If it was not for the regularity of my writing this diary, I do not think I would have realised that our current state of national quarantine has reached the one-month mark.
A lot can happen over 28 days. Indeed, the last four weeks have heralded seismic social and economic shifts, the consequences of which shall be felt for months and years to come. As a student, the prospect of setting out to navigate a potentially fractured job market and a definitively transformed social landscape is unsettling. I am a person who likes making schedules and planning events and thinking about the future. And although I am aware that life is inherently uncertain and, really, nothing much can be controlled or forecast, I take comfort in believing that the goals I achieve in the short-term will ultimately aid my long-term ambitions and aspirations.
The disruption of this past month, however, has shown how fragile my tendency towards organisation is, how easily my efforts to forge structure can fall apart.
When the government first announced a national shutdown, I made a feeble attempt to impose some order on the chaos of suddenly moving home. I wrote out an elaborate study plan. I scheduled regular exercise and fresh air. I slotted in time for online socialising and catch-ups with friends. By the second week, most of my plans had been abandoned in favour of hours spent listlessly scrolling through social media. Structuring my days felt laborious and futile - what is the point in planning ahead when everyone seems caught in the midst of a collective existential crisis? I made efforts to study but found myself dejected and distracted, wondering how long this situation shall last. I tried reading my favourite books but only ever managed a few chapters, my mind often drifting to consider the last Covid-19 statistics.
As I sunk into stagnation, I noticed a concurrent rise in the number of online articles dealing with productivity and planning. A viral tweet informed me that Shakespeare had written several plays while in quarantine. Striking a similar note, many wellbeing journalists posited the current moment - with its restrictions on movement and enforced isolation - as one ripe for the production of a novel, the development of a new business or the commitment to learning a language. Although I understand the benefits of casting negative events in a positive light, I struggle to reframe quarantine as a period of efficiency and organisation. The current global pandemic has forced a mass retreat indoors but it does not offer escape or enjoyment in the way a holiday would. Rather forced adaptation to a new, insular way of life has proved exhausting and disorientating. Consequently, I've been forced to temporarily abandon my 'big picture', long-term mode of thinking. There are no detailed study schedules or fixed plans for the summer. Instead, there are short, scribbled instructions: get out of bed, eat enough, get some fresh air. By devoting myself to the basic aspects of a normal life, I feel some sense of agency over a crisis I cannot control.
The Guardian ran a feature piece this past weekend in which writers were invited to share their experiences of life under lockdown. Upon seeing the headline, I clicked on the article eagerly, hopeful that some nugget of writerly wisdom would stir my energies and force a frisson of motivation. I've since read the piece countless times. Not because it offers any real advice on productivity or how to 'make the most' of all this newfound free time, but because its contributors put forth multiple arguments for gracefully accepting the frustration and stagnancy of our current situation.
I was particularly struck by Anne Enright's assertion that one should attempt not "to confuse the urge to get something done with the idea that you are useless", her defiant reclaiming of boredom as a productive force which ultimately signals "the beginning of pleasure". Over the past few days, I've re-read Enright's paragraph, allowing myself to deconstruct the notion that boredom is inherently wrong or bad. By doing so, I find myself slowing, becoming more intuitive and intentionally investing in a total lack of structure.
There are no schedules or routines at the moment. Instead, there is a lot of pottering about the house, reading bits of poems, taking random walks around the garden. There is remembering to text a friend, stepping outside to see the moon, jotting down a recipe. There are conversations in the kitchen, stroking the dog's ears, drinking multiple cups of tea. None of these were part of the plan and none could be regarded as 'productive'. However, in the midst of our current crisis, they function as catalysts, propelling me forward, keeping me going. One day at a time.