Updated: Nov 15, 2020
19 weeks. 133 days. 3192 hours. 191520 minutes. However you choose to break it down, that is how long I was in lockdown for; an anomalous time where everything seemed so chaotic, tiresome and eerily still. As the world wakes up and we start to shift into a new yet familiar way of living, I still find it overwhelming to think how much has changed; how adaptable we have become to situations we’ve never had to experience in this lifetime and yet, walking around the streets today feels unbelievably standard. I can’t easily recall what it felt like 3192 hours ago when face mask adverts didn’t litter my social media; the constant wringing of sanitiser didn’t leave my hands dry and cracked; and coughing in front of a stranger didn’t instill fear in both parties. It seems odd now to remember a time where I didn’t have to queue two meters apart from someone, and where hushed voices of ‘she’s not wearing a face mask’ and ‘he’s standing too close to me’ filled the air as I waited to pay for a pair of jeans I couldn’t try on and so had no idea if they’d fit. The times I took for granted popping in and out of shops to get items I probably didn’t even need; I may have saved money during these 133 days, but I miss the aimless wandering and frivolous browsing.
"I simply want to take a break and catch my breath. But I also think that, sometimes, the bravest thing you can do is to deliberately keep some time free and see what the world throws at you" Ruth Wilson
At the beginning of lockdown, I sat down and wrote a blog called Human Connection. In this blog I mentioned how human connection and interaction are a vital part of my day. That 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. During the last 191520 minutes I have felt the loner in me shift to becoming a more prominent feature. I’ve become used to my own company because I have had no choice but to spend time with her, and only her. Before lockdown I was constantly surrounded by people. Getting time to myself was a rarity but I didn’t mind because I assumed, through feeling fulfilled with everything I was doing and everyone I was seeing, I didn’t need it. Or so I thought.
About 3 weeks into quarantine it hit me that I finally had the opportunity to sit down with myself and really get to know who she had become. I’d spent so much time thinking about where I was going and who I was seeing, I’d forgotten to check in with myself to see how I was doing. The solitude and distancing from human connection, although created a fragility at the start, ultimately assembled a stronger, more adaptable version of myself.
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.
Part of my Human Connection blog talked about feeling a sense of anxiety, which looking back now I can see that the anxiety I thought I’d caught during the beginning of lockdown, was in fact uncertainty. We are living through a time where a global pandemic halted the world so no wonder my nerves were rattled. Even the sanest have been shaken by what’s been happening outside our front doors. And although it has been a truly horrific time for many of us, for some like me, it has been a time to sit down, reflect and find inner peace at finally being on your own.
At the beginning of July, when the Government announced certain shops and trades could reopen, I decided to organise my first batch of socially distanced rambles. I was nervous yet overjoyed to be back doing what I loved. And thanks to the friendship of four wonderful yellow sock wearing women, I suddenly remembered what it was I missed about human connection.
Reconnecting with my friends, family and ramblers has brought me absolute euphoria and although I know, for my own mental wealth, how important it is to set aside space for just myself and I, being around those who bring me nothing but joy is certainly a huge part of who I am and how I choose to spend most of my days. Yes, I enjoyed the introvert I had become during lockdown and yes, I will miss not having to make an excuse to go out, but I now understand how important it is to set time aside for your introverted self and not let the extrovert take center-stage all the time.
I’ve had time to sharpen the attributes I’d waylaid slightly whilst living a manic pre-lockdown life. I’ve educated myself on self-kindness and reminded myself of compassion, and as I open the curtains to this ‘new way of living’, I go into it a sturdier, peaceful and humbler version of the person I was 19 weeks ago.
"Being extraordinary takes application. It means being prepared to change."
Marisa Coulter, His Dark Materials