At the start of March, on the night that Phil and I started shielding ourselves from the world, we wrote a ‘Corona Bucket List’. Eighteen jobs and tasks and ‘one-day-when-we-have-time’ fun projects that we hoped to achieve during the upcoming months of self-isolation. With the prospect of many many weeks at home, I needed a plan and a purpose, for that strange new limbo time. And with only grey skies looming, I desperately needed things to look forward to. I needed to picture some sunshine ahead. By the time the tonic was drunk, and the last chocolate eaten, we had a lovely ‘bucket list’ to keep us entertained. I was going to sew new Campervan curtains, finish another traveling photo album, and read fourteen books in fourteen weeks. I was going to play the piano daily, make a cookbook recipe each week, and explore every local footpath on my new scooter. As well as finishing snags in the house and garden. Chatting to my friends, I found that many had similar lofty ambitions. We all joked about stockpiling paint and compost and fabric for the magical bonus free-time we were going to have. And with our diaries now cleared and our weekends empty, we all had high hopes that we’d be able to tick off many of our grand plans.
But of course the reality was nothing like the imagined. Self-isolation was initially harder than I thought it was going to be. Cheeping birds moved into my head. They feasted on the terrifying news, gorged on the daily death toll, and dined on the increasingly scary rules imposed on society. They hijacked my thoughts, bashed my nerves … and depleted my energy reserves. I had little strength, little stamina, little concentration and little desire to do much. Furthermore, new shielding rules put an end to any scooter trips around the village. An increase in Phil’s workload as a direct result of the virus, saw him working longer and harder. And we made a moral decision to stop making non-essential online purchases- new DIY jobs now couldn’t be started. Although I knew shielding and lock-down and “the war of our generation” was coming, the reality was still a shock to me.
For the first fortnight of shielding I was just trying to survive. Fight or flight. I was just trying to get through each looooong day as best I could. Cope with the strange new situation, cope with the strange new worries, and cope with the strange new routine. I barely had enough energy to get dressed, let alone sort out the garage. I barely had enough focus to read a book, let alone write a blog. I barely had enough attention to watch a TV program, let alone edit my photographs. I barely had enough inclination to do anything except go downstairs and be. So after five.. ten… fifteen days of hibernation from the world, Phil and I had hardly accomplished any of the tasks we’d set ourselves on that lovely chocolate-fueled evening. The job list remained full. The fun activities remained unattempted. Even some of the daily chores were being neglected.
But me being me meant I couldn’t forget or ignore our grand plans. I’m a list maker. I love writing lists, ticking off lists, finishing lists. Lists have only ever made me feel good before. In control, successful, happy. But… I’ve never been unable-to-even-tackle-one-item-on-it before. All the jobs and projects were dancing around in my mind, trying to catch my attention, pressurizing me to start them. Do this, do that, do this, do that. A voice in my head regularly reprimanded me for “wasting this great opportunity” and rebuked me for “being lazy”. With each passing day of achieving nothing, I felt bad. Guilty. A bit of a failure. Those fun plans that we’d written to help us get through the difficult months ahead, were now starting to have the opposite effect.
Then on Day 18 in the Big Shielding House, I suddenly had a moment of clarity. Why was I putting myself under such pressure? Why was I demanding I achieve more than normal? What was I doing?! Maybe if I’d been quarantined whilst the rest of the world operated as usual.., maybe if the Coronavirus wasn’t a likely death sentence to me and my PHriends.., maybe if the world seemed more in control.. then maybe, maybe I’d have had time and energy and the mental health to tick off some of my fun projects. BUT Corona-time isn’t normal time. On the day I wrote my bucket list, I hadn’t taken in to account that the world was about to be turned upside down. I hadn’t realised that I would find it mentally challenging. I hadn’t considered that my energy levels would suffer. I hadn’t contemplated all of the extra tasks that would be required of me- washing food, searching online for elusive bread flour, organizing priority delivery slots, checking up on loved ones. I didn’t foresee, that for a while, my daily aim would be to quieten the cheeping birds. The picture I had in my head, of how self-isolation would be, was far from the reality.
And that was when I chose to forget those grand plans. To rip up those job targets. To shelve those bucket lists. To scrap what I thought would happen during shielding… and start anew based on the reality. To redraw my picture of self-isolation. A sparkling blank page. And as that decision was made, a complete calmness overcame me. The weight lifted. This past fortnight, I’ve had just one daily aim- to get Phil, Lottie and myself through it. Fed, watered and smiling. 🙂 Everything else is a bonus. I might do some of our fun activities at some point… or I might not. But it’s not important either way. We all just need to get through the next few months… we don’t need to do anything more. 🙂