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Some of us have hunkered inside by ourselves. Others with another person, be it our spouse, a child home from university, a parent or a roommate, or energetic young children.
So, what have we learned about ourselves? And have we mastered any new skills or become interested in a previously unthought-of hobby?
Here’s some of what I’ve gathered via newsy emails or Facebook posts from friends and relatives.
R___ lives alone, and spent the first few weeks of the pandemic enduring panic attacks, fearing that asthma and pre-diabetes make for heightened risk. Such reactions are completely understandable. R___’s nearby son began dropping bags of food outside the door, which solved the shopping problem, but being cooped up in a small flat on the third floor doesn’t help. What did help, was setting the alarm for 5:00 a.m. and heading out for a walk whilst most other people are asleep. Listening to birds and strolling along quiet streets during the dawn hours lend a much-needed calming influence. Not to mention the super-early rise ensuring a good night’s sleep. R___ has discovered the joy of sunrise.
A___ is accustomed to always doing something. “Be productive” is his motto. Actually, many of us feel we always need to be doing something—anything. After working on his usual hobbies for way longer than he normally does, he began to tire of them. It’s one thing creating for pleasure, but quite another when you can’t break it up through lunches with friends, a chat with dog owners while your hounds run around the park, or a beer in your local haunt on Friday evenings. So A___ decided to slow down, sit on his couch and read a book. A whole book. He realized he has several shelves of them, either unread or not having been read for many years, and has rediscovered a simple pleasure. He understands, also, that he’s doing his bit by staying inside.
M___ usually babysits her young grandchildren for a couple of hours each afternoon until their parents return (they live downstairs). Now, she has them from early morning until dinnertime, because their daycare/school has closed. Her long-ago parenting skills come in handy, but she felt out of practice for a marathon daily run—or should I say, overrun—of two youngsters. She found her usual source of activities, such as mid-afternoon milk-with-a-snack, playing ball in the garden and singing nursery rhymes, were not enough for the whole day. And she doesn’t have the same energy she did when her own children were young. What to do? She ordered a bumper box of kiddie crafts and board games, and now the little ones are happy to spend several hours occupied with these new activities. (I would add that paper games, such as “noughts and crosses,” “boxes,” “squiggles,” and just plain drawing, are also big draws for kids, and only need pencils, crayons and plain paper.)
And me? As many of you know, I’m a poet and writer. Re-reading some of my old poems recently, I suddenly realized one of them would be perfect for a children’s picture book. So I dusted off my graphic-design fingers and got to work creating images to go with the poem. Being out of practice with Adobe InDesign, I found myself getting into “the zone” for several hours every morning while finding joy in creating the little protagonist having this adventure. My graphic skills are improving again, and I’m having fun. Three more pictures to go. I never thought in my life that I’d make a kids’ book. Now I’m looking for more of my old poems and short stories, with the same idea. On top of this, my husband and I are working out to exercise videos until our gym reopens, and going for the occasional picnic, sitting inside the car looking out over a view of the lake or countryside.
So, the take-away here is, don’t waste this time. And by that, I also mean, if you need to sit and do nothing, then go with that. Relaxation is key, and at different stages, we likely want to pace ourselves with action and rest.
I imagine most of us have gone through a range of emotions over the last two months, but then, don’t we usually? Wake up grumpy and fatigued one morning, and jocular and optimistic the next?
The difference, though, is that our feelings are now heightened, due to horrible news stories, a rioting imagination and bad dreams, or else by hearing of the selfless bravery of front-line workers (and that includes sales assistants, cleaners and construction repair teams as well as our medical practitioners). We may go from feeling frightened, to angry, to hopeless, to happy, to shocked, depending on if we’ve listened to the latest political rows, read about the continuing increase in COVID cases, seen and chatted to familiar faces online, phoned a friend, and so on.
Some of us may find ourselves taking our frustrations out on our loved ones, simply because we need to vent. If we do, let’s ensure we make up for that with loving words, hugs and kind gestures. But if we feel we’re losing control in any way, then find a 1 800 number for whatever service is required, and phone it. In the absence of other sources during lockdown, these can help either directly or else guide us to the right website or number. That’s what they’re there for. We’re in this together, and not just us: the whole world!