I go into these phases of low moods – at least they are phases, they used to be a permanent feature – my partner would ask me why. Most of the time I would try to give her a reason. PMS, fatigue, people issues, triggers. Recently however I told her it is actually the opposite: to feel low and pessimistic at this point of time in the world is the reasonable response, to be otherwise takes quite a bit of psychological energy, at least for me.
I mean, look at everything right now. The pandemic is never-ending and doesn’t look like it will end, the way policy makers are handling the pandemic is frankly quite disturbing, the way people are responding to the pandemic is even more disturbing, wars are being fought in some parts of the world and other potential wars may be looming, political leaders are generally still acting like they are fighting over toys instead of the overall well-being of the species, we still believe that the suffering of other people is justified just because they are different – I guess I can go on and on.
Because of post-viral complications people are still suddenly dropping dead, becoming disabled and/or developing chronic diseases – but politicians are like yay the pandemic is over, while every day tons of people are still dying from it. I guess the perception is that only the old and weak are dying, so who cares?
I am reading Ernest Becker’s “The denial of death“, a book which is heavily criticised of course, but whether we agree with it or not I think there is some truth in his premise: that human beings are is terrified of the inherent terror of life that they would do anything to deny it. For Becker, the choice is somewhat binary: either choose to put up all these psychological defences and live as a false self; or be true, face reality but become potentially insane, because the weight that comes with seeing life for what it truly is, is too heavy to bear.
I succumb to this sort of purposeful ignorance myself, or how do we go on? It is not like there is anything I can do to change the direction the world is going, and I have also discovered it is almost impossible to change the direction of one other single person too. People will think and do anything to justify their preferred way of life, and to try to change that is to break their version of reality.
Once in a while I still post medical research on social media to try to persuade people to be less cavalier about getting infected, but I feel like I am rubbing salt into their wounds. Most people are simply trying to live “normally” but couldn’t avoid getting infected anyway, because normality means meeting people, eating indoors and in recent times, not wearing a mask.
My partner and I have basically given up our in-person social life, not that we had much of it in the first place. We also don’t dine indoors, and we don’t enter elevators with unmasked people. My parents have not seen my full face for over a year. We are privileged because we didn’t have to work in offices with swaths of unmasked people. These are what it took to avoid infection, but how many people can live like us: to choose to not dine with friends and family for years?
So there is not much of a choice. The pandemic will go on and on, unless we come up with better vaccines and treatments. I wish to be optimistic about this, because I am not sure how long more I myself can live like this. It is not just about the measures and choices we are taking, but it feels very tiring to bear the whole psychological weight of being so cautious and adverse all the time, to keep rejecting people whenever they ask us to gather, to miss out on many activities we used to love doing pre-pandemic, to exert that sort of control when temptation occurs. I miss dining indoors, I am not a saint or a nun.
I tell my partner to brace ourselves for getting infected anyway despite everything we are doing. There is only so much even n95s can do. I’ve been pre-comforting myself by telling myself that I cannot expect to escape a generational fate. Or maybe I can, if I am willing to not leave our residence.
I am very hermitish compared to the average person, I think I have spent more time at home than everybody I know. Again I make up reasons to comfort myself. I am developing my inner world instead. But I am not trying to reach enlightenment like buddhist monastics, I don’t really want to stay in a cave alone for years, I still desire for external experiences to play a part in moulding my interior world too.
I know this is not the first time I am writing about these sentiments. But this is a public documentation of my ongoing psychological state, and these sentiments have been ongoing too. There is only so much I can write about things I do to distract myself from reality. I can write about food, cooking, fitness, books I read, my learning experiences, projects, etc – but none of those will truly change the reality I am facing and the response I am having. What is the point of writing about everything else under the sun except the one thing that bothers me the most?
Some days like today I don’t even know what is the point of documenting these feelings and thoughts in this very public manner. People generally avoid negativity, and I acknowledge it is depressing to read my writing.
But perhaps for me this is one of the few things I know how to do, and in times like these I can only do what that keeps me somewhat going. Just the mere fact I am doing something, instead of becoming mostly unresponsive to the world.
It takes energy for me to be like most other people. To have fun, learning, experiences while trying to ignore the existing wrongness. But I guess historians will gladly remind us that there is always wrongness, and humanity has survived, thrived even. I keep seeing our denial mechanism as a bug, but maybe it is a feature. And somehow people like me are born without this feature.