Elizabeth Day: I can sum up this year in one word

I am writing this in a café, two days before England’s second lockdown comes into force. Like many of us, I wanted to make the most of being able to leave the house and sit in a place other than my front room before new rules mean we’ll be stuck inside. You find me drinking a cup of overpriced tea that I could have made for free with my own kettle simply because the experience affords me what will again become a halcyon memory of normal interaction with people.

Dan Kennedy

This weekend, my partner and I watched the Prime Minister’s press briefing – an event that would have been sufficiently laden with doom had it not also started hours late with no explanation. We watched as the scientific advisers showed amateurishly produced slides that no one had bothered to ensure fitted into a standard sized television screen, meaning that key statistics were impossible to make sense of. We wanted to understand how this would affect hospital admissions, but sadly that bit of the graph was cut off by the BBC News banner announcing Sean Connery had died. (RIP to the best Bond ever.)

Afterwards, we made the reluctant decision to delay our December wedding. Although we’d been due to tie the knot after this lockdown was meant to be lifted, we knew there was no guarantee the virus would be contained by then. Besides, 2020 was a year in which the unimaginable could happen, and mostly did. At least part of a wedding should be joyful anticipation, and that was impossible in the current situation.

The next day, feeling sad but also aware that far greater sacrifices had been made by people, I noticed a grumbling sensation in my stomach. I wasn’t hungry. The feeling was accompanied by a slight tightness in my chest and a foggy irritation with the world. I was annoyed but it was directionless.

Texting with my best friend Emma, she immediately identified the problem. ‘You’re ANGRIOUS,’ she typed. This was a word she had invented in order to express the uniquely discomfiting experience of living through a pandemic. We are angry, but we’re also anxious, and the constant warp and weft between the two is exhausting. It was exactly how I felt. Usually, if we are angry, we are righteously furious at something or someone and the adrenaline surge means that we forget about being anything else. The red mist obscures all secondary feelings.

If we are anxious, we tend to overthink and are left with an overweening restlessness that means we can’t settle to any task without being accompanied by a wave of incipient dread.

It’s quite rare that the two emotions are felt simultaneously, and yet for the past eight months, most of us have been feeling them continuously. The problem is that the anger is so aimless we feel more anxious for its lack of purpose. Being enraged by a situation beyond our control is unhelpful and directing outrage at a biological aberration such as Covid-19 seems pointless. Yes, we can be annoyed by various national governments for whatever policies they might be pursuing in response, but that’s not satisfying either. So our anger is unfocused and our anxiety rises.

Being angrious is, essentially, a sort of impotence. We have all these feelings and nowhere to put them. But naming a problem is the first step in solving it. Which is why I share this new word with you, in the hope that we can find some comfort in solidarity. It is the most apt way of describing what we’re going through that I’ve come across. So my petition for Word Of The Year starts here. If anything sums up 2020, it’s being angrious.

This week I’m…

Detoxing

With the one-day Winter Cleanse from The Juice Radiance Cleanse Co.

Watching

Love Life on BBC iPlayer with Anna Kendrick. My new Emily in Paris.