I've learnt a new word today and it arrived, as these words do, at the precise moment I realised that I lacked the exact right word to define what I was, and am, feeling.
The word is "acedia" /əˈsiːdɪə/. It's an old word, one of those so unfashionable that it's overdue a comeback, like sluberdegullion and cockalorum. Briefly, it means a listless kind of boredom, carelessness, apathy, disinterest and restlessness all underpinned by the slow burn of a persistent, nameless anxiety.
I am, by this definition, most certainly feeling acedia. I have things to do, but very little enthusiasm to complete any task. I am finding it hard to focus, my mind preferring to hop from one disconnected thought to another, showing commitment to none.
Imagine a childhood Sunday in the 70s - no shops open, friends unavailable as Sunday was deemed a "family day", the only thing on telly a black and white film starring Jane Withers or Danny Kaye which you weren't allowed to watch anyway because you should be out in the fresh air catching pneumonia or tetanus.
Approved Sunday activities variously fell under:
Accident - Misuse of Tools/Chemicals Found in the Shed
Accident - Heights, Bikes or Peashooters
Accident - Mad Dog Next Door or Park Weirdo
(If you hadn't realised, a 70s childhood drew heavily on the near-death experience for entertainment.)
Failing the above, you'd wander disconsolately from room to room until your mum, up to her elbows in Paxo and exasperation, suggested room-tidying as a cure for boredom. You'd then change trajectory, bouncing off the door frame and sighing into the garden looking for a woodlouse to magni-fry provided you could find one that hadn't already drowned in the persistent drizzle.
It's clear that acedia, while claiming a Greek root and monastic origins, can be adequately encapsulated by a Sunday afternoon in the 1970s.
My feelings of acedia, I'm sure, arise from the fact that I am as far over Covid-19, Coronavirus, the 'Rona, this highly contagious ball-ache - whatever you want to call it - as it's possible to be. I am done with it. The latest lockdown notice, following hot on the heels of the other fifty gazquillion heavy-typeset edicts of fear, has been the one where my brain has just gone, "Nope, you and your jaunty little glycoprotein spikes can just fuck off. Go on now, off you pop."
Up until last week, I'd remained positive, creative, inventive and entrepreneurial. I'd been pragmatic, productive, phlegmatic and yes, I'm going there, asymptomatic. But now? It's all feeling too much. Like many others, my ability to keep calm and carry on in a covid-secure manner is being squeezed between the tectonic plates of prolonged uncertainty, economic pressure and gross governmental fannying around.
So I've changed tack. Rather than accepting an incomprehensible macro-situation, from now on I'm accepting the understandable micro-reality of acedia. Because, to be frank, I'm too knackered to do anything else. All small business owners will know what I' talking about. We're mentally done in. We have run totally out of hats, thinks, light bulbs, boxes to think outside of, preemptive strikes and drop and rolls. We are out of moves, now inhabiting the twitchy, restless, distracted, listless and anxious downward slope of a prolonged adrenalin rush. We feel acedia.
I will be making it my mission over the following months to make room for this newly christened emotion in my meditation. Exploring it with curiosity and trying to resist the temptation to push past it. I think we're way beyond pushing past anything. And besides, it would only give you a dirty look and silently mouth "Two metres, dick".
This too will pass. In the meantime, I take great delight in the divine symmetry that had social media, that darling drug of the unsettled mind, the means of delivering an apt new word on an otherwise dull Sunday afternoon.