After months fearing my creativity had gone forever, all of a sudden I found writing ideas coming back into my head. Thank goodness!
But then when I tried to get them down, I found I couldn’t until I’d first typed out what it feels like to live in the world right now. I can get conceptual and maybe even have a go at a funny or two when I’ve worked through my lockdown state of mind.
So that’s what this is. A lockdown diary entry, you could say. An acknowledgement of the vast level of emotions involved with pushing through the beginning of 2021.
I’m normally relatively balanced, but it’s tricky to remain so all the time through a global crisis.
I find I make too much of the good moments that occur – which of course they do – because joy is at a premium right now. My daughter will laugh at something in the park and I’ll say to my husband: “She’s having fun, isn’t she?! I’m so glad we came out! This will really set us up for the rest of the week, don’t you think?!”, whatever that means.
And when the lows occur – because I watch the news or run out of play ideas or I see that it’s raining AGAIN – I get lethargic, grumpy, and I can’t even be arsed to put my socks on, because what’s the point? I lose perspective and dive into my phone, where I can assure you the answer absolutely does not live.
Having so little variety in our lives is exhausting. The end isn’t quite in sight, but it is there in the distance, we know it is. That’s a huge motivator to strive on and keep the faith, but it’s also a while away. It’s perfectly normal to be struggling right now, however big or small the difficulties this pandemic brings you.
I saw a post on Twitter that said “We should assume that nobody is OK right now” which has stayed with me. I try to keep it in my head when I go for a walk or collect my daughter from nursery. Everybody is, at best, sick of this, and at worst, having a truly awful time. Whichever end of the scale you find yourself on – and I consider us to be at the very lucky end – it’s still all right to acknowledge that this is hard. Most people are going to find living through a pandemic difficult.
One of the things I’m finding hardest about lockdown is how much bigger disappointments, mishaps and imperfect interactions feel than normal, because our usual distractions aren’t there to give us perspective.
I’ve found myself becoming oddly nervous when we do leave the house to go to the park for the 4000th time. I’m scared I’ll have an interaction with a parent that will go badly and I’ll think about it day and night for the next three weeks. I get nervous when I drive in case I do something that makes another driver think I’m an idiot. I worry that I’ll make a bad call in the supermarket, get too close to another person also in pursuit of hummus, and chastise myself for days for putting my chickpea consumption before public safety. It’s a tiring time to be alive.
I think it’s the lack of connection in our lives that’s making me lose faith in my ability to interact successfully. We’ve all gone from seeing friends and family everyday/week/month, to, in most cases, not seeing them at all, and not knowing when we will again.
I didn’t realise until it stopped being an option the extent to which I used to top up on conversation, laughter, relationships. Those connections inform who we are. They fill is up. As I’ve written before, there are so many things that I like, I don’t like, I miss, and I don’t miss about the life the pandemic has forced us all to lead. I don’t want every element of our previous world back, not by a long chalk. But I do want the freedom to help create a world we all like more. I want that back right now.
It dawned on me this week that as well as feeling distant from the people and places we love, this time will have made us feel distant from ourselves too. Without structure and variety and the option to make plans, I’ve definitely felt a part of myself fade.
That’s not to say I don’t love being with my husband and daughter. They are my entire world. But not being able to experience different things either with them, by myself or with others has had an impact. We’re all a product of our environment and when that environment shrinks, we do too.
How I feel changes day to day. Sometimes I’ll get some fresh air, chat to a friend or play really mindfully with my daughter and I’ll think ‘Yes, I can do this.’ And then others I won’t have such clarity. Everybody says it, but the only answer is to take it day by day, and to be kind to yourself as you do.
I try to keep this in mind when I feel a special kind of parenting guilt that the pandemic is happening at all. A global event that is in no way my fault. I think a lot of my anxiety and emotions are wrapped up in wishing that I could give our daughter a better time. More options. Time with the people she loves. She’s absolutely fine and hugely fortunate to still be going to nursery a few days a week. It’ll just be nice when we can do more again.
My focus on her means I don’t always have time to feel my own sadness about not seeing Grandma (my mum). Or Uncle Adam (my younger brother). Or Auntie Lexa (one of my very best friends). Because when I’m done saying “Soon! We’ll see them soon, I promise!” to her, I realise that I have no chuffing idea what ‘Soon’ means, and that I hate that.
When normality – whatever that looks like – returns, I’m sure I’m going to be nervous and awkward as hell when I finally get to spend time with people beyond my household. I’m going to fret about losing the aspects of restricted living that suit me and that I’ll miss the guaranteed family time that has bonded us more than ever.
I’m also going to be ecstatic to go further than my local park. To see London again in all its glory. And to hug the people I love.
Mixed, complicated, messy feelings are all part of the deal when you’re a human being. I write this blog because I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a go at expressing them all. In fact, I find it really helps. I hope you do too.
Thank you for reading. Much love, and stay safe.