So, what I dreaded came to pass. As crowds of people were too stupid to keep away from each other but instead flocked to the Lake District, Snowdon, Devon etc. in their hundreds over the weekend, on Monday night came the announcement I’d been dreading: lockdown.
My feelings over the past couple of weeks have, like so many other people’s, alternated between incredibly low moods (really not feeling like doing anything, wondering where it would all end, wondering how to carry on) and being fairly phlegmatic about it all. It didn’t help that I was running out of food (and it was getting towards the end of the month, so I was also trying to wait for payday until I went out for a supermarket shop). I was messaged a couple of times about whether I should have the kids with me and whether they were putting me more at risk – my immediate emotional response was one of ‘how on earth would I cope if I couldn’t see my kids’; I was also worried about my mental health if I couldn’t get out for a run or a bike ride.
By the Monday evening, just before the announcement, I was feeling annoyed with the scare-mongering and general panic. I deactivated my Facebook account and concentrated on other things. When my running group all decided not to go out running, even at 2m apart, I was devastated (and switched off notifications from them for a while – however it didn’t take me long to switch them back on again!). I felt like closing myself off from everybody – which sounds contradictory but is my standard response when I feel really low. I go into ‘shutdown’ mode.
What I really needed to do, of course, was get out for a run and do some singing practice. When I awoke on Tuesday and found a text from the government telling me I had to stay in, I read the details. Yes, I can go out to shop for food; yes I can do one bit of exercise a day, if I stay away from other people; yes divorced parents are allowed to go between each other’s houses to pick up their children as they would normally do. I had work that day, chatted to a friend who had been having similar mood swings, and that evening went for a run and then came home and did some singing practice.
Life seemed better. Lockdown had happened, but without the drama that I had feared. The energy to run and to do singing practice had come back and created the mental energy to look forward to doing so the next day; and the next.
Then my ex told me he’d had a dry cough and a high temperature, so the whole household was self-isolating completely. He felt absolutely fine and having spoken to him a couple of days later there was no cough to be heard. However it means I don’t get to see the kids for longer than I had anticipated. Perhaps because I had been out running and singing, and chatting to people, I didn’t react as I’d thought I might. I’d far rather we were all healthy and safe: and in fact what is now less than 2 weeks is only like them being on holiday. I miss them – their clutter is still distributed around my house, and rather than clearing it up as I normally would, I’ve left it around – but they will be back. I gave Edward’s panda a hug yesterday; I wander into their rooms to distribute cleaned and ironed clothes, sensing their characters in their rooms. Somehow they have left some of their energy and their imprint on those rooms; they’re not completely empty and devoid, just left in a rush, saying ‘we’ll be back soon and pick up where we left off’. I’m rather glad I haven’t tidied them up!
Of course what is so different about being closed away now – in comparison with the times when I’ve been really ill in the far distant past, pre-marriage and children, and was living alone – is that technology keeps us all in touch with each other. Even when the work emails crash, whatsapp works, or the phone. I can see people via zoom or skype or any of the message-calling services; something which I couldn’t conceive of when I first started work (when we didn’t even have email).
I am also incredibly lucky. I have a job and am being paid my salary as normal, so far; I have a house with a garden; I have countryside on my doorstep, with space enough not to be close to people and to still go out running or cycling or walking; and my children will be back soon. It is scary in that it feels as if the virus is getting closer – Cumbria has had quite a high incidence rate, especially bearing in mind our small population – but I am so glad I’m no longer a city flat dweller and that I don’t have the worries of being unemployed or running my own business. And also, it could be worse: we could be in a war zone and thank goodness we’re not.
I’m still not back on Facebook and I’m not watching the news. In some ways I am living in a bubble, but it is almost impossible in these days of IT connectivity not to know something of what is going on. Reading Sapiens (Yuval Noah Harari) made me acutely conscious of what social animals we humans are. Whilst we cannot ‘connect’ physically at the moment, for most of us the opportunities to connect in other ways are possibly almost better than they ever have been.
Take care and keep safe, everybody. And don’t forget Syria.
These days will return: