Kelly Bertrand finally realises why she’s been feeling so guilty over the last few weeks – and why she’s now happy to put the world on hiatus.
I’m usually not one for gushy, motivational Instagram quotes. You know the ones – ‘Be your own kind of beautiful!’; ‘Everyone has a chapter they don’t read out loud!’; ‘Your life isn’t yours if you constantly care what people think!’. Eugh.
They’re usually scrawled in that same faux paintbrush font women of a certain cheugy age seem to adore and are interspersed with pictures of pantry organisation, fluffy pets and oh-so-perfect children on a similarly perfectly curated grid.
When I see a quote on Instagram I usually scroll right past without reading it – I’m sorry, but if I want motivation Instagram is literally the LAST place I’ll look – but this morning I read something that hit me so profoundly I couldn’t stop thinking about it because, Jesus, it really encapsulated something I’ve been struggling with for weeks:
“You’re not imagining it. Nobody seems to want to talk right now.
Messages are brief and replies are late.
Talk of catchups on Zoom are perpetually put on hold.
Group chats are no longer pinging all night long.
It’s not you. It’s everyone.
We are spent.
We have nothing left to say.
We are tired of saying ‘I miss you’ and ‘I can’t wait for this to end.’
So we mostly say nothing, put our heads down and get through each day.
You’re not imagining it.
This is a state of being like no other we have ever known because we’re going through it together, but so very far apart.
Hang in there, my friend.
When the mood strikes, send out all those messages and don’t feel you have to apologise for being quiet.
This is hard.
No one is judging.”
I’m not pretending to be the author of those words – they come from @themindbuilder – but when I read them I felt the greatest sense of relief that someone had managed to put into the words what I’ve been feeling for weeks.
I’m not the best message-sender anyway, but for a while now I haven’t been able to muster up the courage to really talk to anyone that’s not in my bubble because there’s NOTHING to say.
My remaining brain cells, valiantly clinging on despite the lockdown and a lush owner who has really embraced her gin collection, are directed at writing because despite everything rent still needs to be paid, so good job guys.
I don’t have anything left to talk to anyone else about apart from lockdown itself, and that broken record needs to be thrown violently into the nearest bin as soon as possible.
My (already limited) patience is gone when it comes to talking about this fucking lockdown. People complain about the government. People won’t stop talking about the government. People think we should do *this* instead. People’s uncle’s sister’s brother’s accountant has proof of a conspiracy.
And the one that pisses me off the most – people describing our current situation as a prison or comparing it to a GENOCIDE. Last I checked, prison didn’t have Uber Eats and a Netflix subscription.
For once in my life, I’m done talking, and it’s a relief.
What else is there to talk about? How I managed to burn my quinoa last night? The new pillows I bought in the Briscoes Labour Weekend sale? How I alphabetised my spices and it gave me far too much joy than it should have?
I realised the weird feeling I’d had for weeks was guilt. I’d been feeling guilty about not returning messages, about putting off seeing friends for socially distanced picnics – surely in these circumstances, you should be desperate to leave your four walls and do something different?
But after reading that Instagram story, a weird pandemic-sized weight has been lifted off my shoulders as I realised that other people were feeling the same as me – and that it’s perfectly ok to want to put the world on hiatus for a while.
My friend Lauren, whose Instagram account I saw the story on, says she’s never had so many messages.
“It’s going nuts on my timeline – I’ve had so many people reshare it and so many people message about it. It’s so relatable, and we’re all going through a collective trauma and everyone’s over trying to process it.
“For so long I couldn’t figure out why I was so bad at opening messages because I didn’t have the mental energy to do it. I think it’s because everything’s online – there’s no separating work and my personal life at the moment. And all my husband does after work is talk and I want to just curl up and vacate the real world for a bit.”
Essentially kids, it’s called coping, and as we know very well by now, everyone does it in different ways. And for me, right now, it means shutting out the rest of the world for a while until I have the mental fortitude and inclination to invite everyone back in again.
And I finally don’t feel guilty about it.