This week I went back to work. The second time this year I've headed back after an extended absence. The first time was after Lauren's sudden death, this time it is after the death of some 50,000 strangers.
I was concerned it would feel as bad as it did on that first journey back after Lauren's death. I remember feeling both numb and tense at the same time, but I was shocked when I looked back over the words I wrote immediately afterwards. It didn't make for comfortable reading. I was clearly in no state to be back at work, let alone driving down the M6.
This time felt different. I even put some decent work attire on. My works clothes previously could be classed as casual, at best. It may in part be because I have been wearing painting (or sunbathing) clothes for the past few weeks, but getting dressed up and putting some mascara on actually felt quite good. I had a sense of calm, almost empowerment. I think it could be perceived as progression. Four months on and I can drive to work without feeling detached or damaged. I could even listen to music on the way home without tears. After a pretty crappy month I had a good day. I'm aware that I won't feel like that every day, but just once in a while is nice......
If I'm completely honest it can be hard to enjoy the good moments. When I'm doing alright the insidious voice sneaks in. The one that tells me I should feel guilty for feeling okay, that it means I don't care enough if I'm laughing and not crying, the voice we all have but have to try and ignore. When the pain is bearable I have to poke it, to see how it reacts. It's like in younger years when you pick at a scab, just to see if it's healed underneath. You pick abit and get the pink skin, it is sore but it's okay, so you pick some more until you've gone too far & it is all bleeding again. That's what grief is like. (And also explains why my knees are full of scars!)
However, I think overall the two months of lockdown have been good to me.
I know that lockdown will not have been good for many. 50,000 people dead, lives cut short, unexpectedly. I know how that feels and I I empathise with all those families. But, even with my inside knowledge of how that grief feels, my fear of the virus has diminished, it has become normalised. Throughout the lockdown I have stayed ensconced in the family home, although that's possibly more to do with my state of mind, and how it makes me feel safe, rather than any government directive.
It is hardly surprising then that for those who haven't experienced the shock of the unthinkable, the daily death figures have just become the norm. The virus no longer anything to dread, just an inconvenience. But the fact is the unthinkable does happen, and has happened, to hundreds of families every day. Sociel media posts by NHS workers give us snippets of the frustration they feel as our consideration slowly ebbs away.
Unfortunately any hope humankind had of a new beginning after lockdown, of some kind of Utopian society where we all looked out for mother earth, as well as each other, can be well and truly discarded, along with the rubbish left strewn over our beautiful beaches and countryside.