Finding a place to start amid a universe of chaos and a world literally in lock-down isn’t an easy thing. As I sit here, doing my weekly infusions (the treatment that I am privileged enough to receive to treat Common Variable Immunodeficiency; the health condition that I suffer with) and typing, my mind feels boggled and saturated and in melt-down and at the same time determined to be positive. It’s a confusing place to be right now; both in the world and in my mind.
I can’t begin to find the words, nor am I knowledgeable enough to responsibly share many thoughts about Covid-19, outside of the fact that it’s now been just over two weeks since I left my home for anything other than a short walk. I feel all at once as though I’ve had my independence stripped from me and in equal measure as though I’m being protected by people who don’t even know that I exist. Being identified by the NHS as a ‘highly vulnerable’ member of the public feels surreal. I’m 29 and for the most part I don’t think many people know there’s anything ‘wrong’ with me. Can you have imposter syndrome about your health? I think so. Because I do. I want so much to do something, anything, to help. To make my hands and mind feel useful. But instead I stay home, because that’s what I can do to help right now.
But staying home does funny things to you, doesn’t it? Having always been a homebird it seems a totally foreign concept to long to be amongst the chaos of the everyday life that we used to know and take so wholly for granted. I miss walking into town, listening to the white noise of cars streaming past. Cars I used to complain about, I might add: ‘When did this road get so busy?!’; ‘Why do people drive like such total w*nkers?!’ I miss coffees in cups with saucers at Elphicks; the place I’ve gone to for nearly two years now, when feeling lonely as a new mum was too much to bear. I miss watching other people talk and smile and laugh and cry. I miss observing the world in all it’s messy, chaotic and at times ugly beauty.
And the strangest thing is that I know that I’m definitely not alone in that. We are all living through something we couldn’t have ever imagined happening. It’s terrifying and overwhelming. And although it’s totally isolating, many of us feel more connected to others and the world around us than we ever have before. We’re living in a world where it has become increasingly difficult to silence the barrage of media coverage and quite frankly, bad news. A world where choosing to focus on the good; changing your mindset; practising gratitude; being mindful, is, rather than a fad or a money-making-racket, a tool essential for our survival.
Our forced isolation has meant, for me, anyway, that we’re no longer able to hide in a room full of people. We’re forced to look at ourselves as stand alone beings, rather than in comparison to Joe Bloggs who once stood beside us. Emotions are high. Fears are real. Anxiety is crippling but totally justifiably so. In two short weeks I for one have experienced more emotions than I would in a month. Our brains are saturated with media content and being forced to do all the things and all at once. Parents, teachers, providers. We are all of the things and we feel woefully inadequately prepared for them.
Our creature comforts have been stripped away and the things that we took for granted and assumed would never change, have all changed. In what feels like the blink of an eye.
I started this year off determined to feel positive. I feel like in many ways, I exceeded my own expectations by pushing myself so far outside my comfort zone, both professionally and personally. And, as I sit here today, I’m not quite sure what happens next. And, I’ve got to be honest with you, I don’t like that much at all.
On a personal level, lock-down has forced me to acknowledge some of the things that I am still struggling with. Things that I have so far successfully succeeded in sweeping under my proverbial and literal rug(s) (I do love a good statement rug, me!)
I’ve realised that in spite of the best intentions I am still not very kind to myself. I guess hearing the same thoughts over and over again but this time without the normal background noise of everyday life to temper them has made them feel deafening and more in need than ever of addressing.
It’s also highlighted to me that it’s okay to prioritise myself and my needs in relationships. That may sound obvious but I don’t think I’m very good at it. It’s like I hear the little voice saying: ‘hang on, this doesn’t feel right’, but I dismiss it because obviously the needs of the other person are greater than my own. I’m realising that it’s okay for me to have my own beliefs and values and that they do not have to align with other peoples. It’s uncomfortable when they don’t. Sometimes it hurts. But it’s okay for them to be mine and mine alone.
I’ve realised that when push comes to shove, I can talk on the phone and FaceTime. This might sound ridiculous, but it’s something I’ve struggled with for some time. People who know me have probably been shocked when I’ve actually not only answered but made calls recently. I’m even getting better at not staring at and mentally criticising myself in the bottom left corner on FaceTime… And that’s no small thing, is it?
I’ve pushed myself creatively and professionally to do the things I’d told myself I couldn’t. I’m starting to think of myself as a ‘real jeweller’, or at the very least, a ‘real maker’. When people ask me what I do (when we can once again talk to the outside world, that is !) I feel like it will feel good to tell them without mumbling a series of adjectives whilst looking at the floor as a result of imposter syndrome so magnificently crippling that I convinced myself I didn’t ‘do’ anything.
I’ve realised that my health stuff – my own personal baggage – is something I find difficult and is perhaps also something that I haven’t come to terms with. Having had the perception of myself as ‘lazy’ for as long as I can remember – I’m starting to realise that my health issues are real and are reasons for concern. And that they aren’t fair. And that the restrictions that I will face extend beyond this period of lockdown. Please don’t interpret that as my tiny violin coming out (my brother-in-law has a violin track saved on his phone for moments just like these… ;-)) but understand it as a way of me voicing and processing something that I don’t think I’ve really acknowledged. People often comment on how positive I am, or how they don’t ‘know how I do it’ and it it’s always baffled me. But the truth is, I’m not sure how ‘to do it’ right now, either. And that’s as it is. A work in progress.
And undoubtedly most importantly, I’ve realised (and I don’t wish for this to sound trite, for I realise that it might) that we are truly never alone. Yes, we have been forced to halt our everyday lives and do things in ways that we have never had to do before. Yes, physically, we are more alone than we have ever been. But we are all undeniably more connected than we have ever been, and on a global, GLOBAL, scale. I have been awed by peoples offers of help – both to me personally and to the wider community. Importantly, there is a world of negativity out there at the moment, too. But if you look in the right places you can undoubtedly see a world of human beings pulling together, irrespective of things that usually divide us. For a rare moment, money is no longer the most valuable currency; overtaken by kindness and basic human decency. And that’s more than a little bit special, isn’t it?
So for now, my dear friends, I am going to sign off. Thank you for bearing with me and for letting me put words to the things weighing on my heart. Thank you for always allowing me to be myself even if at times I’m not entirely sure of who that is.
For now, I find comfort in these words and I hope that you do, too.
Let July be July.
Let August be August.
And let yourself
You don’t have to be everything.
You don’t have to solve everything.
And you can still
in the wild
of changing things.
Beautiful friends, stay safe and know that you are never, ever, alone. There is beauty in the quiet and stillness.
With all of my love, always,
*Photography: Studio TJR