Wellbeing Matters: a few words about ennui

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Our spot on the website where we chat about mental health and wellbeing, and this week we want to have a natter about struggling through these times.

Ennui. A noun describing a state of listlessness born of boredom or melancholy, currently found to be flooding into locked down homes across the land. Passivity and inactivity, leading to us rattling about looking for entertainment in an increasingly one-dimensional world.

Yep. I got the ennuis. I doubt I’m alone. I’ve been downloading, video surfing, virtually nattering for weeks. Pushing myself to do indoor exercise, tidy up, sort out. I read eight books I found languishing on my Kindle. I’ll admit, I paid little attention to most of them. They were just time fodder.

I’ve watched live music performances. These are trickier beasts to navigate, tapping into emotions I’m trying to keep tamped down under the surface. But when the lovely Olivia Hyde covered both Evanescence’s My Immortal and Nine Inch Nail’s Hurt, I was a mess, and that mess followed me to the next day, colouring my world with melancholia.

I’m snippy at the margins, fretting over the most banal of matters. Like my reserves of soap. And getting the next grocery delivery slot pinned down. I wept with relief when I secured one that meant we could stay indoors for another two weeks. Emotions are volatile in this usually calm house. I suspect this is a pattern reflected elsewhere.

Even online chatter seems weary. That cheery optimism we sustained for the first few weeks is becoming harder, the longer we socially distance. The more the pandemic hits home. That rolling tally on the news can only increase. Each number is a soul, a person who once laughed and loved, danced and dreamed.

I’m fleeing entertainment that goes below skin deep. Angel has Fallen had us reaching for the off switch. We were looking for CRASH BANG WHALLOP! Instead we had our middle age mortality with all its vulnerabilities thrust in our faces, and ran scuttling over to Prime to the superficial gloss of Hustlers. Found awe in Jennifer Lopez’s extreme flexibility.

Cards on the table, this has been a difficult week. I can’t begin to imagine how those who have lost loved ones are coping. Condolences don’t seem enough; online hearts and flowers can’t convey the depth of grief that has fallen on the world. A grief disrupted from its normal rhythm. At some stage that time will catch up, and we will collectively have to deal with the fallout.

Shaking myself down, what can we do to support ourselves as we move through this eunni? Guard ourselves from known stress triggers wherever possible. Tell each other that this is crap, we feel like hell but we’re still straggling on, finding our own pace, our particular comforts. I’m trying to look for the positive words around us, in print, in song.

It would be awesome if you could share anything that brings you brightness here. For me, there’s the song I finish my Pilates routine with, Pink Floyd’s On The Turning Away. In some respects, it’s a sobering song, but it ends with this beautiful verse:

‘Just a world that we all must share
It’s not enough just to stand and stare
Is it only a dream that there’ll be
No more turning away?’

It would be easy to turn away from one another in our helplessness, our muted world. But the signs out there, the collective coming together of communities, those rainbow pictures in windows across the land, and the selfless acts of kindness and professionalism we see across all sectors of society should give us hope that when this ennui ends – and it will – that we can all support one another to make our future a less melancholy prospect.

Stay well, stay safe. And thanks as always for reading.

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