Friday 8 May 2020

Navigating life in lockdown

Hi and hello! First post of 2020 and what a year it’s shaped up to be eh? A couple of things have changed for me since I last wrote on here. 1. I got a boyfriend. Yep, a real one. The fact that someone would willingly choose to be with me after my previous post is a surprise to me as much as it is to you. And 2. Oh yeah the entire universe as we know it has shut down because of the biggest pandemic to hit the world since the plague (might be somewhat inaccurate but I’m not claiming to be The WHO – the health organisation or the band).

So yeah, life in lockdown. Pretty strange stuff. A couple of pointers about my current situation for some context before I really get going – I moved from London back into my parents’ house along with my boyfriend a little while ago, and I am fortunate enough to be working from home throughout this. I began by loving the idea of working from home and memories of sweaty, stressful tube commutes were fondly discarded along with meal deals and overpriced coffees. However, this quickly descended into “oh my god I hate my life I have nothing to life for who even AM I” when the realisation hit that all my free time had to be spent indoors. I very quickly realised something about myself – I thrive on variety. Working hard in the ‘big city’ during the week, wearing myself down until I craved Friday like oxygen to my little overworked lungs, and finally letting off some steam discovering pubs and parties over the weekend until I was ready to rinse and repeat all over again. Ah that sweet, sweet mid-twenties lifestyle.

Without having the opportunity to activate that reward system that I’ve grown so used to (I am little more than a lab rat waiting patiently for my hit of cheese) I’ve discovered that stress compounds remarkably quickly and I, in turn, swiftly descend into an anxious blob of uncertainty that doesn’t really see the point in anything. Please don’t think that I’m disregarding how lucky I am to be working right now because I really do feel privileged, I’m just speaking candidly about what I’ve been experiencing over the past couple of months in my situation. But yeah, the novelty of living a quiet cosy life wears off pretty quickly when you thrive off the very opposite, so I’ve been forced to get creative in order to stimulate that reward system that so desperately needs tending to. 

To create this sense of fun at the weekends (nothing like a bit of forced fun eh!?) and attempt to strike a real difference between my time off and my working week, I’ve been doing some of the usual things like quizzes or games nights at home, but we’ve also been replicating our much-missed pubs by piecing together our very own “Isolation Arms”. The Isolation Arms comes featuring your standard bowl of salted peanuts (this time I do know who’s had their hands in them) for ultimate authenticity, along with other details like strange pictures of unknown landscapes on the walls and Britpop playing on the speaker. Extra points for ‘background pub noise’ playing from someone’s phone, you won’t even notice the difference. Other ideas we’ve had but are yet to execute are a mad hatter’s boozy tea party or an American’s on tour weekend in the back garden, with Hawaiian shirts, bowls of punch and floral lei necklaces (saving this one for when there’s good weather confirmed).

Aside from all this work/life balance confusion I’ve been experiencing, another thing I’ve noticed is how much I compare myself to others at a time when quite frankly it couldn’t be more irrelevant. For example, everyone posting their 5k run screenshots has honestly made me feel like I must have something wrong with me because I find doing that really really difficult and can just about manage 3.5k before I say thank you but that’s enough for me. Now, despite having the athleticism of a spork, I do however feel that exercise has a wonderful ability to soothe and rebalance the mind so I’ve been doing YouTube workouts or a light jog most days. I’ve been really enjoying this channel for workouts if you need some inspo.

But yes, despite the fact I’ve personally been feeling really good in myself with my daily exercise, watching people post their sporty achievements with smiley selfies has had me wondering if maybe I’m doing it all wrong and it shouldn’t be so hard and I shouldn’t feel in pain at moments and also why don’t I fly across the meadows like some kind of athletic magical unicorn please!? But wait, that’s stupid. I’m being silly and doing that weird thing where I compare myself and my abilities to strangers on the internet again. Luckily, we have legends like Emily Clarkson to keep it real and strip back some of this internet fluff to remind us that running can be hard and horrible and gross and that that’s normal too. To quote “If running was super easy, walking wouldn’t be a thing. The fact is, it’s quite hard.” As a novice jogger with just about as little confidence as experience it’s really encouraging to read things like this, and I would definitely recommend that if you are active on social media then you follow accounts who remind you that life was made without Instagram filters.

Another person who has been having a positive influence me throughout these bizarre times is Bella Mackie – more specifically her book Jog On. In my opinion, Bella is a complete and utter legend for two reasons.

A) Her writing is super relatable and she talks so candidly about OCD in a way that just isn’t done enough. Her words do wonders to dispel the stigma around medication and I think the world would be a better place if everyone picked up a copy of Jog On

B) She’s married to Greg James

Seriously though her book gives me that extra bit of encouragement to pick up my running shoes and force myself out when the majority of me would much rather be binge-watching Miranda or watching my cats clean themselves for the 39515th time that day. I’m also discovering some great literature within the book and am loving learning more about the relationship between exercise and mental health.

Another thing I’ve been experiencing during lockdown is the overwhelming feeling that I’m not maximising all this ‘extra’ time I’ve got. When the changes were announced, I thought of all that extra commuting time being shaved off my days and immediately starting concocting big plans for myself – ranging from lists of Netflix series’ I would finally make my way through to writing a novel. Well. Guess how many novels I’ve written? None. Guess what I’ve been watching on Netflix? Old re-runs of Spongebob, Outnumbered and Friday Night Dinner… Shalommmmm Jackie. But you know what, they’re comforting and nothing bad happens in them (I tell a lie, when Wilson dies that hits me hard) and right now that’s the kind of stuff I want to watch. And all this extra time isn’t really extra is it, because making sense of all this stuff and dealing with the emotions that come with it doesn’t really leave a lot of room for anything else. What I’ve come to realise is that it’s fine to be doing things that make life more bearable right now, even if that is a jigsaw puzzle instead of writing the best fiction that the world has been graced with since Bridget Jones.

I’ll cut my ramblings here but before I do the last thing I wanted to mention was the importance of friendships in these weird and not-so-wonderful times. I know that every kind of media is telling us to stay in touch with loved ones right now so the last thing anyone needs is me regurgitating that message, but one of the nicest things that has happened to me in the last few weeks is my best friend sending me flowers for no reason other than she is wonderful gem of a person. My friends keep me grounded and provide much needed optimism and humour right now, and I think it’s so important to treat those special people like the diamonds they are – whether it’s a card in the post or a phone call, it’s so nice to be nice and we all need it more than ever! x

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