I have deliberated for hours trying to find the right words to express my jumbled thoughts somewhat cohesively, but I’m not a wordsmith, so I’m just going to do my best. Before I delve in, I just want to stress that I am incredibly thankful that my family and friends are healthy and that I still have a job. My heart goes out to you and your loved ones if you’ve experienced grief and financial loss during these difficult times.
2020 has been a tough year for everyone. The coronavirus has shown us that the careful balance of our lives can be tipped at a moment’s notice. We went from (what we thought would be) three weeks of lockdown to four months and no end in sight for social distancing. We had to rapidly adapt to measures including restrictions on movement and socialising, which has impacted our routines, freedom, family life and mental and physical wellbeing, to the point where life pre-COVID feels like a distant memory.
We have had to cope with overwhelming feelings of uncertainty, fear, loss and turmoil – undeniably, it’s been a lot and we have all just had to muddle through.
Working throughout the pandemic, albeit from home, has provided me with a semblance of normality. I live in hope for a future employee vaccination policy that can bring us all back, but for now I am happy to simply have something to mark the days. Add to that having to write my master’s thesis and I was both busy and distracted. Despite being busy, every time I took a moment to gather my thoughts, I would find it hard not to dwell on the worst-case scenarios, anyone else?
It has been hard in ways I could never have imagined. For months I only left our flat for daily exercise or a socially distanced catch up with family in their driveway. The world as we know it, reduced to the confines of our homes. A year of plans and holidays completely erased only to have to take things day by day.
And when you have no other choice but to take things one day at a time, you come to really value and appreciate everything you took for granted. All day shopping trips with my Mum, a pub lunch with friends, cinema trips with my husband and hunting out Disney bargains at car boot sales. These are the normal things that I will take pleasure in when all of this is over.
But even without these normal things, it is the little moments that spark joy even in the darkest of times. They become the things that keep us going. Like my mister coming home to keep me company on his lunch breaks, my parents leaving BBQ food in a warmer on their doorstep, cuddles with my furry potatoes.
This year has taught me that although I don’t like change, I am resilient and can adapt to difficult situations. I can stay positive and find moments of joy in every day.
It’s been a bittersweet time filled with such mixed emotions. I’ve missed my immediate family so much, but I’ve loved spending more time with my husband. Our regular walks have been a great addition to our evenings and helped to keep us talking. I’ve felt sad about the world, worried about all the uncertainty, but grateful for the health of my family and friends.
I’ve also learnt that I’m content in my own company and that there are benefits to slowing down. I don’t need weekends filled with to do lists and activities to validate my existence. It’s okay to be happy with doing less. Slowing down, particularly when my working week is so busy, is more than okay and I’m done feeling guilty about that.
600 words in, and I’m yet to talk about adjusting to the ‘new normal’ now that lockdown restrictions are easing. When I’ve not written here in so long, I felt it was important to share my experience of COVID-19 so far, to help provide some context.
How do you feel venturing out into life again?
Because I feel frightened and overwhelmed. There I said it – it’s not easy to admit.
Don’t get me wrong, I crave normality. But trying to do ‘normal’ things, like eating out or going to the shops, when the coronavirus is still so very real, is scary.
I think I have developed a fear of people. Particularly, crowds of people or people that don’t keep their distance.
I’m overcome with feelings of anxiety. My heart starts to race, my hands feel clammy. I psych myself up to face these situations and afterwards I’m close to tears and have to allow time to destress and feel myself again.
Doing these things used to feel so normal but now they’re a whole ordeal. I visited the zoo last month and that was okay because there were so few people, but then a meal out in a restaurant was highly stressful because it was busy and the waiters kept walking right past our table without any PPE.
When you’ve spent months of doing everything you can to keep at least two metres distance and see as few people as possible in order to protect the vulnerable and those you love, you become conditioned to behaving a certain way, it takes time to adjust but there’s also no way of controlling or anticipating how those around you will behave.
I think this deep-rooted fear has sown because I feel personally responsible for my actions – I don’t want to be responsible for someone else getting COVID as a result of my actions. I don’t think I could live with myself.
In addition, living in the shadow of another wave is scary – if infection rates increase life might shut down all over again and until we have a vaccine, social distancing, masks and hand sanitiser will be a part of daily life.
I’ve tried to push myself to do more in the hopes that I’ll feel more comfortable but I’m just going to have to take things at my own pace. I’ve never had to live through a pandemic before and I’m going to allow myself all the time I need. I’m going to take it one cautious step at a time because I want to protect my loved ones and because it is right for me.
For the moment, life is still going to look very different to what it did and it could be a very long time before we return to the life we used to know, so I guess we all just have to do our best to keep on going.
How are you adjusting to the ‘new normal’?