At the stroke after midnight, 1 January 2020, sitting in front of my TV with a fizzy glass in hand, I leapt with joy. 2019 was over. It hadn’t been a great year for me; a two-month illness that came upon me like a bolt from the blue, the death of my father-in-law, my husband made redundant and to cap it off a further two months of ‘bed-ridden’ illness. It was my annus horribilis, something that seems to afflict most of us once or twice in our lifetimes, if we are lucky.
As I punched the air with great abandon that 2019 was over, little did I realise that 2020 would bring to the macro what I had experienced at a micro level the year before. But this time was different; we were all in it. There is comfort in solidarity. The affliction was affecting everyone and it wasn’t just my normal life that stopped, it was everyone’s.
But much like when we are ill, we have lived in a vacuum. And indeed, similarly to childbirth, on the whole we forget and move on. Are you, like me, forgetting what going into lockdown felt like? Are you not remembering the anxiety, disbelief and discomfort you experienced when going into a complete unknown in our lifetime? Did you, like me, start to wind-down your thoughts and fears, and relax into a routine which felt very much like an extended holiday for a good while – indulging in sundowners, zooming friends, clapping with neighbours, celebrating VE Day in a different way, spending time with the children, all helped by the wonderful weather we had this spring?
I’m not saying it was all rosy. There was family bickering, concerns about finances, the dread of running out of food, boredom, dealing with the rebellious (grand) parents; the list is fairly extensive and will be different for everyone. But I’d hazard a guess that this was balanced by the quietness of life, the connection with nature, having the time to exercise in the garden and walk or cycle if you wanted to, not popping to the shops every five minutes, the feeling of not having to be anywhere or answer to anyone, the freedom to be yourself.
But the nature of illness is that we forget - how we felt, what inconveniences it brought, how we wondered if we’d ever recover. Are you, like me, already forgetting? There is something special about human psychology that allows us to only remember the last thing that happened to us. We remember the end and by consequence the new beginning. This is a good thing, no? We’ve already forgotten how worried we all were that Boris Johnson would die. He lived, so we move on and resume our positions.
There are already many exceptions; people who have lost loved ones who will never forget. But as a human race we will move on from this coronavirus pandemic. We will forget. Such is the nature of illness on a macro as well as a micro level. The question remains, we forget the bad times, but will we also forget the good? As an optimist, I hope not.
This is an opinion piece written by Penny.