When we think about the major life events that have happened over the course of the last three months, it feels a lot like we’ve unknowingly put ourselves forward for a game of apocalypse bingo.
There were 29 days in February, 300 days in March and 74 years in April, emotionally speaking. A global pandemic, the closure of schools, shops and restaurants, the sunniest April on record, furlough, flattening the curve, social distancing, stockpiling loo roll, stay home to save lives, wash your hands, NHS claps and BLM protests against racism and police brutality – it has been REAL.
Amid the frantically changing news cycle that threatened our lives and our freedom, there were moments of good news and unexpected benefits of staying home. Hello you cool cats and kittens was the greeting we didn’t know we needed, someone’s boss turned herself into a potato for the entirety of a Zoom call, Captain Tom Moore stole out hearts, nature had a breather, we played board games again, we had permission to do nothing, basked in the joy of an EMPTY diary and got to know our neighbours.
Now, as we emerge from lockdown and gradually adjust to the new normal, we’re reflecting on the past three months of quarantine. The things we’re grateful for, the people we’ve missed and the resilience we didn’t know we had. From community spirit and the best of humanity to realising exactly what and who matters in this thing, we call life, join us as we reflect on the crazy emotional experience. If the virus has taught us anything, it’s that we’re all in this together.
Lockdown has definitely taught me a few things. Mostly how lucky I am that I have my health and that nobody I am close to has been directly affected by Covid-19. It really puts your life into perspective; What’s important and what isn’t. That worrying about so many menial things can take up so much time, yet you can never predict something like a global pandemic. The great sense of community and lifting each-other through such a difficult and unpredictable time. I thought more about my friends and family and how they could be feeling, making sure to check in or have something thoughtful delivered to them to make them smile. Having previously lived with anxiety that ruled at least 80% of my thoughts on a day to day basis, I had a moment a few weeks ago where I realised that lockdown would have been a situation past-zoe would have welcomed. No travel? No large events or group gatherings? No restaurants? No socialising? No work events? No big scale face-to-face meetings? Being told to stay home no matter what. Although the circumstances are due to something incredibly scary and real, there was certainly a time in my life I would have relished in being told to avoid all of the above. However, sitting in my garden, thinking back on the past few months it made me realise how far I’d come as I miss all of those things so much. I can’t wait to step into an aeroplane, to dance in a crowd of people at a gig and to be more spontaneous with plans because we’re able to make them. More than anything, COVID-19 and lockdown has taught me never to take anything for granted; life, health, my home, freedom, the importance of human contact and the people in your life that truly matter to you!
Lockdown has been a whirlwind of emotions, 3 months have felt like a life time but I’ve also found myself thinking “how the hell is it already July?!”. I feel like there is no concept of time anymore, in some ways it has been quite freeing, other days I’ve found it harder to deal with.
As lockdown began, I enjoyed the free time I had, especially after work when I would normally be getting a bus back home and getting in much later. I also really appreciated the flexibility of my work and how lucky I was to work in a sector that could easily continue from home. With a lot of my friends being furloughed and finding it difficult to fill all the free time they now had, I knew having a working routine would help with passing time and most importantly, with my mental health.
Lockdown was something I accepted but also struggled with too. As someone with anxiety I found it difficult to deal with at first due to everything feeling so out of my control. But as the time passed and it started to feel more “normal” I found that it became easier, that lockdown became a new routine. I feel like I ended up just slotting into it and finding more enjoyment in the little things, especially when it began to ease, seeing friends at the beach was a real treat!
It’s made me appreciate how much I thrive off being social and seeing friends and although I won’t say that I’ll NEVER turn a plan down again (I’m a big believer in personal space and taking breaks when needed to be with yourself) but, I’ll definitely become more spontaneous. I want to plan less and just live, especially when lockdown begins to ease more. I have felt anxious about life going back to normal again, pubs and restaurants still make me a bit nervous and I haven’t been to one yet… but I’m sure in a few weeks my confidence in going to public places will grow a bit, baby steps!
What a bloody year! It feels weird even reflecting on the start of lockdown and the experience as a whole because I literally feel like I’ve aged about 5 years in the space of 3 months. Thankfully, whilst I haven’t contracted Covid myself, I’ve been battling every day with some longer terms health problems brought up by the stress of the pandemic, so I would not say the new decade has been a particularly easy one by any stretch of the imagination. Most of the lessons I’ve learnt have been centred around being unwell, but navigating the chronic pain landscape during a pandemic has been trying to say the least, ha!
I spent some time at ‘home’ home when lockdown first began, and whilst it was so lovely to be around my family when those first few scary weeks hit, I’ve definitely learnt the importance of having my own space, mentally and physically. Lesson one was therefore that it’s never selfish to put yourself first when you need to. Most of us spend a lot of time worrying about others or helping family and friends where possible, but the pandemic taught me the importance of just focusing on me when everything else is out of my control. Relationships aren’t always 50:50, and those that really care about you will take the weight off to help you find your balance again.
Lockdown reaffirmed for me how important it is to make plans, big or small to help manage my mental health and prevent the overwhelming feeling of an indefinite expanse of time ahead from becoming too much. Whilst before lockdown those plans looked more like seeing my boyfriend or booking weekends away, even the simplicity of adding ‘go for walk at 7pm’ or ‘order takeaway’ into my calendar added some much needed structure and control to what has otherwise been a very out of control few months.
And whilst this stretch of time has been unexplainably challenging, I seem to have reoccurring anxieties and worries about life going back to ‘normal’. I worry that I’ll struggle to adapt to socialising and conversations with new people again, that my anxiety will have grown into a more challenging and untameable version as though I’m starting from scratch, and that I’ll battle FOMO on a new scale as people make plans and book trips around me that I’ll have a strange sense of missing out from. Poor health and a pandemic have changed me in so many ways, but I hope this awful blip in an otherwise happier life will help me appreciate the desperately needed good times when they eventually roll around once more.
Spending the past three months in lockdown and working from home has made me hugely appreciative to work in an industry that is so receptive to change. While working remotely is not without its challenges – musical neighbours were definitely only endearing at the beginning – particularly in the thick of a global pandemic, not everyone had the luxury of being able to do their job from the comfort and safety of their home. Like many others, I wouldn’t choose to spend this much time indoors ordinarily, but it really taught me how to get comfortable with a slower, simpler life; a moment of pause. The Banana bread, Tiger King chapter of lockdown seems like 84 years ago, doesn’t it?
I’ve found a new sense of gratitude for my home and the little rituals I’ve enjoyed since spending more time here. Lighting the candles in the lounge before opening my laptop or reading books on the stairs – tiny celebrations of idleness. Being satisfied with just being and surviving instead of doing. I’ve come to understand how the art of doing nothing is just that – an art. It’s something that we have to practise and choose to make room for, above plans and the glorification of productivity.
Going out on the doorstep every Thursday for the NHS clap has brought our neighbours together in socially-distanced solidarity. We have since shared birthdays, tears and bags of sugar; home-cooked meals and tomato plants with handwritten notes. It’s been a dangerous and worrying time but it’s also brought out the best in people. I’ve missed my normality in all its mesmerising forms: the squishy cheeks of my niece and nephew, the hugs. Oh the hugs! Forever the optimist though, I look for lessons in challenges like this one. We may all have had the proverbial rug pulled from under our feet but now we’re very nearly back on solid ground, are we more anchored than ever before? I like to think so.
To paraphrase Charles Dickens: it has been the best of times, and the worst of times; it’s been enriching and exhausting but most of all, eye-opening. This is going to be a story we will continue to share round the campfire for years to come. I hope we remember 2020: the year we relearned how to live.
Admittedly I was one of those people that went into lockdown thinking we’ll be back to normal in a few weeks. Obviously that wasn’t the case! I think the novelty of the first few weeks got me to a certain point, building my new way of working from home which is never something I’d done long-term before. I guess the closest thing would be Uni, and I was pretty rubbish at motivating myself to do anything back then, thank god I’ve changed! Video calling my family was a godsend, I probably spoke to at least one friend or family member every day which was a welcome respite from only talking to my fiancée Harry or my dog.
I quickly learnt how much money I was previously spending on food and socialising, and hope that I can keep saving now that the lockdown is easing. It’s been hard to differentiate weekdays from weekends when I had no plans, but we always managed to have fun.
During the lockdown I had to cancel my hen do (replaced with an AMAZING virtual one) and my wedding, but if anything it’s only brought Harry and me closer, we’ve had so much fun together and knowing we can spend so much time together alone is quite a nice feeling. One of my favourite days was Harry’s birthday, I made him a pub in the kitchen and he was so grateful.
I’m so grateful I’ve been able to keep working, I have plenty of friends and family that have had to deal with the added pressure of not knowing what’s happening with their career, and with so little to do it’s hard to not dwell on the negatives.
I think it’s probably too early to say what I’ll take from lockdown moving forward, but I know I have a new respect for the fact that not every day is a given, I’ll be making sure when I’m spending time with friends and family that I’m present and soaking up all the positivity I can.