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Jekyll and Hyde

During lockdown I sat down and wrote a blog. In fact, I sat down and wrote many blogs. But this particular blog I am referencing to was right at the start of lockdown and talked about how everything became suddenly very quiet, slow and eerily still; mainly because most of us couldn’t do anything, go anywhere or see anyone. A few weeks later I sat down and wrote a follow up blog but this time, after having settled into lockdown life, I wrote about how I really appreciated the quiet, slow and still. How this rare and lengthy time to myself had in fact become a new lifeline, allowing me a much-needed respite from the wonderful chaos that had become my everyday life.

Don’t get me wrong, I had no complaints at my seemingly fast-paced life. I loved keeping busy and seeing people, but being thrust into just my own company for a few months during lockdown really allowed me to ground myself in a way I hadn’t realised I'd needed.

For me, what I missed most was that human connection – and that is what I titled said blog back at the beginning of lockdown – I missed being able to hop in my van and pop round to see a friend for a catch up, or ring up my Nan and give her half an hours’ notice that I was coming around so ‘get the kettle on’. I spent the first few weeks of lockdown getting used to the silence, a quietness I hadn’t experienced before, that none of us had experienced before. The hustle and bustle of work life and towns and beaches and traffic and schools, had suddenly evaporated and left a fog of bewilderment, a gentle yet disturbed hum of what once was.

I also spent the first few weeks adjusting to remote working. I am forever grateful that my job at Cornwall Museums Partnership has allowed me to continue working throughout lockdown, but I am still coming to terms with Zoom fatigue and the fact I haven’t physically seen some of my colleagues since March. With the threat of another lockdown looming over us I’m finding it difficult to settle. I am continuously and aimlessly wandering between feeling isolated and overwhelmed, to frantic and perplexed. Nothing feels resolved and everything somehow purposeless in its doing, yet I have also never felt so free and mindful. Yes, lockdown life was peculiar to begin with and everyone had to adapt to a different way of living, but I found myself adapting much quicker than anticipated.

"Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel." Eleanor Brownn

Once I got into a new routine and found my way a little, I started to enjoy the quieter side of lockdown. In my Human Connection blog I said how ‘human connection and interaction are a vital part of my day. I see myself as an extroverted introvert. Surrounding myself with people and conversing with an abundance of characters from a mishmash of backgrounds yet longing for the loner life'. And whilst this was still the case a few months on, I began to turn more towards the loner in me which in turn, gave me the time I needed to repair the areas of myself that had become slightly fractured during the pre-lockdown chaos. This extroverted introvert had found the introvert, latched on, and didn’t want to let go – it became a constant battle, a bit like Jekyll and Hyde. I was missing being busy and connecting with humans, but I was also revelling in being on my own and enjoying having no plans.

Once lockdown eased, we emerged apprehensively from the quiet; face masks digging into ears, hands gripping sanitiser bottles like weapons, a feeling of trepidation at what lay outside front doors and garden gates. Shops started opening, children returned to school, and people materialised from dark corners, blinking up at the sun and wincing away in fear as someone, a stranger, came out of nowhere and walked past in close proximity. It was exciting, almost thrilling, to be visiting places that had once been off limits. Seeing people sat outside a pub made me nervous, I still wasn’t prepared to go in a pub or a shop, but it made me smile to see a sense of pre-lockdown life resurface.

“Feeling the world unravelling from its cocoons was a strange sensation. On the one hand I was thrilled to think I could reconnect with my friends and family again in a group-based scenario rather than one-to-one, over the fence or through a window. On the other hand, I was worried that everything I had achieved would go back to normal and I’d lose the settling bond I’d created with myself.”

In my follow up blog Reconnection, I spoke about how I understood the importance of setting time aside for your introverted self, and how the extrovert needn’t always take center stage. However, old habits soon came flying back once lockdown eased, and the diary seemed to fill up with exciting things to do and lovely people to see, and suddenly the ‘me time’ I’d promise I’d continue after lockdown, had already disappeared into endless yet enticing plans - the wonderful chaos I’d had brief respite from during lockdown, now seems to have shifted back into this ‘new normal’ pattern, like it had never left.

As I write this blog, I have noted a sudden free weekend I have coming up and it has been this which has reminded me that ‘me time’ is still important, even if the busyness of life can over take - so this weekend my plan is to not plan; to just wake up and see where the day will take me. It’s okay to say no to plans if you haven’t the time or energy capacity. I got caught up in all the excitement of being able to go out and see people and do things I hadn’t been able to do over the past several months, and although I haven’t left Cornwall yet or been as fast paced as I was pre-lockdown, I am now able to notice the patterns of behaviour I seep back into which leaves me breathless when I look at my scribbled and scrawled filled diary. It’s good to keep busy, it’s good to fill your days with interesting and exciting plans. What’s not good is when it starts to become detrimental to your health. To your mental health as well as your physical and emotional health. Look after yourself, take a day out if you can for yourself. Make self-care a priority. Don’t fill your diary up each month, take it day by day and make sure you give yourself the same love and attention that you no doubt give to everyone else.

'You are worth the quiet moment. You are worth the deeper breath. You are worth the time it takes to slow down, be still, and rest.' Morgan Harper Nichols

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