Fifty days ago I’d never used Zoom before. In fact I’d never heard of it. I’d also never bought flour from a local miller, never washed my lettuce in soapy water, and never quarantined my mail. Fifty days ago, I’d not met the kind stranger who delivered my medicines today, not made coconut milk from dried powder, and not had a pet sourdough starter! (his name is Cyril, he’s rather explosive 😛 ). Like the rest of the country, my world has changed a lot since I started self-isolating. Seven long weeks ago. But this crazy new way to shop and clean and socialize and have medical appointments and keep safe, is now starting to feel ordinary. Everyday. I’m growing used to this new way of life. It’s reassuring to be shown once again, that we can get used to anything. Even the strange and new and unusual can become routine. We can soon find our new normal.I love a routine. 😉 When I was a child, I’d eat my Sunday dinner in the same order. When I lived alone, I’d have washing day and cleaning day and visiting my Mum day. When I was a teacher, I’d take the class register in the exact same way, using the exact same words (the children noticed if I ever deviated! 😛 ). But when I developed Pulmonary Hypertension, my like of routine turned into a need for routine. A vital and essential need. Overnight my limitless energy mutated into very limited energy. I only had a handful of energy coins to spend. The amount of activity I could do each day was only a tenth of what it used to be. Suddenly I was unable to talk for very long, walk for very long… read, watch, play, move or do anything for very long. Every time I did too much activity, I’d spend the next day in bed recovering. Through trial and error, I eventually learnt how much my body could do without becoming poorly. And thus a strict daily routine was established that allowed me to manage my energy levels. It has been a vital survival strategy these past seven years of illness.But when the coronavirus appeared on our shores, it blew apart my daily routine. On top of my normal everyday chores, I now had a million new things to think about and worry about and research and arrange. How to have my monthly blood test. How to get my medicines delivered. How to reserve a highly sought-after Tesco delivery slot. How to post letters without leaving the house. How to stay in contact with family and friends. How to make bread without yeast or flour. My upstairs oxygen concentrator was requisitioned, forcing me to carry around heavy O2 canisters. Stress and worry dominated my thoughts as the chirping birds took roost in my head. And even happy Zoom catch-ups zapped colossal amounts of my energy.
But the biggest and hardest change to my routine was having Phil around all of the time. Before the pandemic, when he worked from home once a week, we frequently joked that he needed to return to the office to give me a break from him. So the first couple of weeks of shielding were difficult. Noise and company and noise and company. 24/7. He’d keep popping downstairs for a cuppa and a chat, answer work calls in the same room as me, and offload all of his banking stress and problems. I’d feel self-pressure to be a perfect housewife, obliged to cook all his meals, and guilty if I needed to relax and rest. My old routine went out the window. As I was continually using much more energy than I had to spend, my health suffered. For the first fortnight, I felt nauseous, weak, had headaches and got increasingly breathless. My face was permanently bright red (the sign I’ve overdone it) and my lips blue. But still I’d push myself to keep going, to do more, to be normal. Ignoring the signs to rest and recover, until my body forced it upon me. It was a crazy time. But somewhere around day 20 in the Big Shielding House, I made some big mental changes. And thus realised I needed to prioritize my health again, before I caused permanent damage. I started calculating how much energy each new job needed. I started prioritizing. I started implementing coping strategies. Zoom calls are now spread out over the week, I rest before supermarket deliveries, I limit the number of admin jobs I do daily. Dinner and washing up is now shared, I no longer always cook lunch for two, and Phil only works from the study. Each morning, I decide how I’m going to spend my limited energy, meaning I don’t always wash or dress if I have big jobs planned. And once again, I read books and watch TV and do all of my usual resting and zero-energy activities. I even have occasional sneaky lie-ins when Phil’s working! I’ve remembered that I have PVOD. 🙂 And through trial and error, I’ve established a new routine. So I’m only spending my daily energy allowance… nothing more. No more red face! Furthermore, as the weeks are passing, more and more problems are being solved. The many questions that initially plagued me, are slowly being worked out. I’ve found ways to post letters, stay in contact, buy flour. The birds are quiet, the zoom calls regular, and the villagers are helping us. Plus I’m now able to get priority supermarket slots! Wahoo! A new normality is rising from the ashes where the bomb landed. Thank you wonderful body for coping. 🙂
Over the last few years of illness, I’ve found time and time again, that you can get used to anything. You can adapt to anything. You can adjust your sails and carry on. Every big change, every shock, every curve-ball, eventually feels everyday again. Even in the biggest storms, the waves can’t throw you around forever. Calmness and routine and normality will always return… it’ll just be a new kind of normal. 🙂