Once Upon a Normal…

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” 

I’ve said these words more than a few times over the past few weeks. Mainly, because I found myself absolutely bricking it over things that ‘once upon a normal’, wouldn’t have taken a fizz out of me. 

I’ve found myself anxious and sweating and with all the fizzy fingers at just the thought of having to go into the town. 

As someone who generally is not in any way worried about going places, or being out in public, this new found worry, worried me.  

I’m the type of person who can happily spend a day wandering around London on my own. I won’t care if someone I’m meeting in a restaurant or coffee shop is 20 minutes late.  I’m more than used to going to events on my own.  It wouldn’t have cost me a thought to go to a new place before lockdown.  

So how come, after going in to do the Big shop (not for the first time) a few weeks ago, I found myself in an absolute tizzy when I got back into the car?  I’m talking palpitations, sweats and a frustration that had my shoulders up at my ears. 

I was engulfed with a rage at myself, at how stupid I felt and how anxious I was over something that only a few weeks earlier, had been one of the banal, ordinary, boring even, activities of my previous normal. 

And so for at least 6 weeks, I refused point blank to do the shopping.  I’m lucky I have someone that could do it instead.  We had been taking turns anyway, so he didn’t mind, but I simply could not face going back in. And because I didn’t have to, I didn’t.

Ridiculous yeah?

Then, when the phases began to move, we went to a local park with the girls.  I looked after the girls. Himself it turns out, had to look after me.  Because I was so terrified of them going too close to people or doing something wrong, that I was on ‘fight or flight’ mode from the second we parked the car until we got back into it.

The following week, my best friend messaged about a coffee date.  Yay and hurrah… 

We were sitting outside a cafe, having a long overdue catch up, but we were at least an hour in before my shoulders lowered to where they’re supposed to be and I actually relaxed. A bit. 

Sitting outside a cafe I’ve frequented for years, with my best friend of almost 20 years, waving and saying hi to people we knew as they passed… I was calm on the outside, but a trainwreck inside.  I wasn’t calm and confident.  I was buzzing on nervous energy and on high alert. 

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me!” I said to my parents a few days later.  

And as usual, they had the answer. 

“You’re afraid. We’re all so afraid.”  They’re wise, and usually right are my parents, but don’t tell them I said that.

So armed with the fact that if my Daddy and Mammy can be afraid of normal stuff too, I decided that if I was in fact afraid, I had to face it. 

I sent a few messages that night and arranged a different coffee date or walk for each day that week.  Having just one thing on my schedule (and yes, I wrote them into my diary which has been lying redundant since March 12th) made me face a different place each day. 

I had coffee with a friend on a bench.  I met a mate for a donut and cuppa on the square. I even had coffee and cake with a friend in the back of her husband’s van which has a table in it… A-TEAM, eat your heart out. 

And as nervous as I was about each of these, making myself do it and speaking to familiar faces who I have missed so much, was the tonic that I needed.  Even better, each and every one of them said that they were feeling the exact same. And my message had made THEM get up and get out of their own comfort zones. 

I’m not a psychologist. I’m not a councillor.  I’m a hot mess and like everyone, I’ve been affected by the changes of the past few months. 

 I am however, able to admit my weakness.  I learned a few years ago that if I’m not feeling “right”, that saying it out loud leads to figuring it out. 

I figured out that I needed to face my fear and make myself get up and go out. And I’m stubborn enough to make myself do it. 

And considering that I have to go back to work in our gym at 6am tomorrow morning, I really had no choice but to get up and out. 

Now, I still haven’t faced the big shop.  And I still have to take a breath and plan where I’m going beforehand.  And I still sigh with huge relief when I’m safe and back in my car. But I’m another step closer to being back to my old self. And we have to keep taking those small steps to get to where we want to go. 

So if you can relate to ANY of this, I hope that you can get out and about.  Go for that coffee.  Meet that friend for lunch. Take the kids to the park. Go to the shop you’ve missed. Go back to the gym.  Book that restaurant. Go get your hair done.

With care and planning and abiding to social distancing guidelines, we can stay safe and keep each other safe.  

And soon, our “Once upon a normals”, will be “Happily Ever After Lockdown.”

Life is a Covidcoaster, Just Got To Ride it…

Mammy likes rollercoasters. I like theme parks.

But we’ve all been landed into a theme park that we had not planned to visit, and it seems that we all have to travel on a whole series of rollercoasters before we get to leave.

It’s a bit like a bad movie, isn’t it? “2020 – The Theme Park of Covidcoasters…”

We’ve been on one already.

On March 12th, all of us were hustled into little carriages and we’ve all travelled on our own Covidcoaster through lockdown.
For many of us, the track was scary and bumpy, but not too terrifying.
For many of us, it’s been an absolute nightmare and we step off it, battered and bruised and a big bit heartbroken.
For so so many, the rollercoaster still included working either from home or from the frontline… Every single person has had to travel on their own rollercoaster and every single one of us is absolutely allowed to feel a bit shaken by whichever track we were on.

Friday’s news of further relaxation of the lockdown restrictions came as a bit of a surprise to me.

I had taken a few days off social media this week and so I’d missed the usual leaks of announcements that always precede the actual announcements. I can’t say I was emotionally able for it. I wasn’t emotionally able for very much this week if I’m honest.😂

So the announcement that we are able to travel anywhere within our own county AND the realisation that things might just begin to move back towards our old normal a little faster than we’d hoped, was quite a gunk.

Add to that the realisation that we can look forward to opening our gym in July rather than August, and an already emotional trainwreck of a Mammy became an absolute blubbering mess! ❤

Messages began to come to my phone…promises of coffee dates and delight as friends realised they can finally visit parents and siblings.
Our beloved family and friends who have been so far away and yet so close since March, can now be visited and seen for the first time in almost 4 months.
Lists of shops and businesses were announcing their new opening dates on their social media, creating a whirl of anticipation and excitement in my tummy.

It is indeed a rollercoaster.

We’re already in our carriages, strapping ourselves in, slowly ascending; knowing that there would be a sudden burst of speed…
But knowing it is coming and being ready for it are two different things.

Some of us now face going back to work earlier than we had anticipated. Some of us have had our time in lockdown cut short.

Many of us now have to start to put actual measures in place to reopen our businesses, rather than the hypothetical “maybes” that we have been working towards.

And of course, with childcare facilities still closed, much of the workforce are wondering how the heck any of this is going to happen and who is going to look after the children?

And so suddenly, in the midst of the sudden joy that came with the 20k restriction being lifted and phase 5 being no more, a new and unexpected series of worries and problems are facing some of us.

While we have longed for this to be over, how many of us were actually ready for things to suddenly burst back to life? ❤

We’re in our rollercoasters but the safety barrier doesn’t seem to be quite secure. It’s a white knuckle kind of ride and it may be bumpy.

But the thing about rollercoasters, is that they begin and they move and they go up and down and spin around and round, but they eventually always slow down again and return to a pace where we can breathe easy again and eventually step back onto the platform.

And now, we all step onto the next rollercoaster in the Covid theme park.
It’s going to take us on another journey.

And it’s uncertain and frightening and exciting and wonderful all at once.

Whichever carriage you are in, I hope you have time to put your safety barriers down (or on!) and that you step off this particular stage of the journey a little further on and a little closer to contentment and normality.

And I hope that you all get to see someone who makes you smile in the next few weeks.

Riddle Me This… HOW is the ‘Big Shop’ Suddenly Causing Meltdowns?

So if you follow me on Instagranny, you’ll have seen me having a huge rant/meltdown after doing my shopping yesterday.

Not because of anyone else.
Not because of anything negative.
Not because of the shop.

Just about me.

And the realisation that something as simple and “normal” as doing the “big shop” had reduced me to a nervous wreck.

Yip. Me.

The very weirdo who doesn’t mind being in a bar or crowded place alone, who can happily spend a full day wandering around London on my own, and often, whose very joy DEPENDS on wandering around Dunnays ON MY OWN, got into the car after doing the shopping yesterday and freaked the feck out.

My heart was racing.
I was out of breath.
I had the fizzy fingers that I used to get when my anxiety was being a bitch, and I needed to decompress before I could even think about driving.

It was like a tidal wave of relief CRASHED over me once I closed the door.

What used to be one of my favourite things to do, has become something that I dread.

I hate it.

I hate the silence.
I hate the lack of eye contact.
I hate the absence of small talk and polite hellos.
I hate the heightened awareness of EVERY move made by everyone.
I hate the fear of stepping too close to someone by accident.

I hate the apocalyptic soft voice over the intercom reminding me to stay safe… it reminds me of ‘Children of Men’…a movie which I once taught as futuristic dystopian escapism, but which rings far too true these days.

I hate the whole thing.

But mostly, I hate my own weakness and how something so normal can freeze me to my core.

I hate feeling so weak.
I hate wearing the mask.
I hate the fact that so many of my friends and family are working on various frontlines every day, wearing these masks, and I can’t help.

I hate the fact that I melt down after wearing it for 30 feckin minutes.

I felt weak that I was complaining about doing the shopping. I mean Jesus wept, seriously Maria. Aren’t you lucky you having little else to be stressing about? Poor you my arse.

Yip. Absolutely. And I hate feeling so pathetically weak and I hate that I allowed something trivial to upset me so much.

But then, I read the hundreds, and I mean HUNDREDS, of messages from followers last night and this morning.

From women (and men) just as usually confident and capable as me, for whom the big shop has also become a terrible gauntlet run that frightens and stresses them.

And I don’t hate my weakness anymore.

I’m certainly not alone.

And yes, I’ll get on with it, and I’ll continue to do it for as long as it’s deemed essential by the people who are working to keep us all safe.

And I’ll pull up my big girl knickers and keep doing it, (in turns with Himself mind!), because, kids need food and all that jazz.

And I’ll remember that were all in this together, even though we have to stay 2 metres apart.

And I look forward to the day when this is all over, because then, I can promise you, I shall be skipping through the aisles, singing and smiling and hugging EVERYONE.

And there’ll be nothing they can do to stop me!

Whispers on the Wind – a Bedtime Story

Whispers on the Wind

Two little sisters played on the beach

And just when their parents had stepped out of reach,bwbeach

Wee Sis asked Big Sis in quiet hushed words,

“What’s going on Sis? What’s wrong with the world?

 

Everything’s changed in the last few days.

It seems like all that we do now is play.  

I miss my school teachers and I miss going to school.

I miss all my friends and I don’t feel too cool.

 

What happened to dancing, gymnastics and drama?

I just  want to cuddle my Granny and Granda.

I like it that Mammy and Daddy are here

It’s nice, and I like, but it’s getting quite weird.

 

So what’s going on Sis, what’s wrong with the world? 

I know something’s wrong but I don’t have the words.

I don’t like to see all our grown ups so sad

They say it’s OK, but I know something’s bad.”

 

The Big sister listened and squeezed her hand tight,

And she thought of how she could make all of this right.

For she was scared too and it all felt disastrous,

She missed all her friends and her teacher and classes. 

 

But she closed her eyes tight and for answers she longed,

To share with her sister and make them feel strong

And just as she was going to say “I don’t know”

A voice on the wind whispered into her soul.

 

It tickled her ears and it kissed her cold face

And suddenly everything fell into place.

She turned to her sister, she pushed back her hair,

And started to speak words she magically heard…

 

“The world has gone funny, and everything’s changed

But it won’t last forever, it’s only a phase.

We’ve gone from being busy and rushing and spinning

To not going anywhere, morning or evening.

 

Mammy and Daddy, who work all they’re able,

Are still working hard, from the one kitchen table.

And yes there’s a virus and yes, it is scary, 

But if we stay home and if everyone’s wary

 

We’ll hopefully stop it from getting too massive,

And the Doctors and heroes will manage to smash it.

So don’t you be worried, just know there are reasons

And this too will pass, it’s simply a season.

 

When all this is over, when all of this ends

We’ll get back to normal, We’ll play with our friends.

We’ll go back to our classes and have lots of fun, 

We’ll have parties and playdates and hug our loved ones. 

 

We just have to trust that the grown ups have got this,

And that they’ll do everything that they can to protect us.

Then Mammy’s voice called them with ”Girls, time to go!”

And they looked at each other, and they smiled in the know

 

That they would have lots of adventures together

On beaches, in sunshine, or in rainy weather.

They ran to their Daddy and called to their Mum

And as they were running, the clouds showed the sun.

 

For nature can comfort the fears that we’re feeling

And breezes keep whistling their secrets and healing;

And all of your worries will soon disappear

Like the wind on the faces of two little girls.

 

Maria Rushe 

March 2020 

Creating a New Normal

What a week it’s been eh?

We’ve all found ourselves slowly sliding into chaos. And even for those of us who hoped it’d all pass and gently laughed it off, (yes I was one of them), we’ve suddenly had our eyes opened and our backsides slapped.

The suddenness of Thursday’s announcement left the country reeling.  Yes, we all knew it was coming, but I don’t think anyone was prepared for the “6pm tonight” closures.

And so over the past few days, we’ve all had to try to adapt.  We’re trying to adapt to all of the changes that are coming at us faster than Sonic the bloody Hedgehog, while trying to maintain a “calm” in front of our kids.

Personally, it’s been a difficult few days.

We had to pull our run of The Addams Family after only 2 shows.  I had to leave work, saying bye to my other babbies and my colleagues in a weird and eery atmosphere that none of us have experienced before.

And this morning, Emmet and myself made the decision to close the gym for a while, in order to keep our members safe.  A difficult decision, but easy in the grand scheme of things.

And of course, these things are wee buns in the midst of the new reality we fins ourselves in.

So how can we make the most of the situations we find ourselves in?

  1. Routine:  Make a plan for the week, just as you would if you were all getting up to go to work/school.  For me, I intend to get up at 6am as usual, do a few hours of school work before the girls get up and then a few more after they’re in bed.  I’ll allocate a time for Mini-Me to do school work.  We’ll schedule time for us to train together or to get out for a run.  The girls will have playtime and downtime and bedtime will remain as normal as possible. And they’ll know that Mammy and Daddy still have to work for certain hours.
  2. Eating:  If your kids are anything like mine, they’re ALWAYS hungry.  I’m going to try to keep the idea of “breaktime” and “lunchtime” etc going at home.  Otherwise, Princess’s bum will be stuck out of the fridge constantly.  I’ve also chopped up their favourite fruit and put it in the fridge, so that if they do want snacks, they’re getting snacks, not treats.
  3. Get dressed:  seems obvious, and yet it’s so easy to stay in the pjs.  To be honest, I was so upset after Thursday that I spent most of Thursday and yesterday in my pjs.  But from tomorrow, it’s up, shower and get dressed as normal. Just without heels or makeup. See the positives where you can!
  4. Don’t overdo the Mary Poppins act:  I’ve already seen social media influencers who have done 3 weeks worth of arts and crafts activities in the first 2 days of no school.  Calm yourselves.  Let the kids play. Let them be bored. Let them read or draw.  Put on their coats and open the door if you can!  Not every activity needs to be organised or planned. Save those for the really long rainy days where they are genuinely bored or need cheered up.
  5. Follow people who inspire you:  Social Media has been a dark place this past few days.  Don’t allow yourself to become bogged down or overwhelmed. Switch off the phone. And try to have a switch off time in the evening.  And only follow people who are making you smile.
  6. Keep active:  The one thing that has been lovely this past few days, has been the weather.  Get outside with the kids.  Go for a walk. Keep an eye on our pages for some workout ideas that you can do with or without your kids.   And fresh air is good for everyone. Get as much as you can.  walk
  7. Read:  If you’re like me, you’ll have a pile of started and unread books in the house.  Put down the phone and start to read.  Let your kids see you do it.  Have a “reading time” block in the day where you all sit and read. Monkey see, Monkey do.
  8. Cook:  Again, most of us cook functionally and conveniently.  Rather than firing on the slowcooker or  cooking in a hurry, set your inner Nigella alight and get chopping.  Let the kids cook too.  They love it.  And if you have a few of those “Betty” quick brownies in the press for the really long days, you’re winning at life AND you have something sweet and tasty for your cuppa.
  9. Stay in touch:  For many of us who are used to social interaction with colleagues or clients, the sudden isolation and lack of communication can be upsetting.  Talk to each other.  Message friends. Set up messenger groups with people who you would usually see each day and check in on each other.  Make phonecalls.  Pick up the phone and call someone rather than always messaging.  Some people might not hear another voice from one end of the day to the next.  Communicate.
  10. Stay positive:  yeah it’s easy for me to say isn’t it? But it’s hard to do.  But go easy on yourself.  You’re allowed to be scared. You’re allowed to be upset.  Grief and fear are not signs of weakness.  In order to deal with things, we first have to process it; to let it sink in. So allow yourself time to process.  Then, look for the positives and focus on those.

We are in weird times.  We are dealing with disappointments and stresses that are unprecedented.  Much of what we are facing is new. and yet in the middle of it all, we’re seeing glimpses of human kindness and commeraderie that only the Irish can show.

We have a new reality.  We will all have to find a new normal for ourselves.  We can and we will.