Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone
('Big Yellow Taxi', Joni Mitchell)
Actually, a lot of what I had I don’t necessarily miss.
I don’t miss cramped tram rides at peak hour
Or crowded shopping centres
Or crowded railway stations
Or crowds of any description.
I don’t miss noisy, bustling cafes.
On the whole, I don’t miss social gatherings, dinner parties or rooms full of people.
I don’t miss small talk.
I don’t miss the stress of school mornings and getting out the door on time.
I don’t miss being busy and yearning to have time to sit and read a book in the daytime when I am not about to fall asleep.
For the most part, I have what I need.
I have regular and secure paid work and so does my partner.
I have my health.
The people I love have their health.
We have a home and a garden and some pets.
We have plenty to eat, enough money to pay the bills.
We are fortunate and I am grateful for that.
But there is a heaviness to it all.
Some days I feel like I am wading through treacle.
Or so lacking in motivation and energy that even looking at the garden makes me tired.
I have walked all the local walks over and over and over and they hold little joy.
My quiet paths are now muddied and churned by the many other walkers and their dogs and their children. Early on in the lockdown there was a kind of camaraderie, a “we’re all in this together” spirit, strangers smiled and said hello as they passed each other on the not yet muddied paths. Now I keep my gaze down, almost resenting the intrusion of my fellow travellers in these ‘unprecedented’ times. I just want to be alone, to have space to myself.
Most of all, I want to take this f***ing mask off my face and take huge greedy gulps of fresh air, to breathe in and out without feeling anxious or reckless.
As I sit quietly, reading a book in the daytime, my mind wanders. I remember a warm summer day at the beach. I am in the sea, floating on my back, feeling the gentle bobbing of the water as it holds me. I am free and weightless and utterly relaxed. I look up at the ridiculously blue sky. I smell the sea, the salt, the seaweed. I listen to the sounds of the waves as they meet the shell-gritty sand, of kids laughing and calling, of sea-gulls overhead. And I remember thinking at the time - “remember this moment”. I made a conscious decision to store the richness of the experience in my memory, to keep it safe and treasure it. And this afternoon I retrieved that moment from my memory bank. I sat in my suburban living room on a glum September day, with the weight of our current reality sitting like a bag of sand on my chest, and I remembered what it is like to breathe, to float, to feel utterly free and suspended and weightless, and it made me cry.