Dear (public) diary,
“I am actually doing pretty well”, the Naïve Mia of Three Weeks Ago informed her friends over Zoom. And I was not lying. Usually the sleepy but sharp hollows of Chichester upset me: in it I see the complicit, the mundane and the outright nasty. But over the past few weeks I have been indulging in 18km walks and 25km cycles (cue gasps from friends who know that I have not exercised since 2014). I have begun to observe the natural sublimity of the land that has for so long dismayed me. My best friend lives below a historical walkway, which has allowed me to poke my head over the wall to have a well-deserved socially distanced chat every other day. During those first weeks, my tortoise sat on my back in the sunshine whilst I read Dracula (gave up) and looked up guitar tutorial videos (gave up). I spent an hour a day learning Spanish (haven’t give up!) and wrote up my last few essays for the third year of my degree (gave up). I cooked dinner and watched many 1am viewings of Mock the Week because it made me feel like I had salvaged some level of intellectual insight. I made sure that I Facetimed people every day to keep the social spirit thriving.
Then the rain came. Suddenly the lockdown lullaby began to jar and dissipate. The realities began to dawn. I could no longer sunbathe and pretend that lockdown was a holiday during which I could befriend a town and cook stews. It was a lifestyle, and it wouldn’t fucking end. The frustration came in many forms – social, intellectual, physical, sexual (!!). I became more withdrawn, more irritable. As the sun bade us farewell, my tortoise regained his winter lethargy and resumed not paying me attention. I accepted that I should probably be getting on with coursework. Rather inconveniently, my brain seemed unwilling to cooperate with this endeavour. I am terrible at not being productive: I miss the adrenaline of rush and responsibilities. Letting go of the radio station that I ran this year was difficult because it felt like the lockdown had stolen a part of my identity that I was yet to cement and define. I miss choosing outfits in the morning (I left nearly all my clothes in Manchester, and in any case the act of clothes selection feels a bit redundant when no one will see you). I miss last-minuteness and haphazard evening meet-ups. I miss having a constant supply of conversation starters that don’t involve the word “bored”. I miss flirting. I miss making the last minute guilt-ridden decision about whether to show up to yoga this week. I miss tidying my uni room. I miss the nuances that made my life my life.
I have been trying out positivity, as some people tell me endlessly of its mythic healing powers. Sometimes it is healing. Focusing on the good parts of a day, of a week, of a year, can be therapeutic. But sometimes positivity is a lie. It works only when we admit its relevance in moderation:
This was a hard day, but I saw a double rainbow!
I will see my friends again. I will dance in a room that is not in my home again.
If I had not had to spend this time at home, I would not have learned to walk or cycle such long distances: I would not have learned to forgive Chichester. I would still have blamed it for things that are not its fault.
All very lovely and sentimental.
Here is an example of bAD PosITIvItY:
Nothing bad ever happens, I should only ever see the positive in every situation. It is wrong to ever let bad feelings overtake.
So if people could stop setting such an unhealthy example by doing positivity badly, this would be divine x
What I am reading:
Stolen by Lucy Christopher. I first read this when I was a teenager, and to this day it is one of my favourites. I have a strange obsession with books that document kidnappings and the power/sexual dynamics between the kidnapped girl her thief (The Collector and Lolita being two of my favourite novels). Stolen is especially interesting because it is structured as a “letter to my captor”.
If you like beautiful and complex characters and enjoy feeling frustrated at how there is sometimes no right answer to anything I would thoroughly recommend.
I am also reading Anthony Doerr’s The Shell Collector: short stories that generally recount the protagonists’ relationships, with an interweaving narrative linking them with elements of nature. Some of the stories hint at magic realism, which I love. My favourite short story so far is called So Many Chances, and is about a young girl’s relationship with her parents when they move to a new seaside town, as she learns to fish. A lot more interesting than I have made it sound, I promise.
What I am watching:
Along with 90% of Gen Zs in lockdown, I have binged Normal People. It is good but I tire a bit of watching the protagonists argue then have sex in different locations (I never read the book in anticipation of my propensity to find that theme boring).
Also, I am watching Crashing, the less popular younger sibling of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s (wait, who?) Fleabag. Crashing is actually extremely funny and well observed and probably gets less credit than it deserves because it lives in Fleabag’s shadow.
1. ‘Yoga with Adrian’ is slightly sickly sweet, but a great free online resource: I enjoy her mindfulness meditations and her dog.
2. This poetry podcast: the poem about ‘sharpness’ is a gorgeous articulation of the lived experience of many women.
3. A tiny amount of coffee in a large amount of coconut milk. Coffee makes me skittish and shaky; coffee milkshakes don’t! Praised be x
Love from Mia xxxx