The Anthropause

admndaretwrtStories About Change

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A man can stand anything except a succession of ordinary days.
– Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

What are we going to do now?

I was in lockdown before lockdown was a thing. A year ago, I stood up from my desk, said ‘I might see you tomorrow,’ and left. I never went back. Instead, I went to a doctor who signed me off with low mood.

Low mood.

Staring at a wall, not seeing anything. Seeing my kids, not feeling anything. A week became a month became months trying to figure out who I was. Realising that my job was all I used to be.

An idea emerged, like a small flower in a wasteland. I could be a writer… maybe? I ordered boxes of my favourite pens and made a stack of all the expensive notebooks I’d bought over the years and left unused. I filled them with words, one by one. A new stack of notebooks, used. Reading them, I felt something new. Pride.

I had tentative hopes of becoming who I’d always been. Someone with a pen and things to say. People might stop and listen. A new future was revealing itself to me, word by word.

But then I was back in lockdown, this time with my family and the rest of the world. The new pens and the new notebooks lay dormant on my new writing desk.

The future receded again, always just out of reach before, now unknowable.

Instead, a never ending present. Children asking:

        What are we going to do now?

Endless scrolling on my phone, hoping to find something, anything to help me understand why this is happening.

None of it makes sense, so I distract myself by ordering things. Books, which I don’t read. Takeaways, which I don’t eat. Games, that the children don’t play. The rest, I forget until they arrive. Mystery gifts from a past self. Rubber gloves. Masonry paint. Dongles.

The endless present and the noisy past roar into the void left by the future. Regrets and repetition press down on my head. A vice at my temples, tightened a quarter turn a day, and I want to be somewhere else. Anywhere, but here and now.

Our elderly Georgian house gets sick, unable to cope with a family at home day and night, eating and sleeping. It coughs up its guts over our back garden and our front path, oozing down the street. A grey papier mache sludge of raw sewage that sets hard. I spend hours chiselling and mopping and scrubbing and shovelling my family’s shit under the hot sun.

Another mystery gift arrives from my past self. A bag of wildflower seeds.

I go out into the garden with my children and scatter the seeds on the scourged earth. We water it every day, waiting for something to happen.

The repetition of every day leaves me leaden. Hollow. I’m not a writer after all. I have nothing left to say, nothing left to try. My children ask me:

        What are we going to do now?

April becomes May becomes June becomes Father’s Day.

My son gives me a card. He writes about his favourite memory. A long canoe trip we took together years ago, where he fidgeted and griped and asked if we were there yet. I smile and give him a hug, my memories of that day already overwritten by his. Maybe this endless present will eventually fade into a happy past.

My wildflower patch is a thick carpet of green, reaching to the sky, more wild than flower.

But somewhere in the tangled confusion of leaves, an indigo cornflower unfolds its ragged petals, hesitant. Dragonflies and grasshoppers and bees and butterflies all around us. I show my children. They laugh and smile and hug me and then they ask:

        What are we going to do now?



William is a former television producer who is supported by the Arts Council as an emerging writer. He is currently working on a collection of short stories.

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