Five Lessons I’ve Learnt from Lockdown

Lockdown has been different for each of us – and has fundamentally changed the way we live our lives.

Last week, I wrote about the importance of learning the lessons from lockdown to roll forward for a time we start to go back to some sort of normality. Having written about it, I thought it only right to actually do that reflection myself. So I did – and here are the lockdown lessons I’ve learnt

I wouldn’t wear make up in a world where I didn’t have to see other people

I also wouldn’t shave various body parts as often as I do, or pluck my eyebrows (the latter I’ve continued to do, because my work colleagues can still see my face even if we are on Zoom, and I feel enormously self-conscious – I haven’t wanted to though).

I also wouldn’t do pretty much anything at all with my hair other than washing it (my hair straighteners have gathered a lot of metaphorical dust). I wouldn’t wear jewellery, and I would live in lounge pants and vest tops. It turns out that at heart, I’m a bit of an all-natural child…

I’ve also discovered that drinking tea is something I only do when offered it by others (even as a Brit, I’ve not had a single cup for months), as is eating or making any kind of cake. Chocolate, on the other hand, is something I’m very comfortable eating alone! While I only use a mop when there is company coming, keeping things otherwise clean, tidy and organised is absolutely something I do for myself – and would do even if I were the last person on earth.

My lesson here is that we’re all indoctrinated into all kinds of social practices – the stuff we grow up thinking is ‘the done thing.’ While I’m not sure I can shrug off a lifetime of habit, I’m certainly going to be working through how I can live in a way that’s more authentic to me – and hopefully save myself some time in the process!

I’m pretty tough

Which I sort of knew, but as the saying goes – you never know how strong you are until you have no other choice. My day job outside of the Project is as a critical worker. When the crisis started, my team quadrupled in size, and fourteen hour days, six days a week became the norm. I’m thankful every day that I’m able to do my work from home, unlike so many. But I’ve never worked so hard, day in day out, with so little time and so much responsibility to make the right decisions. Hours disappear, days into weeks, and the line between the week and weekend is so blurred that I quite often forget what day it is. I’ve worked so hard – and gone outside so little – that the muscles around my eyes have struggled at times to focus at distance, and bright sunshine feels like it’s burning my retinas. I am exhausted all the time.

But every day – sometimes after only three or four hours of sleep – I get up, make some coffee, and log back on again. What we’re doing matters, I truly believe, and I can choose whether I sink in it or thrive. My self-care routine is pretty set now – lots and lots of exercise, very healthy food, loads of water, yoga at least three times a week (and a five minute practice whenever I have a sliver of time), the odd chocolate bar, and plenty of mindless box sets for when my brain runs out of juice. It’s actually been an opportunity to look critically at how I use my time, and I’ve become far more disciplined as a result. And – four months in – I know that I can push myself to an extreme, and stay strong, positive, and determined.

I don’t miss the things I thought I would

As a bit of a social butterfly, I felt a real heaviness at the start of lockdown as I realised that the doors were closing on all of my favourite things to do (though of course they had to!) As it turns out, I’ve hardly missed any of the things I thought I would.

Things I haven’t missed include:

Shops. Not that I’ve ever been much of a shopper, but I do enjoy a browse now and then, especially of smaller stores. But nope, not a bit, not even one tiny little fraction. I’m now a happy online shopper, and will probably stay that way (Not on the High Street, you have my business for life…)

London. I’m from London, I love London, when I left London I made sure I could still commute into and socialise in London. I haven’t missed London AT ALL. I’ve realised my love of London is to do with the atmosphere, the people, and the ability to wander at will. Without the buzz and the attractions, it just isn’t the same place – and I therefore have no inclination to go.

Travel. I thought I’d miss travelling more than almost anything else. I think my high anxiety over Covid has made it seem far less appealing, as has knowing that the experience when I reached my destination just wouldn’t be the same. As with London, I’ve realised people are a huge part of my travelling experience – without those connections, it just isn’t worth it.

Some friends. This has been the most surprising one. I think I have a strong sense of duty to continue friendships even after I’ve outgrown them. I’ve found it’s actually been a relief in some cases not to have to keep them up. There are lessons for me about why I’ve invested so much in relationships which have ultimately turned out to be quite one sided, and why I choose to use my time the way that I do.

Support can come from unexpected places

Let’s do a quick run down of the more unlikely people who helped me through lockdown.

My ex boyfriends.

One moved in and became my lockdown buddy for four months – we shared the entire lockdown experience together, the whole rollercoaster ride. There’s something to be said for experiencing lockdown with someone who you know backwards – we may have bickered over cleaning rotas, and whose turn it was to take the garbage out (and we did), but he was also a source of company and incredible stability – I can’t imagine having gone through it with anybody else.

Another has been a constant, gentle source of support and fun. We’ve remotely helped each other decorate our houses, shared cooking tips, we even went to an online festival together! It’s been joyful getting to spend so much virtual time with him, and I’ve been so grateful for his presence.

My running group.

This may sound odd, as running in groups has been banned in England since March. But Medway Fit have a very active Facebook page – and it’s been a continual source of motivation. Challenges have been set, questions posted, jokes made and memes shared. Never mind that I haven’t managed to finish even one of their multi-week challenges, or that I’ve only been in the group since January, and only run with them a handful of times. It’s a big-hearted, open, inclusive space, completely fuelled by love of a single activity.

My own online solo community.

This isn’t a plug (much!) We launched SoloTalk just after lockdown started. In doing so, I wanted to create a safe space where anyone living alone could post anything that was on their minds. I figured that people would use it for all sorts of things, but that it would be primarily for other people.

I never realised how much strength I would take from my own community. We’ve supported each other, motivated each other, shared our deepest concerns and worries, and celebrated our achievements. Although we’ve only managed one virtual hang out, it was a joy it was to have a drink with a bunch of utterly brilliant women from both sides of the Atlantic. Even when I’ve not been able to be as actively involved, seeing what everyone has to say has brightened up my days.

The lesson here is that you never know what you’re going to need, and staying open to support – even from the most unlikely sources – is incredibly important.

The list of things I need to be content is very short

The final lesson I’ve learnt is about the core of things that matter to me, far more than anything else.

I’ve realised that I’m really, extraordinarily happy in my own company. I’d always known this to an extent, and lockdown has tested this to the extreme. Having always felt guilty about wanting to spend two, three, four or even five days immersed in some creative project or other, lockdown has given me free reign to indulge my inner introvert – and she is absolutely revelling in it. I now need to work out now how I balance a return to a full and active social life with staying true to this incredibly important part of myself.

I’ve also realised that the list of things I’ve actually missed is pretty simple. During the height of lockdown, I missed the outdoors, nature, the sea. The spontaneity of being able to walk into a bar, an art gallery, the gym. I’ve missed laughing with my friends over a glass of wine, and baby snuggles with their little ones. More than anything, I’ve missed my family. Turns out that at the height of a global pandemic, the only person in the world I really need to be with is my mum.

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