It’s the anniversary of a year of COVID and lockdown. This might be the last thing you want to be reminded of. But I’m going to take this chance to mark the unusual 365 days we’ve had in the UK. If you haven’t noticed, I only drew attention to this global situation once in a blog post over the whole year (about the resistance to wearing masks at the beginning here). I deliberately avoided the subject because there was really not much else going on in the news and social media. Now things have improved and subjects on news have swiftly moved on, I’m going to look back and put some thoughts in words.
What has happened?
March 2020, Sunday services and church groups moved swiftly online. The Mark Drama was the last official gathering that happened; the director had to leave halfway through the rehearsals in order to get into Spain before the border closed. One day I remember distinctively taking the last bottle of hand wash off a shelf in a supermarket and putting it in my basket. Tesco home delivery slots became difficult to book and half of the order would be missing when it arrived. Various holiday bookings were cancelled. I cut Andy’s hair for the first time. Started working from home.
I won’t compare myself to the worst case scenario around the world but only to people around me. I’ve been in a very privileged position during the lockdown. I haven’t lost my job. I have a very pleasant home to spend 24 hours in. I have a very agreeable housemate, who shares housework and generally only messes up his own den. We don’t have kids to home school or bounce off the walls. We have relatively quiet streets and neighbourhoods within walking distance for daily walks. We were able to have all the luxuries like Lindt chocolate and Aveeno hand cream, even a constant supply of port and sherry (Communion only happens once a month, what can we do with the rest of the bottle but drink it all?).
What were the worst things?
We had to cancel our overdue trip to visit my parents abroad and they have become increasingly irritated about not being able to see us. Obviously we couldn’t visit our families in the UK either, who although nearer geographically, are not much easier to get to.
There was work-related stress like never before but I’m not going to go into that just in case Ramzi’s reading (!). After all, who wasn’t stressed about work at one point or another?
How did I cope?
I read the whole Book of Revelation at the beginning of lockdown. When people were frequently saying things like ‘God is in control’, ‘God is still on the throne’, I found direct and concrete evidence in Revelation that these were absolutely true (rather than hearing secondhand news if you like). I was on wobbly knees but I knew the ground was not going to give way.
I set myself some goals and started new projects to occupy my mind. In the process, I bought a lot of books and signed up for Skillshare Premium. Skillshare subscription worth every penny if you ask me. I should do a report on my ‘Reading Oxford’ project soon since I’m six months into the first year of my DIY Oxford English Literature education. Having a reading plan was super rewarding and getting lost in pages remains one of the best coping mechanisms. (If you’re interested, here are all the books I read in 2020 and my favourites for the year.)
Another tactic is that I generally avoided news. We don’t have a TV and I don’t have a news app so it’s quite easy to achieve. I know nothing about COVID stats – the numbers have gone so big it doesn’t make sense to me. The only input is on the YouTube homepage: there’s a section called ‘Breaking News’ with usually four videos. I should find out how to turn that off. I know I’m very ignorant but I’m able to sleep each night.
I had to make effort to find contentment in everyday life instead of looking forward to weekends and upcoming (or the lack of) holidays. There’s one exciting thing to look forward to every single day, namely, checking Kindle Daily Deals – I even created an iOS Shortcut for it. We tried to make our living spaces nicer by moving furniture around, painting some walls, looking after the plants, clearing out old receipts and IKEA manuals, putting a bird feeder in the garden and watching little winged animals (while diligently chasing pigeons away). We also made it to the nearby countryside a few times when it was allowed, thanks to our good friends loaning us a car. Our bubble days were delightful – just discovered this serious and thoughtful young man is a cheeky monkey when it comes to boardgames. Friends deliver meals to our door. A lot of small things. It was not much but it was enough.
What were the unexpected positive things?
Personally, to be honest, it’s a dream life for an introvert reader. When people were urged to stay home and save lives, it was really not a big sacrifice for me. I have been loving all the extra time to be on my own or to read. Looking through my diary for the past twelve months, it’s obvious that I didn’t do much else. If I can have things my (ridiculous) way, when we can gather again, my ideal hangout situation would be to have all my dear friends in one space and just sit quietly and read our own books.
I got to know a lot of the church family in the process of doing my daily work, putting names to faces, realising for the first time such and such are a couple, that sort of thing. Praise God for all the lovely people in our church family.
And an obvious one, we never missed a parcel!
What would I say to myself at the beginning of COVID?
Things are going to get much worse and it’s going to last longer than you expected. But you’ll be fine. All your loved ones will be fine too. You’ll get familiar with some new terms like ‘self-isolate’, ‘quarantine’, ‘PPE’, ‘furlough’, ‘Zoom’, ‘you’re on mute’ and ‘I’m going to put you into rooms’. Don’t worry about hoarding loo rolls and pasta: for one thing, it’s selfish and distrustful; for another, things never truly run out – Tesco will do a terrific job and you’re going to gain a new best friend who emails you every week, thanks Tesco CEO. It will be hard to stay calm and get on with life. But if you can, make good use of time, start your reading projects and other side projects as early as possible. Take tea breaks like the locals do, it works wonders.
What’s high priority on my to-do list when lockdown lifts?
Licking door handles, hugging friends and then hanging onto their neck, flicking through every book on the classic shelves in Waterstones, that sort of thing. Some other things include seeing family ASAP and going to Lake District.
Lastly, keep calm and carry on people!
Feature photo by Manuel Peris Tirado on Unsplash.