Warning: this blog contains gratuitous scenes of overt navel-gazing.
When the first lockdown was imposed almost a year ago now, most people approached it as a challenge to be overcome. In those early days of weekly communal clapping there was a sense of “we’re all in it together”. It was an opportunity, we decided, to get fit, learn a language, rebuild a bit of the house, take up crafting, or even write a book – the one thing I did actually do! We would be strong and positive and make the most of the time. The sun (mostly, even here in Argyll) shone on our efforts, we got a sort of Dunkirk spirit going, and emerged ready to get on with our lives again.
Now we’re back in the throes of it, and I’m finding it much, much harder this time around. I know I’m lucky. I don’t have a front-line job. I am used to working from home. I don’t have to contend with home-schooling kids or being furloughed with no promise of a return to work. I miss my family desperately but we keep in touch and (touch wood) we are all coping in our own way. Plus, I live in a beautiful part of the world, with a big garden.
But some days, telling yourself how lucky you are still doesn’t get you out of bed. The weather is dull and driech, the days are short and cold, and most importantly, there’s no end in sight. Harnessing hope is exhausting. Whatever positivity I wake up with has too often gone into hiding by lunch time and tracking it down again is sometimes just a step too far. So I clean the bathroom or do the ironing or just faff about on-line looking at clothes I’ll have no occasion to wear any time soon.
I know, from friends and family, and from social media and every other kind of media, that I’m far from being alone. I’m not the only one turning away from working out with weights and putting it on instead. I’m not the only one consuming comfort food and cocktails in unhealthy amounts. (And when it comes to this, lockdown has opened up a whole new world. Thanks to Tony’s Fresh Fish van and the shenanigans of Brexit, I can get any amount of fabulous Scottish seafood because it’s not being exported. And then there’s online shopping. Who knew that you could get tinned snails, a French grapefruit liqueur, a Spanish sherry-type vermouth all at the click of a button!) It doesn’t help that since January I’ve been locked in a battle with my current work in progress, which has had more false starts than an Olympic sprint final. Every morning I wake up thinking, this is the day I’ll crack it. And by lunchtime, it’s me that’s cracked, and I have the ominous feeling of version umpteen looming.
But enough, already. I am sick to the back teeth of listening to my internal whinging. Okay, so the book isn’t finished and I’ve a few pounds to lose, but in the grand scheme of things, these are very small fry. It’s time to get a bit of perspective back, and to find a way of being positivity-R-us for more than a few hours at a stretch.
First things first, I’m going to stop being so hard on myself. I’m terrible for setting ridiculous targets, for writing enormously long lists, and then beating myself up when I fail (as I always do) to achieve all of it. It’s hard to be creative at the moment, so any words I get done I am going to be chuffed with, even if I have to delete them the next day. Unless I have resorted to writing All work and no play makes Marguerite a dull girl, over and over. Then I really might have to re-think as I have no desire to star in a remake of The Shining (Heeerrrzz Marguerite!!).
I have the attention span of a gnat right now. I mix up words – the other day I announced that I couldn’t find the hairbrush to put the soup out with. I bound into rooms and then stop short, wondering what I’m doing there, or stare vacantly into a cupboard I’ve just opened. I don’t often forget how to finish my sentences, but occasionally I …. And I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said, no need to write that down, I’ll remember it, and then a few hours later said, what was that thing I said I had to remember? It’s not an age thing (well, not wholly) it’s a lockdown thing. So really, anything coherent I get on the page I should be patting myself on the back for having achieved, not castigating myself for having only written 500 words instead of 2000. Basically, my ethos is going to be that it’s better to do something than nothing, no matter how insignificant the something is.
I’m applying that to my exercise regime too. I’ve been working out with Jillian Michaels for about five years now and I’m a huge fan, but increasingly a commitment of half an hour (which in Jillian-speak is twenty minutes) is just too much to contemplate. My sisters and Mum discovered Pamela Reif on YouTube and once I got over thinking that I was being unfaithful to Jillian, I tried a few of her routines out. The workouts are ten to fifteen minutes and very targeted, and there’s an incredible range, so you don’t get bored doing the same one over and over. It’s much easier to coax yourself into ten minutes than half an hour, and it’s very easy, once you’ve done say, Happy Cardio, to then commit to ten more minutes of abs and after that, ten more minutes of legs. Hey presto, half an hour, but it doesn’t feel like it. And even if you stop after Happy Cardio, then that’s ten more minutes than nothing. Jillian is still my go-to workout guru when I have time and energy, but Pamela helps me through the can’t-be-gassed days. I’ve also managed to convince myself into doing twenty push-ups and fifty squats mid-morning while I’m waiting on my herbal tea brewing, and it’s amazing just how smug I feel at the end of it.
And now for a paddle in the shallows of my psyche. I am SICK of wearing the same clothes. I miss my shoes and my bags. I am tired of just stuffing my overlong split-ended hair into a scrunchie. Last week, when I was invited by the lovely people at the Greenock Philosophical Society to give a zoom talk, I was so excited by having the opportunity to put on real clothes and do my hair and nails, that I forgot my terror of video conferencing to large groups – well, almost.
The result of an extended period in front of the mirror made me feel way too much better about myself than it should have but there, I’ve already admitted to being shallow. I am not going to start writing in full make-up every day – with a starting time of six in the morning, mirrors have no place. But I have started messing about with my hair. I invested in something that claimed it would give me mermaid waves a while back and I’ve finally taken it out of the box. To be honest, it reminds me of what we called crimpers back in the day, two red-hot plates that sizzle your hair into what the flappers called shingles, I think. But I quite liked the result, and if nothing else it was different.
Only on the very worst of days have I remained in my pjs, but leggings and yoga pants have slowly taken over. I looked longingly at my tightest jeans and decided that the battle to fasten them would probably kill me, but I have some ‘boyfriend’ style pairs that are now waiting in the queue to be worn – these are the kind that are supposed to hang loose on the hips, but I’ll be pleased if I can just get them fastened. I read yesterday in the paper that Bridget Jones-style big enormous hold everything in pants are amongst the most popular purchases from Markies at the moment, but that is one trend I’m going to buck.
Me and my sisters have been arranging and re-arranging our various girly weekends for the last year. Our next target is to get together for my mum’s eightieth birthday at one of my sister’s houses. It’s a standing joke that my sister will have a hot tub installed for the occasion. Whenever it happens, and whether she does or not, I’m determined to have a hot-tub ready body, and to finally get the chance to wear my sparkly polka-dot Converse.
And before that, there is a small matter of a book to finish. Yes, I did another big revamp of it yesterday, and I’m about to delete most of it and start again, but it is now coming very close to the vision I’ve had for it. I’ll get it done, one way or another. I shall keep writing. I shall keep posting my ‘good morning’ pictures on Twitter, and enjoy all the lovely comments I get. And I’ll keep making soup!
Onwards and upwards. And when that doesn’t work, there’s always martini.
How are you coping with Lockdown II? Does any of this sound familiar? Engaging here and on social media is one of the things that has helped keep me going, so please do share your thoughts and experiences.