I thought this advice from loc 814-829 of Pandemic! was helpful as well as charmingly earnest. It verbalises my own instinct about how to respond to this, at least after a week of drunken despair after I grasped that ‘normal life’ as I knew it simply wasn’t going to return. What matters is to find a bearable structure which facilitates at least a minimal degree of flourishing which can provide a foundation for surviving the atomisation of the lockdown and making the transition into whatever comes next as viable as possible:
My first rule here is: this is not the time to search for some spiritual authenticity, to confront the ultimate abyss of our being. To use an expression by the late Jacques Lacan, try to identify with your symptom, without any shame, which means (I am simplifying a bit here), fully assume all small rituals, formulas, quirks, and so on, that will help stabilize your daily life. Everything that might work is permitted here if it helps to avoid a mental breakdown, even forms of fetishist denial: “I know very well … (how serious the situation is), but nonetheless … (I don’t really believe it).”
Don’t think too much in the long term, just focus on today, what you will be doing till sleep. You might consider playing the game that features in the movie Life is Beautiful: pretend the lockdown is just a game that you and your family join freely and with the prospect of a big reward if you win. And, on the subject of movies and TV, gladly succumb to all your guilty pleasures: catastrophic dystopias, comedy series with canned laughter like Will and Grace, YouTube documentaries on the great battles of the past. My preference is for dark Scandinavian—preferably Icelandic—crime series like Trapped or Valhalla Murders.
However, just surrendering to the screen won’t fully save you. The main task is to structure your daily life in a stable and meaningful way. Here is how another of my friends, Andreas Rosenfelder, a German journalist for Die Welt, described the new stance towards daily life that is emerging:
I really can feel something heroic about this new ethics, also in journalism—everybody works day and night from their home office, participating in video conferences and taking care of children or schooling them at the same time, but nobody asks why he or she is doing it, because it’s not any more a question of so “I get money and can go to vacation etc.,” since nobody knows if there will be vacations again and if there will be money. It’s the idea of a world where you have an apartment, basics like food and water, the love of others and a task that really matters, now more than ever. The idea that one needs “more” seems unreal now.
I cannot imagine a better description of what one should shamelessly call a non-alienated, decent life, and I hope that something of this attitude will survive when the pandemic passes.