As I’ve stated in my previous posts, each lockdown has brought with it turbulence in many different forms. However, I have to admit, at least for some of us, we have also had showers of positives to break up the negative droughts. I’d like to outline a few very important lessons I’ve learned that were brought with the restrictions, lockdowns and fears the pandemic forced upon us.
- We need to appreciate our “normal” privileges and freedoms. Under pre-pandemic circumstances, here in the UK, most of us were able to travel freely, meet whomever we wanted, wherever we wanted and whenever we wanted. Most of us were able to go shopping, out for meals, out drinking until we were getting a little too up-close-and-personal with the pavements in the ‘wee’ hours of the morning after 1 or 2 shots too many. We were able to take spontaneous trips to foreign countries, random city breaks to ‘tide us over’ until our next “proper” holiday. We were able to travel to visit family members and friends across our own country with ease, without face masks or restricted seating and timetables. We didn’t have to worry about our health or that of our loved ones. However, in many other countries around the world, people have lived with severe oppression, much like we feel we’ve faced throughout the strictest lockdowns – only, most likely, much, much worse. There are people trapped in or attempting to flee from war-ridden countries; people desperate but too afraid to escape from controlling and abusive relationships and even just restricted by their own health, either mentally or physically. Now that I’ve had the tiniest insight – I am in no way ignorantly making a comparison; merely an observation that living life without any form of your freedom removed is by far from healthy, and at least for me, had detriment to my mental health at times, too. As things slowly advance closer to “normality”, I am making a promise to myself not to take this freedom for granted ever again, and to cherish it greatly; to take whatever opportunities life offers me if I feel it would be beneficial or enjoyable.
2. We need to appreciate our loved ones, hold them close and always make sure they know you love them. If the past 14 months have taught us anything, it should definitely be that life is too fecking short. So many people lost loved ones throughout this period and were unable to even say goodbye, let alone hold their hand. I lost my gran almost 2 years ago, and although it was the most horrific week of my life to date, I was able to be with her in her hospital room for endless hours, holding her hand, grieving her and ensuring she didn’t spend a single one of her last minutes alone without one of her loved ones on hand. The thought that so many people were unable to do this for their precious loved ones or that so many passed on without someone they treasured by their side breaks my heart beyond words. My granddad had a mild heart attack in lockdown 1, and being unable to travel to England to be with him and the family or support them in person was incredibly difficult. Imagine being ill, even such as my mum quite recently was with Covid-19, and being unable to go near anyone or have anyone come to comfort or care for you because you risk making them sick, or they risk making you more seriously ill? My mum said despite how ill she felt whilst bed-ridden with coronavirus, the worst part was the loneliness for the whole duration. I live 10 minutes away and was unable to do anything other than talk to her via telephone and text and drop food off at her front door (once my isolation period was over – I was lucky and didn’t catch it).
3. Love and care for yourself – it’s essential (as in critical, not ‘essential’ in the way that driving 30 miles to test your eye sight during a global pandemic-induced lockdown is…). Think about; if you don’t look after yourself, how are you supposed to be of use to anyone who depends or relies on you? By keeping yourself healthy – both mentally AND physically – you enable yourself to be in a much better position to get your own shit done as well as anything you want or need to do for other people. Self-care looks different for everyone; it can be fitting in that workout you ‘never have time’ for; taking a relaxing bath, cooking a tasty nutritious meal, reading your book, manicuring your nails, going for a walk… anything that helps you clear your mind and feel good about yourself.
4. Immersing yourself in nature is a soul-cleanser. One of the things that helped me afloat in lockdown was taking myself off for hours on end in the lovely local countryside. Luckily, in lockdown 1, the golf course was closed and so I could roam freely without worrying about being knocked into a coma by a stray golf ball. I also developed a love for photographing nature so my (at the time) new phone, a Huawei P30 Pro was the perfect toy for photographing the sunsets and sunrises. My dad also began to really enjoy it, and as it was my only means of seeing my family at the time, we regularly took his camera out, stopping to photograph various birds (to those who refer to women as “birds” [“burds” if you’re from Glasgow – yes, I am face-palming as I type this] the winged type, obviously!). As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this quickly escalated once we were allowed to travel further afield and we began tackling bigger hills and Munros. However, it was lovely to see so many others embracing nature, especially those who had never explored the beautiful countryside that is literally upon their doorsteps. Furthermore, I’ve even noticed much larger numbers of people “getting their steps in” wandering around the streets, clearly enjoying a good podcast or some lively tunes. People taking more of an interest in upping their fitness in any way delights me. It really is the little things!
5. Don’t compare yourself or your life to anyone else’s; it’s literally pointless and it will make you miserable. The going trend of “Instagram vs. Reality” has been growing for a while now, but I can’t help but feel it isn’t actually doing much to reduce the unrealistic expectations social media has created over the last several years. The quote “comparison is the thief of joy” really does ring true. I can personally be quite bad for this, particularly on days where my self-esteem is sauntering around at the bottom of the well – BUT, I am working on it. More and more, I am reminding myself that we really do not see what goes on in anyone else’s life for the other 1439 minutes of the day (yes, I Googled this, no shame!) surround when the posed picture was taken – and in all honesty, nor do we have any right to. People portray themselves on social media in the way they either wish to be perceived, or in the way they feel they ought to be viewed. Yes, this may be false, and I do believe we should all be able to show our true selves and be respected for it, I’m under no illusion that there are many reasons people are afraid to be their true, raw and potentially vulnerable selves. People can be incredibly cruel – especially from behind a keyboard where no one can call them out on their shit. Also, and this is coming from someone who likes to know things… we really do need to mind our own damn business more. We are not entitled to know what is going on in anyone’s personal life – celebrity or not; friend or acquaintance; no one owes anyone an explanation. Everyone may be entitled to their own opinions; but I am a firm believer in “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it”. We are all different people with different genetics, different environments, having lived through different experiences, facing different challenges. With so many variables, there is no validity in our comparisons. Anyone who has studied science will understand that when carrying out experiments, you only change one condition in each experiment in order to compare which factor has an effect (if any). Therefore, with so many differences, it is merely common sense that under almost any circumstances, no two people are viably comparable. I think we should embrace our differences, play them as a strengths and trump cards, and use them to help one another where possible.
6. Face your feelings. You don’t have to act on them, but bottling them up or ignoring or denying them altogether will ultimately suffocate you in the long run. They may even manifest in other ways – perhaps feeling anxious about your relationship presents itself as anger towards your parents instead. Either way, this can only affect you and those around you negatively. Sometimes, you need to sit with your feelings and just process them; talk them through with someone you trust, say them out loud to yourself or even write them down – no one has to see them. Heck, you can even shred or burn them (safely!) afterwards if it’ll make you feel better. But getting them out there and acknowledging and accepting your feelings can alleviate the burden, even just enough to allow you to move past them.
7. The importance of a good, trust-worthy support network. I don’t know about you, but my family and a select few special friends salvaged a rather fractured version of me through the first lockdown and I genuinely wouldn’t have survived the last year so unscathed if it hadn’t been for them. I try to be as much of a protective barrier and safety net for the people in my life too. Things as simple as a text message or a quick phone call, sending someone a card, some chocolates or their favourite sweets as a little pick-me-up can go miles further than you’d ever believe. I think over the last 14 months, these seemingly small and simple gestures have created big impacts and really boosted people’s moods and reminded them they’re not alone – even if they feel they are. I always thinks it’s nice to know someone is thinking about you. However, if people didn’t check in, they may have had a good reason not to and I don’t think we should hold it against them. Some may have been rushed off their feet playing teacher, parent, cook, cleaner, dog-walker all whilst juggling their full time job; others were perhaps fighting their own internal battles just to adjust to the “new normal” or using all of their strength to prevent themselves from shattering. Others may just have not thought to do so and were even perhaps oblivious to others’ struggles.
8. The importance of scientific research and medical experts etc. and also how crucial, underappreciated and utterly self-less so many key workers are – especially those in positions where they are caring for other people. We literally wouldn’t be on our way out of this nightmare if it wasn’t for the scientists and researchers who dedicated their time and energy to creating multiple vaccines against this dreadful virus. The key workers, particularly the nurses, doctors and carers who literally saved the lives of our loved ones, held the hands of those who couldn’t stay with us any longer and worked relentlessly to ensure people were cared for as best as they could through shortages of PPE and equipment whilst putting their own lives at risk. These people deserve our utmost respect and we should forever show our gratitude to them all for getting through this pandemic and for getting us through this nightmare.
9. Time is precious! We need to prioritise and balance our time better; manage the times when we need to stop procrastinating and get the job done; and also the times when we need to slow down and just appreciate where we are ‘now’. A lot of people were forced to slow down as the world slammed to a halt and practically stopped spinning. Many suddenly had no work to go to, no bars, restaurants, meetings, activities to partake in. In a click of the Prime Minister’s fingers, people who barely had time to tie their shoelaces and eat between meetings had to stay home and twiddle their thumbs for an unknown amount of time. They’ve gone from sprinting to catch the London underground at rush hour to a leisurely (1 hour only!) stroll in their local park with one swish of a wand. Others were the opposite, they’d been sailing along gently and their little rowing boat suddenly morphed into a jet-ski zooming full speed ahead. Others, myself included, were floating around somewhere in the middle – busy with work but also scratching our heads when it came to filling evenings and days off. I think many, like myself, picked up new hobbies or projects and probably don’t know how they fit in a job anymore! I think it’s taught us that it’s okay to say ‘no’ to things we don’t want to do. It’s okay to make time for things we enjoy, in fact, it’s important that we do!
10. No amount of toilet roll, pasta or self-raising flour will protect you from a global pandemic. You really do have to laugh! But in all seriousness, the hoarding is selfish and it only made things worse for other people; leaving them without essential items and crucial supplies. On the bright side, the pandemic really has churned out some incredible home-bakers!
As tumultuous as the last 14 months have been, I would like to think that each of us has developed a newfound gratitude for the “simple things” we’ve always taken for granted. I would like to think that we’ll hold onto this gratitude and remember how fundamental our “basic freedoms” are as the world starts to raise its’ shutters once more. I’d hate for a large majority to forget how awful life is without these fundamental freedoms and take them for granted again. Although, I do wonder, would it even possible to forget a ride on the global pandemic rollercoaster?