I have spoken to lots of people recently who are finding the latest stage of the Covid19 crisis the hardest yet. Obviously I am not referring to people who have been seriously ill themselves, or lost loved ones, that is a whole different level. But for those of us whose definition of normal changed dramatically back in March and who are now trying to adjust to a stage which is masquerading as normal, but feels anything but, this is difficult.
In late March, April, May, we knew what we had to do. Stay Home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives. We got on with doing that. Exercising outdoors once a day, attempting to homeschool, washing the food after the weekly (if you were lucky) Tesco delivery, and trying to think of things to bake that didn’t involve flour. It was really hard. I missed my friends and family and freedom, but at least it was clear cut.
Now? Well, who knows. Pubs and shops and hairdressers and playgrounds are open. Schools have been kind of open for some pupils – my children, who are in Year 6 and Reception, have each had a couple of weeks of mornings only back in school. Not at the same time, sadly for my sanity, but it has done them the world of good. But is it now our civic duty to go to the pub, get a takeaway coffee or buy new clothes in order to support beleaguered businesses, save jobs and avoid an economic catastrophe that would end up causing just as much suffering as Covid in the long run? Or should we play it safe and continue the habit of going out only if we really need to, being mindful of the fact the virus is very much still present?
Should we give our children some freedom, within the rules of social distancing, to see their friends, and should we try to meet up with friends and family ourselves? It is arguable that we should take advantage of the summer weather and lower risk of spread outdoors to see the people we love and give our mental health a boost before colder weather comes around and with it a possible resurgence of the virus. But then, is this socialisation over the next couple of months going to be what causes a second wave?
I want to follow the rules and do the right thing. I want to keep my family safe and play my part in keeping society safe. But I’m not even sure any more if following the rules is doing the right thing. There is no requirement to wear a mask anywhere except on public transport right now – but in a fortnight’s time we will also have to wear them in shops. In which case, surely wearing them now makes sense too? And if the government has got it wrong on that, and mask-wearing should have been compulsory in many more places and much earlier, then what else have they got wrong? Would it be safe to take my daughter for a swim in the lido? Should I arrange to meet a friend for coffee? Can we really visit my parents without risking their health?
The fact that making these decisions about every single aspect of daily life feels so difficult is utterly draining and exhausting. Every trivial occurrence from popping out to buy a magazine and a bar of chocolate to whether my 5yo can go and play in a friend’s garden needs research and thought and analysis and moral evaluation. As someone who is prone to anxiety and over-thinking, these are trying times. But I suspect it may be the new normal for the foreseeable future.