake leading to new mental health challenges. Maybe I have just reached that point where I actively have to replant my field of fucks, to actually make myself care again, and not let all that sand slip ever more through.

There is very little we can do to take stock besides more screens and masked conversations until things finally blow over. Possibly a Winchester awaits with a pint, though just as likely the future will be more of start stops, the new normal somehow as entrenched as the shifted 2019 ground we left without realising we needed to say goodbye. 2021 is that twisting sort of year that seemingly wants us to build sandcastles and wait by the future’s shore, yet just as quickly it could once more become a maelstrom hurling once more back into our lockdowns and screen induced inertia. I think the key lesson is to not overload ourselves, taking each day as it comes, and possibly just enjoying the quiet moments where we do get to build sandcastles that suit only our own needs and not some greater purpose. Where was I during the great ‘rona? That has yet to be decided.


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