“Three weeks? Three weeks! Bloody hell…” Those were my exact words on the evening of March 16th, when the nation sat down to watch Boris’ address knowing we were almost inevitably going into lockdown. Initially the losing of freedoms we’d become so accustomed to felt overwhelming and scary, almost as much as the virus taking the world into its clutches, but soon we all settled into a new routine and a simpler way of life. The small joys, the slower pace, the focus on what’s actually important. Over three months later and I think we’ll collectively never take hugs, seeing a loved one over a cup of tea or relaxing in the pub on a Friday evening with your girlfriends for granted ever again.
It’s amazing what a pandemic will do for the soul – and the diary.
In my 37 years I’ve rarely had nothing to do. As a child I was enrolled in all manner of clubs, classes and activities which followed through into adulthood; I’ve never been able to just sit still, having two jobs all the way through Uni and still working part time in a restaurant for extra cash after I’d spent the week working my graduate job. I started this blog as a hobby a decade ago, so my spare time was always spent attending launches or creating content; when it became my full time job I struggled to set boundaries and could often be found working evenings and weekends.
Having a clear diary has never come naturally to me (I thrive off having things to do, places to be and people to see,) but when you’re forced into a situation where your weekly Lidl shop is the most exciting thing to happen since your last weekly Lidl shop, life definitely takes on a slower pace. Admittedly the last few months have been hard on us all, in more ways than we could ever have known, but I also feel like it’s been the clean slate and re-start button we were all in desperate need of – even if we didn’t know it.
Initially I thought I’d get loads of work done, read all the books, pick up a hobby or two, finally tick off all those house things that needed doing… And although I managed to manifest a lot of that, I really wasn’t even a fraction as productive as I anticipated. Because who knew, but a global pandemic is pretty heavy going on the heart and the head. Even though I haven’t managed to do yoga every day, re-learned to speak French, become an expert baker or downsized my closet, I have achieved (and realised) some great things over the last three months.
Slowing down enough to read books has been quite the realisation. Normally only reserved for train journeys, holidays and bath time, reading is such a pleasure of mine but there was always something else to do before I opened a book. Having no plans and no time constraints, I easily found myself lost in another world between the pages of a novel.
I’ve re-discovered what it’s like to spend a weekend at home, with absolutely no plans. No brunch or dinner dates, no shopping trips, no catch ups, no coffee runs… Nothing. It’s been years since I spent a whole weekend in the confines of my home, but I’ve finally shaken that fidgety anxious sensation that comes with always needing to have something to keep me busy. I’m ok in comfy clothes, baking a cake and watching something on Netflix with a cup of tea and the biscuit tin.
Archie has brought so much joy to our life, but never more so than over the last few months. He’s provided a reason to get up and get out, even when I really didn’t want to, every single day; he’s provided a reason to breathe in the fresh air and spend hours wandering around the countryside – which always makes you feel better. He’s been there to bring comfort and happiness into our lives when we needed it most, and to be honest I don’t think I’ll ever forget that.
Speaking of which, we’ve fallen back in love with the countryside and have been so grateful to live in our village, especially during those weeks when you weren’t even allowed to get in your car for daily exercise. Within a short distance we have fields, a park, a canal, lakes and some lovely open spaces, which has really reaffirmed our decision to move slightly further away from London and establish a slightly slower pace of life.
Having the time and energy to work on my garden has been truly amazing. Creating a space we could relax during these uncertain times was such a good shout, especially during those insanely hot months when all I wanted to do was sit outside with a cold can of Diet Coke. We’ve built planters, made a herb garden out of an old palette, upcycled a bench, created a new bin store, reseeded and planted, painted fences and so much more. Now it’s finished before summer has really even begun, we can enjoy it together with loved ones we’ve so missed during these months.
I’ve spoken more to some of my friends virtually than I ever would have done before. Zoom calls, HouseParty chats and WhatsApp video has been a lifeline and reminded me of who’s really important and who I want to make more time for when this is all over. The past year has been a whirlwind (buying a house and moving away) so I’ve been a bit of a rubbish friend when it comes to staying in touch, but nothing forces you to reflect on who you really care about as much as a global pandemic. I’ve also made so many lovely new doggie mum friends that live in my village, and I’m feeling more at home and settled than I’ve ever felt in my life; this time has really affirmed our decision to buy a house here.
And finally, my family are the most important thing. We’ve always been really close, even if separated by distance, but not being allowed to see or hug my Mum / Nan / Sisters has been hard. I’ve been lucky enough to see my grandparents as restrictions lifted, but still at a distance. I’ll be so grateful for that first hug and for that first trip to Starbucks when my Mum says ‘if they have a lemon muffin…’ (A running in-joke.)
There’s no doubt I’m so ready for this all to be over, and I had a few weeks when I felt incredibly low, but retrospectively I know this has actually been an opportunity for many of us – to reassess, to re-balance and remember why.
I don’t want to return to a pace of life that leaves me constantly exhausted. I don’t want to return to the hamster wheel because I feel like I should be pushing myself harder, achieving more and reaching other people’s goals; my goals have always been to have my own home, be stable and be happy – everything else is just sugar coating. I don’t want to return to never having time to enjoy the little things, to spend time with people who are important and to just take a day off.
So, is it ok to admit I’ve kind of enjoyed lockdown?
Maybe not the actual lockdown part, but definitely the consequence of clarity.
It’s the space I never knew I needed to come back better than ever.
Hayley 2.0 if you will. Nice to meet you…
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