The One Year Ennui



a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement.

As of this writing, it is March 19th 2021.

My Christmas tree has been sequestered in my closet for 3 months now, I spent the New Years Eve countdown teetertottering through the REM cycle in my bed, cruised through a few gigs and a few more months. Saint Paddy’s Day has come and gone-and I have the corned beef brisket left in my fridge to prove it and the same aversion to Guinness I’ve had since just about ever. Sitting with my parents and a close friend at the table this year, I stopped and took pause of several factors. First off, I still haven’t been to Ireland. Secondly, brown mustard tastes infinitely better on brisket then yellow. Thirdly and not to be outdone- there was a different feeling in the air. A feeling of- lightness. A feeling of-hopefulness. Normalcy even. A feeling I certainly no longer take for granted. See, just over a year ago at this very time, all the world, my city included- was shut down. Images flooded my social media feed and the television news of bare shelves. A sense of hopelessness rocked me, and many others to say the least. Listlessness, balanced with mania balanced with utter darkness that rampaged through the streets like a geeked up town crier. Ennui.

To have my corner of life rocked and upheaved- and it was nothing compared to some, was something I couldn’t wrap my head around.

I have told people time and time again, the most galling aspect of the pandemic was there was no precedent, no model, nothing, at least in my lifetime, with which to go off of, balance myself and put this into context. People were cloistered in their homes, strongly encouraged and in some cases mandated to stay there, and a strange almost medieval feeling of superstition and paranoia, coupled with lack of human connection wrought a miasma in the air I was unable to escape. I went to my parents house across town for our yearly St Patrick’s Day dinner as though I were fleeing the Cossacks. Up until this point, I considered myself fairly isolate, going out only for specific occasions and even then rarely. This I took for granted. However, I never realized how much I needed others til this time. There’s something dark about being discouraged from hugging your loved ones. From seeing your neighbor. Those people who become an unquestioned part of your daily rotation. I cant describe what it was like. I’ve yet to experience anything as paradoxical. Animals and plant life were reclaiming the planet, yet humans stayed inside. Earthed thrived, we turned to baking bread and insufferable “quarantine concerts”, but I digress. Moreover, people were forced to take a good hard look at themselves. After the 10th bottle of jack, the 12th series you “binge watch” and your frequent visits to the doordash app that it. You cant go out. Now trust and believe there is only so much shallow escapism you can loose yourself in before those feelings over take you and your forced into a long look in the mirror. Now some are horrified by that notion, hence distraction. Yet we can only Netflix away so much. At some point, the gravity of the situation will come calling, bells in hand.

Now, a year has passed. A few days more actually. Life seems about 60 percent normal. Competent hands now hold the reigns of power and people line up for vaccinations like an E ticket ride. International travel may be possible again. Corrupt people in power who rode in lockstep agreement with the last administration and being taken to task. There’s still masks. Every kind you can fathom. Tight medical itchy ones, luxury ones, custom ones, basic ones. A mask for all seasons! By and large, life seems to be on the fast track to normalcy..
Or is it?

History teaches us that great catastrophes of the past leave an imprint on the psyche of those who lived to experience them. Everyone on was effected by this. From the militantly disciplined sanitizer fiend to the willfully idiotic collegian partying on the beach at the height of pandemic. The teachers who taught zoom meetings. The market workers who were swamped and screamed at for not supplying enough toilet paper and ramen. Nobody in the world was untouched. So in that regard, whether or not you contracted- you still got the fever in a way.
My feeling is, I don’t believe things will be completely normal. How can we as a society go back to the slow numbing burn of same ol same ol without looking over our shoulders? Reaching for our masks when we aren’t even required to have one anymore? Standing shoulder to shoulder on the subway or the bus and not having the fleeting desire to grab the sanitizer, or that marked urged to briskly and thoroughly wash our hands within an inch of their lives?

Things like this don’t simply vanish. Not from what I see. The pandemic wove its way into the interconnected consciousness of all humans beings living on this planet, whether they accepted it or not- it was there now- in their heads, pressing on. No matter how much you dismissed it- you were bound to see the news. No matter how saccharine and shiny your mask was- it was still to fend off a very real, very lethal disease.

Ultimately, we are changed by this. I say this as I glance outside my Arts District Apartment window and see cyclists going by. Hear planes in the air. Hear engines in the distance, and acknowledge the slow but returning beat of life. Will we set ourselves up for a catastrophic downfall that was fully avoidable? Will our own hubris and base juvenile instincts win out and will we simply toss a quilt onto a crocodile?
Or shall we, possibly and maybe -bite our lips, gird our loins and take one for the team? That team being the world? As much as I’d like to have a fast and ready answer, only time shall tell. However, I stumbled onto this quote from the great Albert Camus which was-by coincidence from his masterpiece “The Plague” and I for one feel it is an ideal capstone to this like musing, a year in the making.

“In this respect, our townsfolk were like everybody else, wrapped up in themselves; in other words, they were humanists: they disbelieved in pestilences. A pestilence isn’t a thing made to man’s measure; therefore we tell ourselves that pestilence is a mere bogy of the mind, a bad dream that will pass away. But it doesn’t always pass away and, from one bad dream to another, it is men who pass away, and the humanists first of all, because they have taken no precautions.”
― Albert Camus, The Plague

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