Day 13 lockdown
Almost two weeks into lockdown in the UK. I am a person who is very comfortable in my own company. I enjoy my own space and almost need my time alone to re-boot and re-charge. You would think I would be finding this easy. Or easier. Truth is it’s really hard.
For nearly two weeks I haven’t physically interacted with other humans. I’ve been to shops and interacted with cashiers, but they’re cashiers who are trying to do their jobs while trying to stay safe. Interactions don’t tend to extend beyond ‘do you need your receipt?’. I’m sure they just want me to collect my stuff and move along. Or the delivery people who have dropped off my veg boxes (or alcohol deliveries…). Again, they leave items on my doorstep, ring the bell and take about 6 steps back. Interaction goes no further than thank yous on both sides. FaceTime, Zoom, HouseParty have all replaced the interactions we took for granted in normal life. This new normal involves technology, internet and social distance. I’m not a huggy person in general, but those I love will know different. My old housemate gives the best hugs in the world and I’m lucky enough to work with him so would frequently let myself be folded into his arms for a huge hug. I miss those hugs. While technology has been a lifeline in this new normal we find ourselves in, it’s no replacement for physical connection.
I haven’t seen my boyfriend now for over three weeks. FaceTime dates have replaced movie nights, dinner dates or pub drinks. It took me long enough to find him and now the government has mandated that I can’t see him for the time being. It’s forced us to have conversations about our relationship that we perhaps wouldn’t have had yet if life had continued as normal. Do we move in together for the duration of lockdown and be isolated together? What is more detrimental to our relationship; not seeing each other for weeks maybe months or moving in too soon, even if it’s only short term? It’s a hard call to make and not one we want to get wrong. Let me tell you, missing him is hard. If you’re locked down with your partner, however much they’re annoying you right now, be grateful for them!
I am so grateful to still have my job, particularly when so many people have been furloughed. Monday to Friday, 7.30am till 3.30pm I have a focus. I have structure and a routine. I have weekly meetings that have always been in there and daily tasks that I’ve always done and it reminds me a little of life carrying on as normal. My company is obviously affected by the virus so we’re emergency planning for if and when things go south. So as much as my job is a distraction I still can’t quite escape the bad news in the world. We have department ‘tea breaks’ every day so this gives me the chance to speak to other humans, albeit through a screen, every work day. You can’t underestimate the importance of this kind of connection during lockdown. It goes someway towards replicating the chats I’d have with colleagues in the kitchen in the office. Or the chocolate runs with colleagues-come-friends to the vending machine where we’d go the long way so we could have a chat on route.
When 3.30pm comes I take my daily walk, my ‘commute’ if you will. I would normally get the bus to work and walk the 45 mins walk home. By taking my state sanctioned daily exercise at this time I can almost fool myself into thinking I’ve commuted. My day almost feels normal. I’m not sure if trying to replicate normality in this way is a good idea. Maybe I’m clinging on to a way of life that’s reminding me of what I’m missing. Maybe I need to move away from old routines and try to embrace this new normal? No one knows what they’re doing though do they? We’re just all muddling on and trying to make it through each day.
The last time I went to a supermarket was just before lockdown. I went to Aldi on Sunday morning and it was at the time where people had been panic buying so shelves were fairly bare and there was a limit on how many of each product you could buy. No more than 4 of any product. Since then I’ve been getting veg boxes delivered or shopping at the local health food shop as it’s never as busy. I come across fewer humans and although it’s more expensive they have always had eggs and milk and even pasta if you bring your own container. The way I cook is different now too. I’m almost rationing what I have for each meals cause when I run out there’s no guarantee I’ll be able to get hold of more. I’ve definitely taken for granted my wealth, although not rich, I’ve never gone without the food I wanted in my life. I’m still trying to avoid supermarkets because the thought of them and the restrictions and the people make me anxious. I’ll have food delivered as much as possible, but I need bin liners so at some point I’m going to have to brave it. Again, I live on my own, so there’s no one else to do it for me.
I do wonder what life will look like on the other side of this. No doubt we will all have been changed in some way. Whether you’ve spent lockdown with young children to entertain and having to lock yourself in the bathroom to escape for 10 minutes. Or with a partner who has now become your colleague as you sit side by side trying to work from home and arguing over desk space for your Skype call. Or, if like me, you’re on your own and reading about how we should be making the most of this time with our immediate families by playing games, talking and enjoying each other and feeling sad that your immediate family doesn’t live in your house. We will no longer take for granted the abundance of food on the supermarket shelves. The simple joys of grabbing a coffee with friends or holding hands over a restaurant table. The appreciation we all now have for the NHS, the carers, the cleaners, the supermarket staff, teachers looking after our kids, for everyone who has gone out to work during this time and done so to keep us moving as a country and get us through this weird time in our lives.
This situation has humbled me. It has reinforced friendships. It has made me feel like I may be part of a community. I am writing this because when this is all over I don’t want to forget the effect this virus and isolation had on me. We are making history right now. This global pandemic will be taught in schools all over the world for generations. We don’t know how long we will live this way. The restrictions on our life are likely to get stricter. We can only take this one day at a time and hope that the death toll and confirmed cases start to come down. We haven’t even peaked yet, so this could well be a long road yet.
One day at a time. Feel what you feel. If all you manage to do in a day is keep breathing then that’s okay.