It’s the emptiness of life that is so difficult at first. It starts with one or two spare hours here and there. An activity that is now too strenuous is omitted from the calendar. You find you have time to make a proper dinner. You realise you could watch that programme you missed. After a while, other meetings, events, become too difficult. You realize you could sort your photos, or properly clear out your wardrobe, with all this free time. But what’s the point? Suddenly gaping chasms of time open up.

But things that I once would have enjoyed became a chore too. Any task involving mental engagement was an event that I had to think through in advance, in order to plan how to cope with it. I lapsed into watching films, watching hours and hours of television, putting off some arduous, boring job for another day. After all, what did it matter if I didn’t do it, today, tomorrow, or never? I found myself lying in for hours and having no reason to regret it apart from knowing it wasn’t “recommended” to sleep through. I was secretly glad that I didn’t have to live out the two or three hours I’d spent unconscious.

It becomes difficult to be motivated to do anyone when you know it is all trivial, all a stand-in for your real life; that it is merely a perfunctory activity so you can pretend to be occupied. When people ask you how your week’s been, what they want to hear is, ‘Oh, busy. Very busy. But good, yeah, good. How about yours?’ People just want to hear the token response, enjoy the superficial exchange, and move on. It’s hard to spell out in so few words the blank emptiness of the week, the years spent in your dressing gown, with your head on the table, or staring at the curtains, remembering what has been.




Photo: Edward Hopper, Intermission


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