Lockdown Diaries | Covid News Junkie Trying to Read

Stylonylon | Lockdown Diaries
This weekend I picked up a book for the first time since lockdown begun. I have been dipping into my current Kindle selections, but with little of the usual gusto I approach fiction – in the pre-Covid days, reading late into the night, regretting it the next, then doing just the same the next day…

So yes, reading for me has taken a bad hit this year. And it started long before lockdown came into effect. Back on January 11th I first noticed coronavirus in the news, weeks before its official Covid-19 naming and global pandemic status…

By the end of the month, having been following the story in the mainstream media, I paused on the news story that enormous new hospitals were being built in China to accommodate those hit by the virus. It seemed odd and disproportionate to the numbers being reported. And so I turned to Twitter…

A longterm committed avoider of Twitter – I’ve always found the noise and intensity too encompassing and didn’t want part of the endless scrolling of ill-curated and often depressingly aggressive short missives – in this instance I saw its use.

It was the one place reporting real-time nuggets of information about what was proving to be the unfurling of a global catastrophe. Wading through the fake news and trolls, I discovered worthwhile accounts to follow and found myself checking in regularly, at first daily and then throughout the day, to compile an understanding of what was happening in Wuhan.

And it became all-encompassing. The one thing I’d always wanted to avoid. I spoke about it to my family and posted information cautiously on Instagram Stories, a need to share what I was beginning to understand; that this was soon going to be a worldwide problem. And I couldn’t stop, incessantly searching for factual and reliable information to prove that maybe I was wrong and that hopefully, what seemed so obvious, wasn’t going to happen after all…

As the news cycle caught up and tendrils of the virus reached Europe – at first not so alarmingly but gradually more so – for a moment I felt some relief. I no longer felt like a complete crank when I brought it up and people and businesses around me were beginning to take notice – I no longer had to make up excuses to cancel meetings and events were now being cancelled on me. (Full disclosure: I started informally social distancing mid-February, uncertain where I stood with my early MS.)

Fast forward to over a month in lockdown and I have become a complete news junkie, following UK and US press conferences religiously, reading news widely and still filling up on Twitter, regularly finding new voices to follow. And sadly, this has been taking precedence over anything else, from first thing in the morning to last thing at night.

My nightly reading-before-bed 10.45-11.30 slot has been replaced with watching Newsnight, as much of the (now cancelled!) US daily presser, updating up with the day’s news stories and Twitter’s round-the-clock maelstrom. A sad attempt at trying to feel in control of the uncontrollable.

So last night, picking up The Habit of Loving was an important moment for me. Not least because Doris Lessing was one of those life-changing authors I read in my youth – a wonderful journey in the bohemian, yet still constricted, life of woman in an earlier time, bravely breaking down barriers and confronting the self. The worlds she weaves are all-encompassing too.

And, of course, that is the beauty of books, pulling you into somewhere else, pushing your mind to new thoughts, feelings and understanding. A wonderful form of escape, which we all need and crave now, but also one of the best ways to evolve as a person. And as self-reflection takes a forefront in this strange new world of pragmatic life-saving behaviours, there has to be way to improve and better ourselves as we go too.

So while I doubt I can break free from the relentless news cycle at the moment, I must, and will, carve out some extra space for a different way to shape myself during this time.

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  1. Enjoyed this immensely. I am at the opposite end of the spectrum and religiously not listening to the news.

    1. Thanks so much! I absolutely need to take a page out of your book going forward I think – and in fact just writing it all out has actually started to loosen the hold!

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