I am lucky.
My life has not yet been knocked sideways by the pandemic as has been the case for many. I haven’t yet been infected with Covid-19 (that I know of); I haven’t lost my income, on the contrary, I have been busy work-wise; I live in a comfortable home with a big garden and no one is going to notice how many times I exercise a day; I even sneaked in a week’s holiday in Mallorca in early March before everything kicked off here in the UK.
In one aspect, lockdown and the continued advice to work from home has improved my life in that I have had my husband at home seven days and nights a week compared to just three days and five nights. An important change for me as I have been working from home for the last 10 years and now have a buddy.
I was worried and I found the situation harrowing. I still do.
I worried about my son, son-in-law and sister, who overnight lost their livelihoods, and how they were going to survive financially. I agonised over my elderly Mum, who lives three hours’ drive from me. How would she cope? Should I go and fetch her to live with us? Would that mean she would lose her independence?
I was really scared of catching Covid-19; not being able to breathe, being on a ventilator and death. I was anxious for all the people losing their livelihoods, their health and their lives. I was frightened about the loss of freedoms, democracy, and the hard-fought equalities in society. Troubled by all the plastic. I saw stray plastic gloves on the street and thought of all that waste PPE and test kit packaging in landfill or worse still our oceans. I’m haunted by the picture of a sea bird with a mask around its neck.
Like very dark smoke the anxiety threatened to engulf me, I was only just keeping my head above it. On the surface, I managed to keep calm, gulping clean air. Nature helped, immersing myself in the irrepressible and unforgettable spring. I really noticed the bird song because the traffic noise was so quiet. I used my body and tried to keep out of my head. I did lots of gardening, walking and cycling revelling in the car free roads.
In response to the emergency the adrenaline kicked in.
We baked a weekly cake, had gym and yoga sessions online, did quizzes with our family and chatted to friends over zoom. There was a lot of doing. We felt huge gratitude for the NHS and key workers, and fervently banged our pans to the lorry drivers hooting their horns as they drove past our house on a Thursday night. We wondered what the neighbours would think when we missed it. We worked hard, I felt I needed to do as much work as I could to compensate for those that couldn’t.
It got too busy.
I started desperately wanting solitude; to just do nothing and be somewhere else, the wilder the better. That wasn’t allowed. I had plans to sleep out in the woods alone, but only got as far as spending the night in our camper van on the drive with my husband to celebrate our wedding anniversary!
At night my dreams gave me a clue to the true situation. The dreams were wild, and I started to dread them. On one night I went from missing my maths class, to travelling on a train very high up in the sky through an extraordinarily beautiful place, with beautiful thatched cottages. The cottages turned out to be derelict and I lost my luggage. On other nights I lost my toddler son, my shopping and I had my mouth clamped shut with something like a plastic hair grip with pins.
These night-time adventures left me feeling really tired. My morning journal is scattered with words like, overwhelmed, tired, upset, fed up, deeply sad, grumpy, cross, and that is just one week.
What has come out in the wash?
Grey underwear! It feels like the joy has been sucked from our lives. Certainly it looks like Covid-19 isn’t going away! Looking after ourselves and each other, finding joy in the corners of our lives and living in the present seem to be the only answer. I’m learning to meditate and its helping.
We’ve been carried high in the air by the wave of fear and uncertainty and crashed down on the other side. It’s not possible to continually ride such big breakers. We need to find shelter where the waves are gentle … so we can keep going. I hope you can find a safe harbour.
Carol is an editor and publisher. She has worked with writers for over 20 years, supporting and guiding them in their work. If you would like to unlock your words, write your stories and speak your truth – just for yourself if you wish, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, send her a message or join her Facebook group ‘Editors’ and writers’ hub’.