I've felt strangely paralysed over the last couple of weeks - unable to pick up a book, sit down and just read. All over the world people have been (and continue to be) locked down in their homes, cut off and isolated from their normally busy lives. I kept reading about "the big pause", of finding stillness, of learning new skills, baking, meditating, following-through on projects and of course, reading that pile of books one doesn't usually get to.
During pretty much every other crisis in my life, I've read. I've managed to find even just a few stolen moments to get lost in a book. So, I had to ask myself, what was wrong with me? Why was I not getting it together? I've tried to tell myself how privileged I am - I have a nice home to be stuck inside, I have an income, while many, many had it so much worse.
And yet, still nothing. Still this paralysis on reading and creativity.
Going into lockdown I expected (rather unrealistically) to be able to make a big dent in my TBR pile. I guess the reality was a bit more jarring and unexpected. Firstly, just the practicalities of being thrown into multiple roles so suddenly - full-time mom to two young girls, homeschooler, housekeeper, carer for unwell parents (my mom's cancer returned and my dad needed a triple bypass in the middle of it all), while still working full time - eroded the hours of my day.
I was (am) exhausted.
Secondly, I underestimated the psychological strain of lockdown and the impact that has on my mental space (and my ability to read as usual, or even write and create). Anxiety and worries (from the personal to the national to the global) sit like big rocks in my mind, displacing everything else. Coupled with compulsive scrolling through coronoavirus-related news feeds on my phone, this has all had a negative impact on my reading. Sadly, reluctantly, I have to admit failure as a reader (Coronavirus - 1; me - 0).
Of late I have been reading poetry, which has somewhat filled that need for words a little. I've particularly enjoyed William Sieghart's anthology, "The Poetry Pharmacy" and "The Poetry Pharmacy Returns", which Stephen Fry so aptly described as "a balm for the soul, fire for the belly, an arm around the lonely shoulder... matchless compound of hug, tonic and kiss."
It has done that for me. While I don't have any answers and I can't say it's all going to be okay, here's to reading just a little bit of poetry.