Pick Your Battles
Start doing newsletters more regularly, they said. Be more creative in ever more inventive ways, they said. Take up a new hobby! Rise earlier! Forego libation! Recognise sugar for the opioid it truly is! Learn to love quinoa! Ration your new Netflix obsession into sensible weekly portions!
They said all this in the first week of January. It is now no longer the first week of January.
Who are they, why do they say these things and why do we even listen?
To be fair, there was literally nothing doing at the start of this year. We saw no-one, went nowhere, the days were darker and shorter but our hair was getting steadily longer. Sometimes, I turned on the telly and was momentarily disorientated, wondering if Michael Fabricant was now our Prime Minister or if Boris Johnson’s hair had just got so long it looked like a wig. It was so cold, we took to tacking blankets onto our kitchen windows, because we do actually live in an actual barn, and we called them squat blankets, because one of us has actually lived in an actual squat but these were National Trust blankets and not tie-dyed ones so they were marginally more acceptable. It was quite nice not having to tidy because nobody was coming round to our house; our house which now resembled a cross between a lego factory and toy gun armoury.
Usually, being the neat freak I am, this cold squalor would send me spiralling into a cleaning frenzy wild enough to make Mrs Hinch look like a slovenly slattern, but a steady calm descended upon me and the little voice in my head whispered over and over ‘pick your battles, Pallot, pick your battles.’ My battles, it came to pass, were not with spent rounds of Nerf gun ammunition littering every floor in my house. My battles were wondering why I had spent my whole life ignoring Quentin Crisp’s very sound advice from years ago:
‘There is no need to do any housework at all. After the first four years the dirt doesn’t get any worse.’
This, then, is the opposite of a motivational newsletter. This is a first quarter celebration of just managing to stay alive. If your brain is stuck in reverse on what feels like a daily basis; if you have forgotten what a train is; if, God Forbid! you no longer know how to talk about the weather - sit down next to me. So worried was I that I was bored of books, telly and baking, that I consulted the Oracle - i.e. Google - and learnt that this is good. This brain fog and shutting down is a sure sign of resilience and adaptability even if it makes you feel like you have had a frontal lobotomy. The human brain needs exercise and much of that exercise is provided by novelty, interaction and physical activity - apart from the latter, things not currently in plentiful supply. What the human brain does not need is boredom, but in order to cope with the removal of ‘norms’ we adapt as fast as we can, and just as the physical world has closed down temporarily, so have our perceptions of it.
This is not as bleak as it sounds, trust me. It’s strangely encouraging. And it won’t last forever.
So, take heart: if you are just muddling along, focusing only on one day to the next - well done. If you are managing to drill down from only one hour to the next, even more well done - this way sanity lies. If you open the steady stream of unsolicited emails from holiday companies, replete with extravagant photos of sun kissed beaches and park them in the junk because exotic travel is just so last decade - good for you.
You are coping. Admirably. This is no mean feat.
Fret not that you will have forgotten to do all those things you used to be good at doing, like going to the pub or knowing exactly the right moment to end the conversation with Linda in HR before it descends into a Mobius loop of pleasantries from which you can never seem to exit. I thought I’d never remember what a gig was or how to do them, but week before last, I took to the stage of an empty Brasserie Zedel with my guitarist compadre Carlos Garcia and we played a whole show, beaming into your living rooms on a Friday night. I remembered how to get nervous, and even remembered how to do wonky banter. It’s like riding a bike, my friends, and if you would be so kind as to join me and Carlos on Friday March 26th, we will remember to be live musicians again.
Keep muddling along. That’s all that is required right now.
With much love