I am having a little cry as I start to write these words - I think the main feeling behind that is one of being completely overwhelmed. I have felt the tide building over the weekend, with waves of anxiety and helplessness in-between times of feeling proactive as I take positive steps to manage a situation that is hard to compare to anything within my experience. The overwhelming part is when you allow the voice inside your head to pipe up:
"What exactly do we do when we feel we have no control over any of this?"
A week ago, I was with my husband in a beautiful countryside hotel enjoying a walk around the grounds of a stately home, sipping coffee at a cafe table and reveling in the freedom and the luxury of it all. Although warnings were growing about the rise of cases in the UK, the advice was still then to follow hand-washing guidance, work from home if possible and avoid large crowds. We considered all of that and felt that we were therefore okay to be doing what we were doing, washing our hands to a variety of theme tunes in our head and really only being in close proximity to each other. By the time we got to our third evening away we were hurriedly packing our suitcase, cutting our stay short to check out of the hotel after the six o'clock news and instead of an evening of fine dining and a glass of fizz, drove back down the M40 and stopped off at our local supermarket to try to find some provisions for the days ahead.
There have been a lot of comments about the panic buying and the selfish attitude attributed to those grabbing far more provisions than they can reasonably need - I mean who actually needs a whole trolley full of toilet paper for a start! I do wonder though if a little of the underlying mentality to it, is to do with that feeling of losing all control. We are all in a very scary world right now and have varying degrees of trust in the news we are receiving about the best course of action too. We know that we cannot control what the virus does next, we cannot control whether we or our loved ones get it and if they do, we cannot control the outcome. So stood in a supermarket with your trolley, for that moment in time, you can feel that you are taking control by getting some provisions to feed your family and to keep yourself and your home clean. How far we let that thought take over our actions at that point
is the measure of our humanity.
My husband has been struggling with that each time he has ventured to our local shop, balancing a fine line between buying enough provisions to feed four adults in our home and not taking too much, knowing full well that others will also need some stock on the shelves. He has been the only one of us going into the shops since we got back, as soon as I realised that I am in one of the identified vulnerable groups. Beyond a trip for groceries as required and a daily dog walk - keeping well away from other people and not touching anything whilst out, we are all in our home now, trying to keep cocooned and safe. Whether people are in the vulnerable categories, working from home, self-isolating or finding themselves to be playing one of the heroic parts in this story as a designated key worker, we are all going to be in our own cocoons as much as possible for the foreseeable future.
Whilst within our own tight spaces we may swing from feeling safe to worrying about how we will cope in this new regime. We have had several discussions already about measures we can take to try to manage our feelings and well-being - trying to adopt some sort of structure and routine, having little projects that we can work on within the home or garden (yes, I know we are fortunate to have an outdoor space that we can access) and what options we may have to exercise. Knowing that we should take all these measures is one thing, but keeping up the motivation to do it all is the challenge. I have to say that I am truly grateful that I am in my bubble with family members who can help me when all seems too hard to handle. It is those who are now on their own in this situation who face the toughest time.
The first week of isolation has been a roller coaster but there have been positives among it. Kind gestures from neighbours and friends, moments of escapism via virtual coffee and wine meet ups - all through our own phone screens, homemade gifts for Mothers' Day instead of the usual cafe or restaurant outings of previous years. These little things are going to be the way forward in this time of social isolation - physically apart from each other but, thanks to internet and technology access, still socially connecting.
I don't know if any of what I have written here achieves anything, if it serves to make the situation better in any way, but I am sure that I won't be the only one feeling overwhelmed some of the time in the next months. I cannot begin to imagine how difficult the whole situation must be for those key workers battling to help people every day, I can instead only offer my thanks that they are continuing to do so. In this surreal new world where making future plans is currently a redundant activity, it is best to focus on the small moments, the steps we can take and the aspects we can control. Whilst doing so, we will look out for each other and ride the overwhelming waves together. For now, that feels like the best that I can do.