So I wrote a post at the start of all this to offer my thoughts, support and feelings about being isolated and separated from your family, and in it I spoke about how I felt well prepared to weather the storm. Was I right? Sort of. There have been moments of creativity, joy and connection but they have been mixed in with our fair share of fear, anxiety, tears, stress and worry and although we have come out of it relatively unscathed so far, I am acutely aware that it is not yet over. Luckily, the weather has been beautiful (apart from at the time of writing!) and I have been able to sit in my garden or go out for a walk in the beautiful countryside that surrounds us and feel very lucky to be living here. I have also felt incredibly sad and lonely at times. This last week or so when things have started to ‘ease’, are proving to be the hardest yet. I may have been prepared for going into this, but it seems I am not ready to deal with how it feels to be coming out of it and I suspect I am not alone.
The signs of ‘normality’ gradually returning; more cars on the roads, families being reunited in their gardens, building projects being restarted, friends meeting up for socially distanced picnics, walks and play dates, the pictures of people flocking to beaches, parks and beauty spots, shops starting to re-open, people going back to work. It all makes me feel the distance from my own family even more keenly. I know that I am jealous, and it is not an attractive quality, but it is a real one that I am having to deal with and I am so sad that our personal ‘reality’ will be stuck like this for a good deal longer yet.
I feel like I have a kind of self-imposed Stockholm syndrome. I’m too scared to break out of my bubble; unable to visit the people I really need or want to, and cripplingly unsure of whether the risks of popping to the garden centre for a change of scene really match up to the benefits. One minute I am giving serious consideration to jumping in the car in the dead of night to drive in disguise to see my loved ones at the other end of the country with only a bottle to pee in, the next I am too scared to go to the corner shop or fretting about the etiquette of stopping to chat with a friend.
As I see other people starting to meet up, all the anxieties that stem from my childhood about never quite fitting into the places I live have also begun to resurface. I live here because it was where my husband grew up, but he is not here, so why am I? I may have many acquaintances all over the world, but my dearest friends and family, the ones who know me well and accept and love me for who I am warts and all, are few and (very) far between. I am also very aware that I am often the person that creates those barriers in the first place. There is always a part of me that is too scared of being rejected, so I tend to retreat back to my bubble of self-sufficient, prickles-out, independence and wonder why nobody pops round for a coffee. I constantly have one foot in the past and one in the future, unsure of how permanent the present incarnation of my life will be. My roots are always ready and waiting to be repotted and my heart and mind is always being pulled in different directions. I would not change it, but there is no light without dark.
If this is hard for me then how hard must it be if you are still in full isolation, if you have no family waiting for you, if you are poorly, or if you have lost someone you love and have not been able to say goodbye or grieve for them properly? Sitting on your own still, acutely aware of how everyone else seems to be rolling out the picnic blankets and popping the champagne corks. Every piece of litter dropped, each display of bored, youthful exuberance and ignorant disregard for our countryside, each perceived slight and snub, is being felt so much more keenly at the moment. It’s not just about the health risks, it’s about not trampling all over the sensitive bits of somebody’s heart and mind. It’s about having respect for the beautiful world we live in and all of the people we share it with and being aware of the fact that other people may not be able to move on like you can, or may just be too scared and traumatised by everything that has happened to try.
So my request is this. Please go and see those that you love if it is safe for you to do so, but please continue to try to be mindful of those that can’t for whatever reason that might be. They, like me, may be struggling with the green eyed lockdown monster that has taken root within them, but they need some extra care right now. And please, if you must go out and have some well deserved fun in the sun, take your fucking litter home with you. That would be enough for me.