So much has changed in the two weeks since the last muse-letter; it's not being melodramatic to say we live in a different world. How can this be possible in just fourteen short days?
The coronavirus has become the new reality, it is everywhere you turn, everywhere you look and in almost everything you read - it has completely subsumed the world's existing narrative. Politics, sport, entertainment, all affected by a global pandemic; so many things closed, cancelled, postponed, to be reviewed at some point in the future. The problem is we don't know when that future is going to be.
Life as we know (or knew) it has been replaced by a veil of uncertainty and proscription. A quarter of the world's population are living under varying degrees of lockdown, some - like here one the UK - allowed to leave their homes for specific purpose, others not permitted to leave their places of abode at all for fear of spreading the virus.
Amongst all this we are seeing both the best and the worst in people. We are seeing hundreds of thousands volunteer to help those in need, to deliver food and medicines to those who cannot, or should not, leave their homes. But we are also seeing the selfish and the greedy ignore government advice, to the point that advice becomes rules rather than guidelines, endangering themselves and anyone else with whom they may come into contact. Idiots are slashing the tyres on ambulances while opportunists and criminals are preying on the scared with email phishing schemes when all they want is reliable information.
The best laid plans
I had planned a completely different letter, had written about three-quarters of it, but this current reality changed all that. I've written blog posts about this but wanted to address it here, with you, on a more personal footing.
I'm fortunate that I have a job where I can (mostly) work from home and have been doing so all this week. It's a strange experience that I'm not entirely comfortable with: I don't have a proper desk, I don't have anywhere that I can section off and say "this is work." It will take some time to get into a routine - still, it looks that time is one thing I may have.
I'm fortunate that I work for an employer and in and industry that has not had to jettison staff as soon as the going got tough.
I'm fortunate that I am (relatively) healthy but am well aware that others are not. The contrasts within my own house, within my marriage, are stark: my wife is self-employed and doesn't have the support of an employer that will continue paying her - things are already starting to get concerning and this impacts the whole household. The government has announced a new scheme but this may not be available for three months.
She is on the at risk list for coronavirus so really has to be careful with going out. She's not in the most severe bracket of about 1.5 million people in the UK with the worst conditions but she has multiple reasons to worry. While I might likely get away with mild symptoms she may not. I, therefore, have to be especially careful so that I am not placing her in additional risk.
This is, no doubt, a scenario being played out by other couples, other families around the country, around the entire world. Other people's lives are literally in our hands and it's a sense of responsibility many just aren't used to. How people cope with that hanging over them remains to be seen. The isolation isn't the only reason we need to worry about people's mental health.
Things aren't the same
As my good friend Patrick wrote we are constantly surrounded by and living in a state of uncertainty but it is a normal uncertainty, an uncertainty we can manage. We get through each day due to our routines, we assume that tomorrow will be just like today, we'll get up and go to work, do our thing and be ready to do it all again.
Not any more...
Our routines have been taken from us, the old normal - no matter how strange - stolen by an unseen enemy, one that we can only determine the effects of once it's too late, once it has already visited and wreaked its havoc.
Things aren't the same. Will they ever be? Will this change us forever or will we just revert to type once this is all over? You'd like to think that this will have a positive impact on all of us, make us more caring and considerate for our fellow citizens. Once the shadow of death has passed will we go back to being selfish, self-absorbed, almost unaware of those around us?
It is an opportunity for us as individuals, as communities, as a society, to take stock and assess what's really important, to realise that we all have a part to play - not just through this crisis but in life as a whole. What we do with that opportunity is up to us.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, my non-news reading has been pretty nonexistent over the past couple of weeks - something I intend to rectify once I get used to the new routine of working from home. Hopefully, normal service will be resumed next time.
And that's it...
At times like this I think we have to look at what's happening, try to understand how we feel about it, accept it and move on - not to say that we put it behind us but that we don't let it consume us.
I feel I've taken a good step towards this and am eager to explore other things in future letters.
All the best, stay safe, and I look forward to hopefully hearing from you.