Sheila O’Flanagan: ‘We have changed’
Stories have always been my refuge but I’m finding it hard to inhabit them right now. I teeter between my imaginary world and the real one, between calm and panic, between the balm of writing and the terror of frantic Twitter scrolling. I have the attention span of a goldfish.
I take socially-distanced walks but I don’t want to be alone with my thoughts. Instead, I listen to podcasts. I’m mainlining Desert Island Discs as I step aside from other walkers, not making up stories about them as I usually would, but retreating to the castaway’s imagined isolation while I maintain my own.
I limit myself to the six o’clock news and the late night reviews because I don’t have the space in my head for too much sadness and anxiety; but when I see reports of people in Madrid and Italy singing from their balconies I feel uplifted. When I saw a clip of Irish people playing bingo from theirs, I laughed.
Irish people are not always good about following government guidelines, yet the majority of us are compliant. We are keeping our distance, staying at home, doing what we have been asked to do for the sake of others. We support our health workers, our shop assistants, our delivery drivers and even our politicians. We don’t nod and wink at those who are breaking the rules. We are offended by them. We are disgusted by their selfishness. We have changed.