I’m taking a mental health day off work today. I think we all need every once in a while. But in the interests of solidarity and as a form of light therapy, I want to vent a little here on paper.
Tomorrow was going to be our wedding.
Weddings are ridiculous events when treated the wrong way. When you invite people to be a pawn in some attempt to create that “perfect” day. When you make the whole thing about just you, and forget about your guests. That’s my nightmare. We didn’t want that. We wanted to throw a great party for our friends and family, to see them all happy and to collectively put a bookmark in our lives to say “this is now, the future is yet to come”. So, we booked our favourite restaurant and invited a great group of people from the UK and beyond.
We all saw how quickly the pandemic progressed, but the kicker was the stress built from the uncertainty as it happened. Day-on-day someone reputable said things would still be OK for a few weeks, but day-on-day that time-frame shortened. It was impossible to know what was next. One day flights were cancelled from the US but not to the UK. My family was out in the US, so that was a scary moment. The next day the UK was amended to that list, and my parents just managed to get back on the absolute last flight home that Monday night. Phew, we thought.
Another issue was that my extended family is all abroad, and more had to drop out daily. Every day was news of another important cancellation, and following that, a discussion on if we should cancel, and if we could cancel, how on earth we’d even do that. Weddings have so many expensive moving parts. Neither option was good, and we were glued to the news. The question also came upon the morality of hosting a party like this on the brink of a pandemic, so we sent out an email saying we’d like everyone to try and follow best practices and self-isolate themselves before and after, at least then we might not make things worse, at least then we could all have a good time before the worst came.
Finally last week our venue closed shop, and then the registrars cancelled. This was a good finality. A hard decision made by someone else is much easier to deal with. Knowing the state of things now it’s funny to think that we had any hope we could go ahead anyway. For what it’s worth, in the UK this means that the whole thing is off - even the legal bit. You register to get married at a location and cannot change that location. In the US there are folks in our situation getting married at home, but over here there’s no such option. We’ve now scrambled to get a solid new date to do the whole thing proper, with everyone aligned again. We’ve chosen to delay a year to try and steer clear of the worst, and we’ll see how that goes.
This is to say that even with the best intent at not aiming for a stressfully planned “perfect” wedding, unravelling and replanning even a relatively small party and ceremony you’ve organized is a nightmare. I don’t wish it on anyone else. The wake left behind in its absence is bad as well, preparing for so long for nothing leaves such a huge space in your mind - as if someone paused the song just as the drop hit.
To add to the stress we moved into our new flat two weeks ago, perhaps just in time, but we still don’t have a viable internet connection to work from home (some OpenReach problem) and all the important crap that inevitably needs fixing is now impossible to arrange. We’ve also had to move in months late, primarily because of a dispute about a parking space that we require, for a disability, that wasn’t on the first draft of the lease, leaving us sofa surfing since January. We’d only packed bags to stay with family for a few weeks.
This is all heightened because my fiancé is in one of the at-risk groups, so every outside interaction either of us takes comes with a pragmatic assessment to try and minimize risk. My parents are much older than average for my age too, putting them at high risk as well. Even a couple of my pet rats are currently ill, and the UK Gov forgot, at first, to put vets on the whitelist for stuff that should stay open. I managed to take them yesterday, but one still has a downward prognosis and I may need to brave the outside world again.
So this all just adds up, till eventually you’re trying to work from home and stay focused but you find a whole day just go by without anything constructive happening and you don’t even remember what you did to take up all that time.
But let’s be real here, I’m one of the lucky ones. I have a job that’s still stable enough to let me take a day off, in an industry that won’t want to admit it but is going to profit off of this. That’s a privilege. It’s not one to take lightly. I’m also still well, and my family is too. That may not last but at this moment it’s better off than so many out there. We’re also all relatively able to self-isolate and work from home, keeping our risk factors low. Many don’t have that privilege either. Many right now are seriously struggling, losing their jobs, unsure how to feed their families. They might be ill in hospital, compounding the risk for their loved ones, or even now having to organize a funeral and deal with loss in the middle of all this.
And in all of this, I’m stressed and disappointed and mourning having to cancel a big ol’ party. I don’t know how to reconcile that, or how to properly help those who have it worse, but I think it’s a perspective that shows that humans are ridiculous creatures and we need to introspect from time to time, to understand where these feelings come from but also to hope to get a handle on them so we can go back to focusing on helping others.
So there are two things I want to end with here.
Firstly, that the shit we’re all going through is real, but some folks have it much worse. They need our support more than ever. Even if it’s only by properly isolating, not spreading this thing, and helping it blow over ASAP.
And secondly, if you’re a police officer tomorrow out on patrol, looking for isolation violations, and you find a couple in the middle of a park, reading their vows to each other, exchanging rings and pretending for a second that life is normal, just leave them be.