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.”

Might We Eventually Miss Some of this Loathed Lockdown?

Lockdown.

We’re all so looking forward to the lockdown being over and to returning to “normal”…but I’ve been wondering how much of this we will eventually miss.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There is a LOT about this current situation that deserves our frustration and hatred.

The sudden crash of everything, the sudden and immediate changes that none of us were prepared for, the emotional rollercoasters that we’ve been on since March 12th.

We’ve all had our worlds turned upside down. And for those of us who are parents, alongside trying to deal with our own grief and fear, we’ve had the added challenge of trying to provide security and stability to our kids.

And trying to keep one’s shit together so that our kids had to deal with minimal upheaval has been hard.

There is much to despise about Lockdown; not seeing family, not hugging, being limited to our homes and minimal journeys, the gauntlet that is the foodshop, the stresses of trying to save businesses, the “joys” of homeschooling our kids… all of these things have had us reeling.  I know they’ve left me reeling anyway.

And for many of us, we’ve been trying to keep working while parenting.  It’s been, erm, interesting to say the least.

And of course, MANY MANY MANY of you have continued going out to work on the frontline and in essential services, putting yourselves at daily risk to try to keep some normality going. (You are all heroes.)

We’re all at the point where the novelty has well and truly worn off. 

We’re all at the point where we’re done with this situation, and yet we are a long way from returning to the “normality” that we all crave so much.

We are all different, with different realities and different “normals” and we all have our own struggles and triumphs right now.  As with all things parenting, we can not compare our homes to other, nor should we.  Some of us are LOVING this. Some of us are hiding at least once a day in the utility room or bathroom.

We might be all in the same storm, but each and everyone of us has our own boat, and those boats differ greatly.  We shouldn’t judge each other’s boats.

BUT. 

Dare I say, there have been positives that maybe we have yet to appreciate. 

For me, the biggest change has been slowing down.

I’ve gone from having a schedule which literally had something every hour of every day, for myself and the girls, to slowly realising that much of my running and “Busyness” was unnecessary.

I’ve realised that being Busy all the time is not conducive to being happy.

I’m enjoying spending time with my girls… and yet it’s still PERFECTLY acceptable to admit that some days I just want to scream and hide.  You can be a good parent while admitting to needing a break.  It’s not a sign of weakness, but that’s a WHOLE other article.

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I love that the girls are getting this HUGE chunk of time with Myself and Daddy in the house with them.

I love that we’re getting to spend this chunk of their childhoods with them, with no interruptions or “other” stuff to do. We’ll never get this back.

I’m loving spending time with Himself.  We’ve been together a LONG time, and yet I don’t think we’ve EVER spent more than a week or two in each other’s constant company. Certainly not at home. That joy is usually only achieved when we’re on or family holiday.  (And yes, it has been an adjustment and a challenge for both of us!)

I’m struggling with plenty, but as we step into phase one of our reawakening, I find myself taking note. 

Because some day soon, I’ll crave the nothingness, if only just for a day.

Some day soon, I’ll wish I was back at home watching the girls playing with the dog.

Some day soon, I’ll wish I had nothing to do or nowhere to go.

Someday soon, I’ll find myself missing Himself, because we’ll be back to our usual Sunday night joke of “See you Friday Baby!”…

Now, for fear of sounding romantic and idealistic, I’ll NEVER miss the zoom meetings, or teaching from home, or constant worry that has coated every day of my life since March 18th.

I’ll NEVER miss trying to work and train and teach and parent and feed and comfort and exist all under one roof, in a constant whirlwind of our new normal.

I long to get back to my jobjob, to get my girls back to the joy of their school and seeing their friends, to get back to having a hot cuppa in the staffroom with a friend, or sneaking a coffee date with someone in before doing the school run, to get the door of our gym open again, to wander around Dunnes at my leisure without fear or anxiety.

I long to hug my family, to see my brother and his family who are so near but yet so far right now, to visit my friends, to get back to rehearsals, to go for dinner, to go to the theatre, or the cinema, or just for a quick bite to eat.

I long to book a flight to see a sibling, or book a hotel for a night away, to visit a park, to drive to Glenveagh, to climb Errigal, to walk on a beach, to see outside out my own 5k.

And yet, I’ve never been so grateful for my own 5K…

This weekend, I took the girls down one of our fields on our family farm, and we had a picnic in the grass.  It was where my siblings and I played daily as kids.  It’s right on our doorstep and yet I do wonder if I EVER would have “had time” to take them down the field for a picnic in normal life.

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Last week, we spent two hours on the shore near our house, again in a spot that I haven’t visited since I was a child.  We’ve driven past it to go ANYWHERE for years.  I don’t think we’d have ever visited under normal circumstances.

Himself has finally had time to walk the route that I’ve been walking my whole life.  He never understood why I loved it until he learned to love it himself.  He never would have walked these roads under normal circumstances.  He never would have had time.

And so while I am very aware that lockdown is going nowhere for the foreseeable, with the glimmer of hope that is upon us tonight in the final night before Phase 1, we can begin to look forward.

But in looking forward, I think that many of us will begin to look back at this time too.

We’ll take certain parts of this experience with us as we walk towards our individual realities, and for me at least, I’ll be bringing a few new priorities into mine.

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And while I won’t miss this one little bit, and I’ll embrace as much of my old life as I can, I’ll also look back and be glad of the time that I got with my wee team. (even if some of that was spent hiding in the utility room.)

(Remind me of this when I’m back fitting 38 hours into 24 and complaining about the things I’m currently missing!  Because we’ll al do it!)