I hate theme parks. Rollercoasters and all that make me puke. The lurching, disjointed motion, having one’s body pitched and jerked and turned upside down is just so not for me. But even more than the physical sickness, what I really hate is the fear. The terror of the uncertainty of what will happen to me in the next unknown moment as well as the sheer panic as it actually happens. No, no thank you. I’ll get my adrenaline rushes over a pint or two and some good conversation. But back to the rollercoasters, that fear, that pure utter terrifying misery of being inescapably strapped into place and having no control over what will happen next, of everything being completely out of one’s control. That’s pretty much how I’m feeling right now.
As with rollercoasters, some people thrive in a crisis. We all know someone who’s rubbing their (sanitised) hands together, smugly aglow at the prospect of witnessing the biggest human disaster for the best part of a century. The people who don’t just pride themselves on being positive, who actively sought out crises back in the Real World just to have something that they ‘simply had to soldier on through’. Bet they all love rollercoasters, but maybe, just maybe, this one may be just too much. They may find themselves as helpless as the rest of us. Me, I thrive on certainty, stability and consistency. Managing a constantly evolving shapeshifting crisis like this without totally losing my shit is a battle to be fought from one minute to the next. The single most reassuring thing is knowing I’m not alone in my abject terror. And the fear, for me, isn’t fear of getting sick or dying – which I know makes me both lucky and possibly arrogant. It’s the fear that the whole world as we knew it, that Real World we lived in, could be gone forever, could be torn down so quickly that we’re feeling nostalgic for the life we were living just a week or two ago. What the hell is going on that we could lose so much so damn fast? That rollercoaster is throwing the human race, all of us, around so hard we may come off the rails and crash into an unknowable abyss from which we may never recover. Of course, it could all be over in a matter of months, and life could be, if not exactly the same, a decent replica of what’s gone before. The not knowing, the minute-to-minute not knowing, is making it hard to breathe, hard to think, hard to even move sometimes. None of us chose to live through this, and having the choices we’re so used to completely taken away is one of the most brutal side-effects of this whole situation. For me right now, any minute that isn’t completely shitty is worth hanging onto. Trying to make those minutes is hard, it’s not always possible, sometimes everything is just too much, it just is. As someone who has always lived a lot in the past, accepting the reality of the present, of living in it and being unable to do shit about it is a huge challenge. It’s being buckled in tight and thrown around against my will. It’s the stuff of dystopian nightmares. But we all know it. We are, at least, all there together.
Having anxiety and depression for once seems if not irrelevant then almost not worth mentioning – survivalists and disaster-mongers aside, I think pretty much everyone is feeling anxious and depressed right now. It’s literally the new normal. Being a massively social person, living between two countries and having my income tied into tourism means that distancing, isolation and travel bans are taking a huge toll on my mental health in a way they may not be for everyone, but others have greater health concerns or family difficulties or businesses at risk. It’s not a competition, it’s a state of zero-sum fucked-up-ness. Thinking back to just last week, the week before, I already miss the mess and muddle I thought was my life, the before to this after, the space where we really were all living our own lives and going about our own business before this universally equalising catastrophe hit with the force of a goddamn meteor and forced us out of our separate realities and into a huge shared rollercoaster that no one can control. We barely have time to mourn our old lives as we readjust daily to an ever-morphing new reality that’s forced itself upon us with breathtaking ferocity. Humanity feels like a giant organism with each of us a single cell, separate but together in this, trying to deal with it in our own way but also as a unit.
All of this may seem laughable with time, when things are much better and I seem histrionic, or so much worse that I reek of naive optimism. Where we are now, being plunged uncontrollably from left to right and just gripping onto each moment as tightly as we can, trying to regain some sense of balance, is a terrifying place to be. We need to (virtually) hold each other tightly as we brace ourselves for the next shock.