Merry go round

In the past, I’ve had so many conversations with people about how overstretched I feel. I can’t count the amount of times over the year that I’ve said “I wish this merry-go-round would stop”; talking about my life and how I wish I could just get off it for a moment to catch my breath.

I think I’ve even written it here on this blog.

Life pre-covid-19 was so busy – family time was demanding with a young child, work was stretching (in a good way) and my social life kept me busy with plans stretching months ahead.

But the other day I was speaking to someone on the phone, asking each other how we were doing and I realised that with the current lockdown we’re living through, I’ve slowly unfolded into a new slower pace of life.

The merry-go-round has stopped.

And I’ve loved it.

Sure, there have been challenges – I’ve written about them on this blog – but the overwhelming feeling I’ve had in my life is relief for the time and space I now have in my life. 

Relief of having weekends filled with nothing but family togetherness; the highlight being a pizza night or a cycle down to the seafront and time throwing stones into the sea.

Relief at having time to properly care for myself – running through parks instead of commuting to work, reading in my newly set up ‘cosy corner’ in the afternoon sun, finding moments of kindness and connection as I wave to people on the walk up my road. 

Relief to find myself suddenly in a pace of life where I don’t expect myself to do anything or be anything.

I just am.

And part of me feels awful for feeling thankful in this time that is so deeply challenging for others – people pushed to the brink of breaking point psychologically, emotionally, financially, physically.

Is it right to flourish and have gratitude for the sudden break in life when people are losing their lives to this pandemic? 

But as I find myself whirling into a tailspin, wondering if I can even share these words with you, dear friend, I’m reminded of a podcast I listened to recently on comparative suffering, knowing that my lack of suffering at this moment doesn’t take away from what others are going through.

There’s room in this world for all our experiences. 

And I recognise that I was suffering before this pandemic slowed me down. 

Suffering from lack of space, a life that was unsustainable, an unhelpful pattern of constantly saying ‘yes’ to things that didn’t serve me, FOMO, not listening to myself and what I needed. 

And part of me is scared about what will happen when this lockdown ends – when I am back in a life that has more hard edges to it – with commuting, for example – and more soft edges too, with the possibility of socialising. 

I feel like a freak for loving the additional time alone, for not wanting to be with lots of people, for having a life that is full enough as it is. 

And yet, this is my truth. 

  • I love time alone. 
  • I only need a few close friends to feel like the richest person in the world. 
  • I’m happy living a simple life, with the company of my family and time out in nature. 
  • I like living somewhere with neighbours who look out for each other. 

I love this world where the merry-go-round has stopped – not for the suffering it has caused others but for the simplicity it has brought to my life. 

I hope I find a way to not get back on the merry-go-round – or to find a way to regularly get off it – when it starts to turn again. 

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It’s a marathon

Over the past three weeks while we’ve been in a covid-19 lockdown, I’ve seen incredible reactions from organisations and individuals, helping those most in need to get through this period of time.

Informal groups have formed on streets to look out for each other, people have stepped into new roles where needed to fill gaps, people have stayed indoors during this glorious period of sunshine to protect others and individuals have burned the midnight oil, working well into the night and into weekends to sort out the logistics of changes to services and the volume of work that needs to be done.

I’ve started working shifts at a crematorium that is part of my organisation because they need to increase capacity (a sad but necessary task so we can support people to say goodbye to their loved ones in a dignified and meaningful way) and have been working to support the work being done to link up volunteers with those in the community who are vulnerable and in need of help.

And I’m working on some resilience support for people within my organisation.

And am at home with a two year old a lot more than I have been in the past.

It seems to me that we need to shift from ‘sprint’ mode to getting into a marathon stride. One that is slower paced, but necessary to not burn out.

It’s needed if we’re to accept that we’ll probably be living this altered reality for some time yet to come in order to protect our health system from being inundated with sick people and to protect ourselves and our communities from covid-19.

So here is what I’m doing to keep my marathon stride:

Keep some sort of routine

Life seems more manageable if I’ve got some sort of routine in it. And that’s fairly easy to do because of childcare and work…but it’s been a bit challenging around the Easter weekend when we would usually be going out with friends or having lots of plans for how we’ll use our time.

So we’ve had discussions each day about what the bank holiday would have in store for us.

Usually some form of exercise outside – a hike or bike ride, a film in the afternoon, the games or activities planned for the day (I’d highly recommend playdough pictionary!) and an idea about dinner, whether that was a BBQ in the back garden or a pizza night, which we’re looking forward to this evening.

With a toddler who has the need for attention, routine has been helpful to not go crazy and to feel like we could carry on with this, even if it was for a few more weeks, months or longer.

Take care of the basics

I’ve been making sure to take care of the basic things that make me function well. The boring stuff, like getting enough sleep, exercising, not just eating trash (Easter Eggs aside), meditating, blogging…

Someone in my team sent this around in our team Whatsapp and it sums up how I’m trying to live through this time – remembering that it’s the normal self-care practices that enable me to make the difference and not go into meltdown.

WhatsApp Image 2020-04-09 at 08.40.05

Find ways to get my ‘time out’

If you know me well, you’ll know that there’s nothing more that I like to do than go to a cafe and spend hours there – reading, writing, eating cake and drinking coffee.

And while it’s an easy sacrifice to no longer get this time outside, I still have the need for space by myself – the main reason for my cafe addiction.

And so I’ve created my own comfy space, where all my trinkets are now stored and where I can keep all the books I want to read. I’m currently sat in this little cosy corner – tap, tap, tapping away on my laptop in happy solitude.

And I’m keeping my ‘alone time’ routine – spending the Thursday evenings I’d usually be by myself off parenting duty – in my chair in happy solitude. WhatsApp Image 2020-04-04 at 18.10.36

Acknowledge what I am doing

At the start of lockdown, I felt hopeless. ‘I’m not doing enough’ was the story I was telling myself. ‘I should be taking more of a leadership role at work’ was another of the stories floating around in my head.

But I was doing all I could – in work and outside of work.

I wasn’t perfect, I could have perhaps done more, but I did what I could.

So I want to say the same thing to you –

  • If you’re a key worker, going out still, you are doing your bit.
  • If you are staying inside and socially distancing when you’d really love to go out, you are also doing your bit.
  • If you are phoning up friends and family to make sure they’re ok, you are doing your bit.

Now is not the time to be unkind to yourself about your shortcomings. Now is the time to acknowledge all that you are doing for yourself and others.

Finding gratitude

For all the fear and uncertainty that covid-19 is bringing, there are also things to be grateful for. Finding them has been key to keeping my mental health as well as it is.

I feel grateful that I’ve kept my health and that most of those around me have stayed healthy and well too.

I’ve also felt grateful for the simple things that are having so much more meaning to me now, exercise outside once a day – a jog has never been more of a treat than it is now – the sunshine we’ve had this weekend, time saved not commuting to work that I can spend having a longer lunch break to do said jogging or to spend time reading.

Before covid-19, my time was mostly allocated – weekends had things booked in, evenings were busy for two months ahead. And I’ve been grateful that this has stopped and I’ve had time to breathe and be still. To live a simpler life co-parenting and enjoying less plans and more living in the present moment.


So here are some of my thoughts about staying sane during this time and getting into the stride of a longer period of isolation.

I hope some of my words have been useful to you and give you inspiration of what you can do to look after yourself.

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Covid-19

I’m home alone! My husband has gone to Derbyshire with my son to spend time with his parents. He’s enjoying time with them and getting support so we can work during this coronavirus turbulence.

It feels so lovely to have space and time by myself and also a bit strange.

Like I experience the time alone is more enjoyable when they’re close by and when the experience of being alone is so fleeting. A week to myself, I hardly know what to do with it. But I’m sat here on this Friday evening with a cup of tonic (I’m avoiding the gin whilst this crisis is in progress) and reflecting on what I’m learning, feeling, experiencing through this moment of uncertainty and volatility.

So, what am I learning?

Here are some thoughts I’d like to share with you.

My face

I touch my face all the damn time!

I didn’t realise this until I’ve started to follow the guidance of not touching my face and realising every other second that my fingers are on it.

On my cheek because of resting against my hands while I think, on my lips as I consider what I’m going to do next, on my eyes as I rub them with tiredness.

My hands are always on my face and it’s such a difficult thing to change this habit so I’m not passing on any infections to myself or other people.

My fear

I get it, I truly understand the fear of people who are rushing to the shop to stock up on things that they don’t really need.

More rice, more pasta, more bread, more, more, more that isn’t needed.

Whether it’s the remnants of my anorexia which means that I’m fearful of being hungry or just the panic of feeling helpless and fearing for the worst so wanting to protect myself with a fully stocked larder.

I feel the fear and want to get swept up in the pandemonium.

I don’t do anything beyond perhaps buying a tiny bit more here and there – making sure we’ve got some pasta, some rice.

But I get it.

I also feel sadness and anger at shelves being swept clean at the shops and those on low income or working too many hours to care for people being left with nothing.

But I get it.

I also can imagine myself in a different life, being someone who buys things and sells them at at incredibly ridiculous over inflated cost. I hope I wouldn’t be like them, but if I had been born into their life, suffered their hardships, took a few hard turns…I can imagine a reality where I was in their shoes.

I still feel angry at them and despairing at what they’ve done and are doing.

But it just seems like we are dividing at a time that we should be coming together,

Our chance

I see this moment in time as one that could shift us fundamentally.

We could look back on this time and, despite the hardships and the unbearable pain of loved ones dying, find a cause for celebration.

This time could be one where we did a hard life audit and saw that we were on the path to wreck and ruin. We could turn to ways that are more sustainable for both us and the planet.

Who would’ve thought a few days ago that the aviation industry would come to a standstill? That the government would be paying people unable to work to keep roofs over their head? That neighbours would reconnect to support each other in solidarity.

We’re living through unimaginable difficult but with the ripest opportunity to completely re-imagine our society.

The German Prime Minister was talking about the need for a universal salary for people, countless lives will saved through the reduction in pollution across the world. We’re seeing the value of those who are caring for us – NHS workers, charities and supermarket staff working their upmost to protect and serve us.

I see this is the moment where we could pivot – where businesses could be given grants to get back on their feet but with terms around environmental growth. Where people, used to having less for a while, stop buying so much. 

If only this would come true. 

I can’t quite believe it possible though.

I also feel helpless, because I don’t know what me – one person – can do to bring this change into being.

Sure I can petition, leaflet, protest.

But what power do I have?

I have the power with you, dear friend, sharing my thoughts and maybe impacting you in some small way – and you, in turn, influencing others.

But I’m unsure of what impact this can ultimately have.

I don’t know if this is all just too little, too late.

I saw a picture of how long we’ve been on this planet in the whole history of the world in a great book I read called ‘Active Hope‘ – if the history of the world was made to fit into a 24 period, humans exist in the last 5 seconds. And if the history of human life was made to fit into a 24 period, the industrial revolution would feature in the final 20 seconds of the day. 

Humanity as we know it is a short-term blip on this planet Earth.

That part fills me with hope – we can change, our way of being isn’t written in stone – but I also feel that we might just be a blip on this earth. A race who will disappear.

And it makes me sad for Jenson. It’s not what I want, but it’s sometimes hard to see a way forward. 

My community

I’ve started a mutual aid group on my street – you might have one near to you. It’s where residents come together – obviously not physically together – to support each other.

It started through me feeling hopeless and useless, but wanting to do something. And so I put a little note through everybody’s door on my street to say that they can contact me in an emergency – I was willing to walk dogs, pick up shopping or have a phone call for those who are isolated.

And from that has sprung out WhatsApp groups, messages of kindness, group donations as people request clothes for emergency foster care children and share things like books, DVDs and laptop chargers with each other.

I’ve learnt there are a surprising number of animals living on my road, someone who sings beautifully, a plumber, nurse and several teachers…

People who have never spoken to each other have started connecting and planning street parties (post coronavirus), coffee mornings are you come out into your front garden and wave at each other, who knows…we may have a singalong at some point.

But it feels lovely to connect.

Great to get to know each other.

Hopeful to think about what we could be if we knew more people, connected more, used a social resources in a different way.

I’ve seen what could happen if we stopped living just as individuals or a small families and instead got to know people on the street. Helping out each other, trading things, sharing gestures of good will and random acts of kindness.

We’re strong when we stand in solidarity with each other. Regardless of beliefs, political views or backgrounds. We’re all sorts of people living side-by-side, more connected now than ever before. 

Memes

And it wouldn’t be a coronavirus post without the amazing memes I’ve discovered through my far more digitally connected friends. 

They are incredible! 

https://www.instagram.com/p/B92TgybBlGQ/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet

View this post on Instagram

💀💀

A post shared by Daquan (@daquan) on


So from the darkness of my hopes for humanity to the lols of coronavirus memes, I’m sending you wishes that you and your loved ones stay healthy and well during this time. 

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