How was it for you?
It’s always been obvious that people have different lives but I’ve never before seen so many obvious differences within my close social circle.
I heard someone say, the other day, that they’d run out of jigsaws during their lockdown – and were now bored of lockdown. Others have struggled with work, home-education, and family care until they passed out with exhaustion at the end of every day, only to wake up with red eyes and pounding head to do it again, month in, month out.
I’ve heard friends talking of their financial worries because 80% furlough is not enough – but some people didn’t get any furlough payments, while others saved money because they worked from home and didn’t spend.
I’ve heard people talk of their nightmare in losing loved ones and not being able to say goodbye. I’ve heard some talk of loneliness; others talk about the interminable company and lack of space, with their household inescapably closeted away together.
I heard of two old ladies who used to wait until dark and then creep around to one another’s houses to sneak a sherry and a chat before bedtime, feeling like spies as they fed their need for “human friendship” (gin). Others spent months frightened to go near anyone, in fear of illness.
I heard of teachers ignoring their bad backs to ferry food to families who needed help. Others stockpiled for their own gain.
Some people reconnected with their partner, with the time available to reignite the heady intimacy of late night talks and dates spent together, just as two – for them, lockdown can be added to the list of things experienced hand-in-hand. Others got beaten up; the flinching of one partner walking into a room now compounded daily… hourly… for months, bythe knowledge that there’s no office or hotel to escape to, no friends to land on – absolutely nowhere to run. The constant pain and terror scores new lines onto their faces that they try to hide, because pride, and because no one can give the kind of help actually required in an archaic and feeble system that focuses on counselling the victim, over removing the perpetrator.
It’s too early for me to unpick my lockdown experience; all I can say currently is that it shook me. We were shielding, working, home-educating, and a lot of that wasn’t ideal. The months were marked first by missing people, then when allowed, by shuttling up and down the country to both rely on people and look after them. I pushed myself harder than I’ve ever pushed myself before and got shingles, 3, 4, 5 times until it became semi-permanent. There was no option on not working from 5am, sometimes earlier, and no option on not folding laundry till midnight. Our shielding was essential and our social distancing lasted up until this week when we had to make adjustments to accommodate the return to school.
The return to school is a complex issue for many, and for us involves three different schools and colleges. Today marks a surge in excitement because one of my children starts a course in a college that, frankly, almost tempted me to pack in my role as adult provider and go back to being a student. I am tense with hope, that it’s going to be as great as I imagine it could be. I was happy at his age; I wish the same and more for him. For my younger children, we return to known schools. I look forward to seeing their friends. I am not overly frightened of COVID because, although it’s an obvious concern, I have no energy for fear, for the time being.
At home, I steer our ship – I make the decisions and hold the household together. It’s not a role I wanted; I wanted to be looked after by someone strong, and to look after them in return – a partnership, but instead I got a fab gang, for whom I’m eternally grateful, but I also get to make all the decisions and shoulder most of the burden. The only way my family could survive lockdown was for me not to matter – not my physical wellbeing, personal preferences, or emotions – I had to be a robot and had to function constantly and effectively to keep us afloat, irrespective of feelings, ability or strength. Work, caring, education, cleaning, shopping, isolation, illness, hospitals, work, caring, education, cleaning, shoppping, isolation, illness. My only role was to protect my children from physical or mental harm, and try to support their journey into what I hope will be a better future. I managed to dissociate from myself, and it was fine; sometimes not mattering is a relief.
Although lockdown’s over now, and we can start to reintegrate into a sense of relative normality, I’m not sure I’ll easily, perhaps ever, find my way back to the person I was before.
There again, perhaps that doesn’t matter, either.