When the threat of coronavirus took hold in the UK, it felt very much like a storm that would come quickly and be forgotten just as fast. (I remember joking as I left my office back in March, keyboard and laptop bag in tow, that we’d probably not be back for the rest of the year. Perhaps I am single-handedly to blame for everything that followed).
Just one week later, we hit lockdown. All of a sudden, life as we knew it had changed for the foreseeable future. And it’s still changing: with new restrictions in place every couple of weeks, new countries on the quarantine list, local lockdowns and quite frankly, no end in sight.
And don’t get me started on the dystopian nature of it all. I think I’d have laughed in your face if you’d told me on 1st January that the words ‘social distancing’ would become a regular part of my vocabulary this year. I found myself having fairly regular minor anxiety spells about the possibility of riots over toilet roll and police patrols through the streets à la some kind of armageddon film plot. (I’m at least glad to know that those dramatic scenarios haven’t played out).
But it’s been easy to find reasons to be miserable, let’s put it that way.
Take pleasure in the little things…
At first, my joy was a daily walk. For extroverts like me, joy became seeing a friendly face across the street – giving them a wave, reminding myself that other human beings still existed. I sorely missed every day encounters, from sharing my first-world problems with my colleagues over a cuppa to having a brief chat with the cashier when I went to the supermarket. (The latter being an admission that garnered strange looks from my loved ones).
But in a way it was good to be able to find so much joy in those little moments. I learned not to take it for granted. My first conversation with a cashier happened to be one of my first trips out to the shops again as lockdown began to lift, and the first after getting engaged back in June. I practically screamed behind my mask when she asked me about the bridal magazine I was buying!
Prioritise what’s important
Of course, the biggest concern in a global pandemic is the health of you and your loved ones. With a few of my family members being on the ‘high risk’ list, I knew there was no chance of seeing them for a while. Weekly virtual quizzes became the norm (remember that phase everyone went through?) and then when they eventually became pretty exhausting and things got a little safer, we did some outdoor meet-ups. Socially distanced, of course. I remember everyone, including myself, feeling the need to add that to every post on the ‘gram too.
Being able to spend this time with my partner has also been a huge blessing. Our relationship has only grown stronger (helped by his incredible lockdown birthday planning and calming nature whilst I panicked about the world coming to an end… and of course the aforementioned proposal). We chose to prioritise being around each other, seeing as we’d normally have a rushed goodbye at the front door first thing in the morning and find ourselves exhausted at home by the end of the day.
Give yourself time to grow
By the end of March, I’d decided I was finally going to write that novel I’ve always dreamed about. By the end of April, that was a long forgotten goal.
Productivity is amazing – so well done if you achieved something during lockdown – but one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and if there’s ever a time to forgive a lack of motivation, this is it.
Give yourself time to grow, whether that’s by doing something you’ve always wanted to do, or letting yourself breathe and assess where you’re at. It’s an ongoing process, but I think we’ve been gifted with a reason to say no to things we might have previously felt obliged to do.
Focus on the future
It’s really, really hard to plan for an uncertain future. How will things look 3, 6, 12 months from now? As difficult as it is, nobody knows the answer to that yet.
But we can make plans anyway. They may fall apart in our hands, or they may turn out to be the best experiences of our lives. If you’ve been lucky enough to save money throughout the pandemic, make plans for how you’re going to spend it. If you’ve not been so fortunate, take stock and see if there’s a new adventure on your horizon.
I’m oversimplifying it, I know. I’m donning rose-tinted specs, pretending I’m a glass-half-full kinda gal as if I didn’t spend the first three months crying about how much everything sucked. This has been a really tough time for a lot of people and it’s hard not to feel like the universe has screwed you over. But joy is what gets us through it.
Joy is the middle-finger-to-the-universe we so desperately need during hard times, and it’s something we can make for ourselves by deciding what will make us happy. Right now, for me, joy is cooking a nice dinner and snuggling for an evening with my boyfriend watching Grey’s Anatomy. Or it’s finding a great bargain on Facebook marketplace. Or it’s a cuddle with the cat. What’s yours?