Previously in "What I Miss Most": Pub smoking areas.
I've been asked to write about what I miss. I don't think it really matters what I miss. I feel uneasy documenting it, because it feels like unimportant self-importance. I even feel uncomfortable writing this opening – 'If you know it doesn't matter, close the document and go back to writing mediocre-to-good skits.'
But then also, get over it – it's funny to miss CityMapper! Write about that! Maybe I miss wearing my best casual clothes to pop out and pick up the headphones I left at a friend's house, so that the three strangers I pass might think that I can colour/texture co-ordinate even when I'm just throwing something on. I should just write it and shut up. But then also, these pointless examples of other things I miss are only bolstering my initial concern.
I haven't felt this kind of stress for about six weeks. Tedious, meaningless worries about how I'm coming across to people. Compared to the legitimacy of March/April worries, it almost feels like a momentary return to the glory days. The days of unwarranted stress. I miss them.
I'm a worrier. I gave myself an anxiety stomach ulcer at 12. The rollercoaster of doing word searches, playing and having a backpack too big for me did me in. I used to get so tense at school that my pencils would break on the page. I'd get very, very worried about stuff. And I'm tall and heavy and bassy, so to friends and onlookers my worrying isn't sweet and endearing, it's intense and daunting. When I cry it's like a monster crying, or the sound of a big rusty building creaking on its bad foundations – more "fucking hell, let's go" than "Aww, you K babe?"
That said, most of the triggers for these unstable worries were miniscule. They didn't warrant the superficial erosions in my stomach lining. For example, maybe as a teenager I said near someone called Phil that I thought Phil was a funny name. I'd fear I'd destroyed his confidence and therefore ruined his life. Or moving up the trigger ladder, maybe I did a comedy gig in front of hundreds of people and heard someone in the crowd say, "Not for me, this." Or even further up still, maybe I worry that I've screwed up my tax return and have literally no idea how my credit card works, and I'm as thick as I was in year 10 (year 10 in school, not actual year 10 AD in history. Worth writing that? Probably not. New trigger for worry!).
It is now my belief that I was able to roll around and fester with these concerns because they all come with their own safety net. They're all solvable by looking at the obvious bigger picture. Maybe I found it easier to get caught up in something petty when I knew where the exits were.
Recent events have allowed these trivial triggers to prance off into the distance, care free, less than two meters apart, kissing even! In their place stands a new, surreal, yet more grounded breed of concern. Justified concern. Things like "if I can't convince my 79-year-old dad to stop having intimate chats with strangers in the street about olive bread, he could die, and kill my mum, and their lodgers", or "586 deaths in a day in the UK is being referred to as 'A positive sign'", and famously, "NHS staff are now risking their lives and the bonus pay is weekly national claps".
Don't get me wrong, I'm out there banging my hands, but when I'm done and I go inside, my corneas form the shape of guilty question marks set on fire.
All of this is to say: this feels like a rare occasion where allowing yourself the odd worry might be the correct response. To begin, my instinctive urge was to be more practical and less concerned. I had several conversations with my parents when this began. My initial approach was a firm, "This is happening. Deal with it. We're lucky we have the means to deal with it. So stay inside and be grateful." But it was only when the dialogue shifted to "This is hell, I'm so sorry you're having to endure this, this is very scary and bad, how the hell are we ever going to get out of this?" that I felt like I was actually being helpful and processing something. In order to accept a problem of this size, I have to worry. It's the storm before the calm.
One day, I hope I get to worry again about whether or not my lack of confidence delivering a dinner anecdote caused an irreversible fatigue around the table, or if my neighbour thinks my shower singing voice is accomplished in both range and tone. But in the meantime, I'm going to hunker down and get some mature panicking done (and maybe allow myself a little one about whether or not I should've written this).