brain chat

Insomniac thoughts on: corona

Evening. Or ‘night’, since it’s gone 10pm? I’ve read a lot lately about how healthy it can be in these Troubling Times™ to stick to a routine, but I’ve also read that the optimum circumstance in which to fall asleep is one in which you are sleepy, so I am writing to you in the hope it sends me to sleep (you’re welcome).

I’m not an insomniac unless something is playing on my mind, so lately bedtime has been more of a vague intention than an actual experience. Will I fall asleep at a quarter to ten, wake up in the middle of the night and doze? Will I be awake at 2am? Who knows! I can’t seem to keep my eyeballs open very well in the day time either, so it’s not like I could embrace this newly night owl-ish me. Also I don’t want to be a night owl. I want my normal life back.

I’ll level with you: when the lockdown lark first started, I didn’t notice any difference. Most of my work is done at home; my final office-based client had just let me go when corona became a real threat. I have a very small circle of friends and an even smaller bank balance. Staying indoors, spending no money, reading a stack of books I’ve been meaning to get to? No problem mate. I’m used to living inside my imagination and spending hours inside my own head, writing or editing or emailing clients fifteen times a day about one paragraph of text and a hyperlink. I thought I’d be all right in isolation, because it’s a fairly normal state for me anyway.

Except it turns out that it isn’t. I can’t pop to the shops and run errands, then come back to my desk refreshed. I can’t take multiple walks a day figuring out a plot device or cooling off when a client has tested my patience. There’s no way to drop in to my nan’s, because I might kill her, and I can’t visit my mum, because it’s illegal. (If this were normal, I wouldn’t be able to visit her anyway because she was supposed to move abroad on Sunday. But if she had moved abroad on Sunday, normal life would be continuing.)

It’s enough to wish I still had a car to pootle about in, because at least it would make getting a change of scene possible. Technically I do still have a car, but I can’t afford to keep one and hate driving anyway, so my mum’s been using it since she sold hers. It’s nice not having to worry about insurance or petrol costs, but ironically the roads are so quiet at the moment that even I might enjoy going over 47 miles per hour on a dry surface.

Point is, I thought I’d do better than this. I have relatively little to worry about because universal credit will, hopefully, prop up my bank balance before that self employed wage thing comes in. There’s a roof over my head and everyone I know who’s had corona-like symptoms has recovered. My part in saving the world is a cushty one; I have internet access and food access, and I live in a safe environment. I reread Anne Frank’s diary a few weeks ago and although I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re feeling really low, it provided me with precisely the perspective I expected and needed. I know, logically, that I’m all right. I didn’t even like my old routine that much anyway.

But I can’t sleep.

I think part of it is the fact we are all living in a SERIOUS CRISIS. The sort not seen since the war, blah etc. There’s no road map, there’s no definite end date, we can’t hug people any more and it turns out way more of us are huggers than we thought. There’s also that sneaking suspicion that since the air is cleaner now, since we’re all managing without haircuts and £12 mojitos, maybe… this is a bit of a wake up call. What’s actually important to us? What do we really want? I think a lot of the time we continue in a mostly forward direction, and then occasionally life chucks something at us that makes us sit down and re-evaluate. Except now the entire planet is having to sit down. Apart from key workers, who we should maybe consider paying a bit more because we’re all feeling guilty that they’re treating covid patients while wearing bin bags, or pulling shifts in manual jobs we never wanted to do for very long. Also shouldn’t we be using this time to start a business and write a book or something?

I’ve done both of those things, and they’re both bloody difficult without the constant worry that venturing outside your house could kill someone.

I am nowhere near where I would like to be mentally. Or physically, come to that. (I can’t believe I miss Southend high street. I’d love the opportunity to hop on a bus or a train and go… anywhere.) But neither is anyone else where they’d like to be. I keep seeing that quote that goes ‘you’re not working from home, you’re trying to work at home during a crisis’ and it sums the whole experience up. We’re living in a weird time, with new conventions and coping mechanisms. I feel like the whole of society is at that point in a film where two highly strung main characters sit in an alleyway and go ‘ugh, aren’t we a pair. Just look at us!’ and then they lose their minds a bit more before coming back to life and normalacy, eventually, by the time the credits roll. Not sure if we’re in a coming of age drama or a dystopian thriller or a horror film. Guess we won’t know until after the credits have rolled. What an ominous thought.

I’m not quite awake enough to edit this with a clear head, and spell check is glitching, so this post probably doesn’t look as shiny as it ought. I definitely don’t have the energy to source an image or some shit for Instagram. I can’t one hundred per cent be sure what I wanted to say when I began writing, except that it feels important to keep communicating. Figuring out this new normal is going to take a while.

I’m about eighty per cent sure I might fall asleep after this. Seventy five per cent? At least I don’t have to be up for anything tomorrow.