How would you rate your lockdown out of 10, a friend asked, with the lifting of many restrictions? The figure that immediately jumped into my head was 9.5: having our 23- and 20-year-olds unexpectedly home and all to ourselves for 12 weeks has been a pleasure in almost every way.
I felt guilty saying so – my questioner’s tone made clear that the combination of school-age children, full-time work and no domestic help had been more of a trial: at best a 5, I would have guessed, perhaps less, no doubt on account of having to supervise the home lessons.
But for many, this period of stasis has been enjoyable enough to now present an unexpected problem: Fomlo, or Fear of Missing Lockdown.
I didn’t tell my friend that I fell into this group, of course: so many have struggled terribly, losing loved ones, or lives and jobs and plans going up in smoke. For others, however, the pandemic has produced a wholly different experience.
Families who have had beloved relatives move back in, people with gardens in which to soak up unprecedented levels of spring sunshine – even frazzled parents working from home have had respite from their commutes, and the chance to join bath and dinnertimes with little ones when they’d otherwise be stuck in transit.
The need for a packed social calendar and even looking presentable have ebbed, too: anxiety over always “doing” has fallen away. Nigella Lawson spoke to this over the weekend, admitting that she found the prospect of returning to life as we once knew it unnerving. So much so, in fact, that she plans to cure her Fomlo with a 5:2 diet – “only with people, rather than food”.
For two days a week, she will go out of her home, and “pretend to be a normal person”. For the other five, however, “I will continue, greedily and gratefully, to feed on solitude and silence”.
In her online Covid-19 chronicles, popular Norwegian blogger Tonje Lilleaas shares that the return trip to normality isn’t the wild ride you might expect.
“I can’t believe that we’re actually missing lockdown,” she says, “but we are.”
Lilleaas’s prescription is to stop and reflect during this momentous step towards freedom. “I think we just have to define what it is that we’re missing, and try to incorporate more of that in our daily lives.”
These are – before you point it out – undeniably First-World voices and First-World solutions. What they describe is for some, none the less, real. For years, we have all been endlessly entreated by beguiling psychologists, therapists and healthy-living gurus to slow down, rebalance our life and work so as to spend more time at home with our partners, children and grandchildren, to have family meals together more often, to leave space for wonderful, spontaneous things to happen, or to find shared hobbies as a means of emotional bonding.
Most of us will have smiled wistfully at such counsel, and thought, “What a lovely idea!”, all the time knowing that the chance would be a fine thing, what with mortgages to pay, work deadlines to keep, and holidays to pay for.
Government ministers, for their part, have for decades busily and loudly promoted “family values” and the family unit as the essential building blocks of a better society (some of them while simultaneously destroying their own behind closed doors). But it has never been a simple choice whether or not to listen to their advice.
Lockdown – at least in the early stages – has not allowed for any dissent. And for the fortunate, and they are many, it has often proved to be a revelation – once they got a grip on home schooling. They are the ones now beset with Fomlo.
But emerging into the new normal is something we must all do eventually – whether with holding our noses or shrieking with joy – or in the vein of Nigella’s 5:2 transition from hibernation.
If your notional rating of lockdown is at the upper end of the chart, it might be, at the very least, food for thought as to whether life could be different – and whether we really need to rush off to book that air-bridge holiday after all.
The Daily Telegraph