Apr

Coronavirus: Week 5 of lockdown

Alison Bender   Personal  

We are at the start of the 5th week of lockdown so I wanted to write a little blog about how I’m feeling. First of all I can’t help thinking how special it is. Not because I’ve had a few too many G&Ts (I’ve imposed a new rule on myself, no drinking before 6) but because this is one of the strangest moments in the history of civilisation. For good or for bad, we are a unique generation of people who have found the unexpected thrust upon us with no preparation. No group of people will ever know what that feels like because there is now a precedent.

All we have now is how we dealt with it, and I’m determined to look back and feel pride and not regret to go with my over-washed hands.

My 6 year old painting Starry Night by Van Gogh

I sit here typing while my youngest is painting squiggles and my oldest is re-creating Starry Night by Van Gogh on our kitchen floor. Yes, home schooling. He is 6. I don’t think I knew who Van Gogh was until I was in 6th form so he’s well ahead. It’s a view from his asylum while he was locked up. Ah the irony.

I should point out he is only completing this task because he thinks he might be able to retire on its fortune once he sells it. Little does he know our economy is going to pot!

“Everything we do before a pandemic will seem alarmist. Everything we do after will seem inadequate.”

Michael Leavitt, former HHS Secretary under President George W. Bush

At the start of all of this I read this quote that stuck with me and I knew it would feel all the more true as the weeks wore on. Of course, like everyone I feel regret and sadness for everyone who has lost their lives and those who might in the bumpy road ahead. My Mum and Dad would certainly not survive Coronavirus. Mum has COPD and severe breathing problems and although Dad has survived four primary cancers and is a survival anomaly, his half a lung would certainly not fare well either.

That sadness is offset by the fact my children are having the time of their lives. They don’t appear to care what they are missing out on, and are only concerned with the here and now and that they get to spend more time with us.

My body tells me I’m stressed, although I don’t feel it. I’m covered in small white ‘spots’ for the first time since I was a teenager. I haven’t dyed my hair in weeks and have come to like my natural colour. I have a slightly softer tummy (I’ve decided that’s from drinking too much alcohol and eating too much chocolate) but slightly firmer thighs and bum (from all my ‘Bring Sally Up’ squat sessions). I look less knackered as I haven’t set my alarm for the 5am breakfast show in a while, but my little one has given up her nap so It’s a mixed bag!

I know how lucky I am about my lockdown ‘lot’. At New Normal -1 I was sat in my house with a new au pair and my best mate staying with me. So as the doors were bolted down I found myself with a ratio of 4 adults to two children and enough adult company for a party without the need for zoom.

I’m a little guilty about how much it allows me to enjoy this time, but I’m going to embrace every last second of it because not that long ago I longed for such an existence.

My husband and I have always worked too hard, it’s just the way we are and always have been. I used to say my husband was like a robot, he would allow himself 12 minutes in the morning to get ready and leave the house. Up (no snooze button for him), shower, brush teeth, dress, fly out of the door. I always got a kiss goodbye but that was it, no time to chat; no time to have a coffee together; no time to read a paper or eat breakfast. Both of us love our sleep and always complain we don’t get enough of it, and so sleep was prioritised, and everything else was squeezed into those 12 minutes.

I would dream of a time when we could hang out together in the mornings; something that so many families take for granted, but that was our life for so many, many years.

When we had children, I missed that even more, I longed to sit at a table and eat breakfast all together. We couldn’t even do it at weekends because weekends were football and I was working, so my husband and I tag teamed.

Our hard work paid off. We bought the house of our dreams, but it certainly came at a cost.  Our friends and family came to realise we would miss important events because of work, and work was put before almost everything. We both rose through our careers but there was definitely a poor work life balance.

Me speaking about the impact of Coronavirus on Sport early on in the pandemic

Throughout all my years of working, and particularly since having children, there were three things I longed for.

  • FAMILY TIME
  • ME TIME
  • HEADSPACE

The first thing was more family time, as discussed. Us four spending quality time together.

The second thing was more ‘me-time.’ Everything I did seemed to be for someone else. I was trying to be a good wife, a good mother and a good worker, but left little time for just myself. I longed to read for fun, to do things just for the sake of it, just to be.

The third thing was headspace. My job is full on. So many of my friends don’t realise how hard you have to work just to keep level. The number of newspapers I read every day, the football games I watch, the tactical analysis I learn. The prep I do for one small appearance. It is constant. If you leave it alone for just a day you feel you are behind. In my single days it was fine, I loved it. But as my ‘to do’ list grew and grew my brain felt constantly full to capacity. I felt I couldn’t remember the simplest of things. This emotional load I was carrying was huge.

So lockdown happened and guess what? Family time is in abundance, no football, so lots more headspace, therefore leaving more ‘me time.’ Like a Fairy Godmother who had granted my three wishes.

My husband an kids doing a family zoom call

Yes there is still a lot to be done, two children to home school and a career to try and keep hold of, but the freedom in my brain far outweighs all of this.

I have never felt ‘lighter’, I have more energy and enthusiasm than I’ve had for years. Yes there is the stress of not earning, of worry for elderly relatives, trying to keep up with it all, but I have more capacity for empathy and caring for others, as there is more room in my head.

A happy, more relaxed version of myself

Of course this is not sustainable. No football means no work and no money., but it’s enabled me to take a breather and has taught me a few important lessons that I hope I can carry with me.

I am appreciating the world around me more than I ever have done. I’ve started gardening, cooking, reading for fun and not work. I’ve even been able to find pride in cleaning!

Me in my garden appreciating the smell of the Jasmine, the herbs I’d just planted and the lack of aeroplane noise overhead!

The old me always tried and fit too much in. Taking my children here and there, to this and that. Overpromising my time and rushing from one event to another. Ending the day feeling exhausted. I have now realised you don’t need to do any of these things to be happy.

I’ve learned it is entirely possible to walk without stopping for treats, and now my kids don’t moan for babyccinos (yes how embarrassing) because they know they aren’t available. Instead we look at trees and flowers and rainbows in windows, and talk about what we want to do “when Coronavirus is over tomorrow” as my three year old says.

Gorgeous family bike ride along the Thames

We are spending far less, and I’m learning you can live with so little. I decided to go through my wardrobe and wear everything I own, so I’ve been dressing up throughout lockdown, and appreciating what I have.

I used to prioritise learning and growing over art and free-thinking, neglecting some ‘fun things’ like computer games, reading for fun and music. Now I realise you need a balance and can make time for all of it, if you really want to.

Before this starts to sound too worthy, I’ve watched a tonne of Tiger King, got addicted to gogglebox, got so pissed I had a two day hangover, cried over how to cook rice, had a strop over how much the kids fight and almost deleted whatapp as I can’t keep up with the number of messages, but I’m human and I’m trying.

So of course it’s been tough, and I’ve had good days and bad, but I can’t help appreciating this PAUSE on life we have been given. The pause that’s allowing the world to cleanse; the pause that’s allowing us all re-assess what’s important. The pause I’ve been asking for for years.