What sort of pandemicist are you? Have you learnt new skills, painted your entire house and redesigned your garden, or simply spent lots of time parked on the lounge, binge watching Netflix?
At the very beginning of restrictions, I was one of those people busily preparing lists of things to keep myself occupied. I hate to admit it, but it all sounded a little bit exciting and I was eager to luxuriate in all this new spare time.
As the weeks crept by, it didn’t feel so exciting anymore and I found myself passing through a series of phases.
Initially, I was frustrated. I couldn’t do my usual ‘stuff’. I couldn’t duck to the shops whenever I felt like it. Soon my trip to the shops, normally a chore, became the highlight of my week. I couldn’t go out for dinner. I couldn’t visit my parents, children or friends. I couldn’t go the to gym. Fortunately, my gym allocated all their equipment to members and ran online classes at all the usual session times. I was frustrated being cooped up at home. I usually do something outside the house every single day and love getting out and about.
First sad, then worried about not having work, this soon shifted into a need to be useful. This weighed heavily on my mind.
I felt like I was floundering, believing I was unwanted, unneeded and without purpose.
This has been a bit of a recurring issue for me since my kids left home but was now magnified. Here was I sitting at home, crafting, reading, doing workouts and watching TV whilst others were still working and putting themselves at risk or struggling to balance home learning supervision with work from home or perhaps even battling (and dying from) the virus. How dare I? I felt guilty, helpless. I put my name down to help at church; no-one needed help. I offered to do my parents’ shopping; they organised home delivery. I dropped notes in neighbour’s letterboxes; I received a couple of lovely notes in return, but everyone was fine. No assistance was required.
What was I to do? I made myself a fabric shopping trolley handle cover to minimise germ transfer. I posted photos on social media, orders trickled in and I spent a couple of weeks happily sewing Trolley Handle Cover Clutches and posting them off to their new homes. I had lovely feedback and even some photos of the covers in use. A friend wanted to make her own and offered to buy the pattern, so I sold my pattern too. I had a purpose again, if only for a short time. What next? I listened to and read stories of families struggling with home schooling. I offered my assistance to a few families, with no takers. I offered Zoom sessions for Mothers’ Day crafting for kids; again no interest.
Slowly, gradually, I began to relax and let go, to stop expecting so much of myself, to allow myself to just ‘be’.
And that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. I feel calm and for perhaps the first time in my life I’ve given myself permission to do very little. I have a few non-negotiables which give my days rhythm and meaning. It’s a quiet life, a small life, but I’ve finally settled into it.
Things have changed. The calendar is empty. There is no rush.
I sleep in most days. I leave the house once a day to walk. I drive the car once a week, travelling only a very short distance. A spin bike dominates my living room, other gym equipment nestles by the back door and behind my favourite armchair. My current jigsaw spreads tentacles across the dining table. Whatever I’m doing, my dog snoozes close by, never letting me out of sight. That’s the way it is now; it’s the new normal.
I’ve gained a new appreciation for my surroundings, really listening to birds singing in the trees behind my home, noticing the way the sun reflects off the water of the nearby canals at different times of the day, watching native trees flower, grateful for such a beautiful place and comfortable home to isolate in.
Now, as things begin to open up and I start to get work again, I find myself grateful for this time and the lessons it has taught me. I hope I can use them to improve my post-covid normal.