I’ve been mentally writing this post for four weeks now, for about as long as I’ve been working from home. If I had sat down and started writing it at any point before now, it probably would have been very different on each one of those days in that four weeks. As it is, this post won’t be as coherent or logically structured as some of my usual posts but will be a little more personal, focusing more on some of my thoughts and feelings. Believe me, there have been a lot of those over the last month.
Like most of us, it has taken me some time to adjust to this new ‘normal’, but equally it doesn’t feel like much has changed at all. I’m still working full time, I’m still living in the same place, I’m still talking to the same people (although using technology rather than in person) – the main structures of my day to day are still there. Until now. I have a whole ten days stretched out ahead of me with no work which feels both exciting and daunting at the same time. There will probably never again be a time when I have so much time off and so little planned. There are seemingly endless possibilities of what I could do and fill that time with, but it also seems extremely limited not being able to go anywhere or see anyone.
When I first started working from home and was thrown straight from our last holiday into this strange remote world I found it really difficult to adjust. I was anxious and didn’t know why. I was desperately upset about plans that were having to change and be cancelled. I was, and still am, frustrated about the lack of certainty about anything. I’ve had difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating and difficulty understanding why I’ve reacted to it all in this way.
Throughout the pandemic so far I haven’t been afraid of the virus or of catching it. That maybe sounds a little bit ignorant or naive but it feels like something I can’t control, even if I am following all the correct guidance. I was scared of lock-down though. Even though we knew it was coming, the evening it was announced I was scared, upset and confused. In a panic we even started to pack, planning to go to one of our parents’ houses where we would be around more people and have access to a garden, as well as being able to assist them. However we decided to stay in the flat we both call home instead.
So far, it hasn’t been too bad. I admit, it’s difficult when the sun is shining and there’s nothing more I want to do than just spend all day outside, but we’ve thrown the windows open and embraced the one time we go outside each day. Work has provided me with structure and normality during the week, making the weekends a little harder. Now there’s a long weekend and a full week off work stretched out ahead of me I’m worried about how I’ll spend that time.
Our weekends and time that we have off is usually filled with seeing people, going to different places or doing specific tasks. I’m a planner, and I love looking at our calendar and seeing what we have coming up. At times we complain it’s too full and we schedule in ‘time off’ with no plans where we try not to do very much. However it feels a little different now everything in the diary has had to be crossed off. Do I continue to try and plan things in and be as productive as possible? Or should I embrace not having to do anything, stick my feet up and not move from the sofa?
I can’t get bored – there’s too much to do. Even stuck inside there’s a whole world to explore thanks to the internet and I could pass my days watching different theatre shows, watching animals at the zoo, touring art exhibitions around the world or just chatting to family and friends. It’s not fear of boredom that bothers me although I will get restless and at times irritable (sorry James) because I want to be somewhere other than my flat. There’s a niggling thought at the back of my mind telling me not to waste this ‘opportunity’ that I’ve been given. Now is the time to refresh my blog, take one of the many online courses I’ve seen advertised, learn a new skill – it’s time that shouldn’t be wasted. There’s an unexpected pressure to make the most of this time rather than wasting it, whatever that means, and that’s what I’m finding difficult and confusing at the moment.
There’s a wealth of knowledge and activity out there which it seems that many people are making the most of. I have taken part in some of it. We’ve continued with our tap dancing classes, now taking place online. We’ve watched one of the National Theatre shows from the comfort of our sofa. We could quite easily spend this week engaging in cultural activities and educating ourselves, but most of this involves looking at a screen (either television, laptop or phone) which seems so wrong when the sun is shining outside. It’s also a little overwhelming that there is so much choice.
One of the best things about living in the age we do now is that we can still have regular contact with family and friends, and that social contact (even remotely) has kept me going on the days when I’ve found it a bit tough. But it can also be a bit much. When I’ve spent all day in Skype for Business meetings for work, the last thing I want to do is spend my evening on Skype as well. I’m used to sending people messages or emails and waiting a few days or weeks for a response. Now the responses are instantaneous which adds an unexpected pressure to reply immediately. After all, what else do you have to do at the moment? I could probably spend all day glued to my phone without realising it and I don’t want to become that person.
It’s all but officially confirmed that the lock-down will continue, although currently nobody seems to know until when. It’s looking ever more likely that we’ll have to delay our wedding and honeymoon which is what has upset me the most in all this. I’m aware that we’re lucky. We have jobs, we have somewhere to live and stay in isolation. We have access to everything we need, including a huge outdoor space where we can exercise whilst practicing social distancing. When I think of the privilege we do have, I become annoyed at myself for feeling upset or feel guilty, but sometimes it just can’t be helped.
When I look at the whole situation through a different lens, it’s actually quite fascinating. What we’re going through now will change society and the course of history. There are many sectors which will change forever, education being an obvious one. In years to come, future children or grandchildren could be studying this period of time at school and the impact it has had on their lives. I won’t be the first person who wondered whether starting a diary to record it all was a good idea. Even two months ago the lives we live now seemed so unlikely and alien that they were laughable, and yet here we are.
I’m aware that I’m beginning to ramble a bit, but it’s been helpful getting some of my thoughts out of my head and putting them here instead. I’m still a bit nervous about the week I’ve got stretching out ahead of me, but I also know I’ll probably already feel differently by tomorrow. Although I will try and make the most of the time I have now, I can’t help but think ahead to when all this is over. The future is like a little beacon of light and here’s just some of what I’m looking forward to after lock-down:
- Getting married
- Going on honeymoon
- Being able to visit family and friends
- Being able to travel
- Being able to buy eggs
- Having plans again
- Being able to tap-dance on a proper floor
- Not having to worry so much about ‘dodging’ people at a 2 metre distance on our runs
- Going for picnics
- Going to a National Trust property
- Spending as long as I like outside
- Going to the library
- Walking 10000 steps a day again
- Seeing my colleagues in person
- My walking commute
How are you finding this new way of life? Have you adjusted yet?