Journal #6 – some thoughts about lockdown and personal responsibility

Jounral, pandemic, lockdown, thinking, monkey, worries,
Photo by Juan Rumimpunu on Unsplash

Hi out there, anyone who’s still following this blog after a pretty long period of nothingness. Lockdown life unfortunately for me has not been a blissful reflective period of copious spare time to grow vegetables, do jigsaws and write a novel. Like lots of folks with kids and caring responsibilities, I’ve had more to do, more stress, less help and less support. So – blah. I’m not going to whinge about it, but that’s why there’s been no posts – nothing here and not much over on Everyday Radical either (although some limited progress is being made on the novel, excerpt here from ages ago if you’re interested. Key development – it’s going to feature a dog called Daisy).

Anyway, the boy is back at nursery school this week, so to celebrate I thought I’d write something. All the writing guides tell you to write every day, even if it’s just a journal or stream of consciousness ramblings, and I would love to make this happen – I’m considering doing a super-organized block schedule of our daily routine to maximise time available (#5amWritersClub is a thing, folks).

But I mainly wanted to write today about some thoughts on the pandemic, to try and make these thoughts GO the FUCK AWAY, so I can think about some other stuff. (This is the reason for the picture of the thinking monkey, by the way. He won’t have whatever thought he’s having for very long, and it won’t turn into a ruminating, teeth-grindingly anxiety-inducing worry. He’ll just think about where he might find a banana, then go and find the banana and eat it, then scratch his bum).

So, this pandemic and lockdown situation is pretty rubbish for everyone, I think it’s safe to say. Even if you have no money or health worries and have a big garden and loads of time to develop a skill or enjoy your hobbies, it’s got to be a bit lonely unless you’re a total misanthrope – and even if you don’t miss people at all, watching the death rates climb must induce some sadness, or the fear of the disease must induce some anxiety.

My main feelings of late have been confusion and powerlessness.

First, the confusion. There are opinions everywhere, zillions of column inches and social media posts where every individual is convinced that their own view is right. We locked down too late and not hard enough, the schools are re-opening too soon, there’s going to be a second wave, the government are more interested in the economy than they are in saving lives, everything is completely fucked and we’re all doomed. Or – it’s no worse than seasonal ‘flu, we shouldn’t have locked down at all, lockdown causes more suffering and death than it prevents (people scared to go into hospital for serious but non-Covid things, or not wanting to over-burden the NHS so leaving it too late with Covid symptoms, the increase in domestic abuse, mental health crises, loneliness, depression and anxiety in older people hastening physical deterioration … the list is long). Or – it’s all a conspiracy and death certificates are being falsified. The whole thing is a man-made virus to make money for big Pharma by forcing everyone to be vaccinated. It’s all down to 5G. It’s a complex ploy to corrode our personal freedoms and we are on the way to becoming a totalitarian regime. {NB – I don’t agree with all of the above-stated views – obvs. You can guess which ones I do agree with in the comments if you want.]

It’s all quite interesting to me, as someone who is interested in politics and people and healthcare. But I don’t actually have time to research this stuff properly, and I’m not a virologist or an epidemiologist so I’m not going to pretend to have an expert opinion on the R value or the death statistics or the relative risk of lockdown vs. herd immunity. And, fundamentally, does it actually matter what I think? Is Dominic Cummings going to call me up and ask me my thoughts on lockdown easing strategy? No, of course not. (One opinion I will own up to is that he should have bloody resigned, and that he is running the show, and that he’s an arsehole – and that’s not a word I use very often). The government are in charge – I didn’t vote for them, but what actual power have I got to oppose them, really? Petitions don’t work, protests don’t seem to work. Thus, the powerlessness. And the subsequent attempts to LET GO of the worry about the things I can’t change.

I can only change my own behaviour. I can wear a mask in the supermarket if I think it’s a good idea. I can’t make you wear one. I can decide to stick to the social distancing rules. I can’t force my neighbours to do the same. I can only make a decision about whether to shop them (I decided not to, incidentally). I can decide to send my kid back to nursery school, based on my assessment of the risks and benefits for our family. It’s none of my business what you decide to do with your kid and I won’t bitch on social media about people who make different choices.

I struggle, though, to escape from the feeling that I should be DOING something about it. I think it’s the slightly dysfunctional hero complex that a lot of people who’ve worked in the public sector for a long time carry around with them – I spent 15 years trying to fix my little corner of the NHS, and now I feel like I can’t fix anything.

I was hoping that the process of writing this all down would lead me to some profound conclusions, but it doesn’t seem to be happening. So I will try to be like the thinking monkey, and just have a thought once, then let it go, and eat a banana instead. And maybe watch the news a bit less often. And think about what means of protest are available to us, beyond whinging on Twitter about Dominic bloody Cummings.

I’m going to try and post some more poetry soon, so give the blog a follow if you’d like to get an email when that happens. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next week – who knows?

Peace and love x

Journal #5 – beans and bogroll – anxiety in the age of Coronavirus

Photo by Kien Cuong Bui on Unsplash

How’s everyone doing? Got enough beans and bog roll? Feeling dismayed at the panic buying? Feeling worried about the Government’s “strategy” and the number of ventilators we may or may not have?

I’ve been struggling, I must admit. And I am writing this mainly just to get my thoughts out, but if it helps anyone else then that’s great. I want to put a big sign up somewhere, maybe a banner along the top of the BBC News channel, which says, “it’s ok to feel anxious in anxiety-provoking situations!” It’s normal. It’s ok to want to buy all the nappies and formula so that you’re sure your kid will have some. (It’s not ok to actually buy them all, then sell them on eBay at a hugely inflated price. Obviously. These people are despicable. It’s also not ok to use this as an opportunity to tell people they should have breastfed or used cloth nappies instead. FUCK OFF). It’s really hard to only buy one pack though, if there are more there and you can afford more.

Which brings me to this horrible, gut-wrenching thing that I’m realising. We are SO privileged. We have a reasonable stash of food in the house. My husband will get sick pay if he gets ill. He has a knowledge job, so he can work from home and still get paid (I might kill him, though). I feel queasy when I see empty shelves, but I can’t imagine how queasy I would feel if I was a single parent on a zero hours contract, with school-aged kids and child care challenges, living week-to-week. You can’t get a supermarket delivery slot for weeks, even if you can afford to buy supplies. So what the fuck do you do if you haven’t got any food in and you need to self-isolate? How do you pay your rent if you can’t work, either because you’re ill or you have to look after your kids?

It’s hard not to think about this stuff – but what can I do to fix it, really? I can’t change who the PM is, I can’t change government policy, I can’t eradicate poverty. I can do what I can in my community (which isn’t much, with a toddler in tow). I can make plans to keep us all safe and sane in the event of lock-down… (serious question – in the event of lock down, does wine count as essential supplies?)

I’m setting small self-care goals to try and improve my own health and fitness and give myself something positive to focus on. I took my vitamins every day last week! Yay me! I am trying to drink more water, get my 5 a day, get more sleep. All of these things make the anxiety easier to manage. I actually feel quite positive today – but the week is young, my husband is working from home indefinitely and I am expecting nursery school to close any day now. So watch this space.

Meanwhile, I had a heart-rending email from one of my favourite musicians, Emily Mae Winters, cancelling her spring tour due to continuing uncertainty. Self employed folks, particularly performers, are REALLY going to struggle when all their work dries up. If you can, buy some music online (via Bandcamp, maybe), or if your data plan allows it, stream the fuck out of your favourite artists on Spotify or Apple Music so they get some revenue coming in. I am trying not to think about what’s going to happen if this goes on for months, and how many of my favourite humans are going to struggle, how many of my favourite local businesses are at risk. So – while you can still shop, shop local too. Just only buy one pack of pasta, please.

Journal #4 – Breaking Cover

So it’s been a while since my last journal post, which may well be a relief to anyone who is reading this. It’s been hard to find time for this, alongside my other blog, some paid writing I’ve been doing, and life in general – keeping a toddler alive, being ill off and on since before Christmas (MEGA dull), all the adulting that is boring but necessary.

But I do like writing these posts, and I want to keep the journal aspect of this blog going, as the fiction and poetry aspect continues to develop too. More on the exciting developments here SOON – but in preparation for said exciting development, I’m planning on breaking cover on this blog, so it’s not going to be quite so secret any more. Something is coming up linked to it which I’m super proud of and want to share with people I know in real life, so – BANG. The clock is ticking for the big reveal (I edited a bunch of stuff yesterday in preparation and pruned my Twitter history… not that I think anyone cares that much, but anyway. Made me feel a bit less twitchy).

Meanwhile, some actual journal-ish thoughts. I am really enjoying reading more books at the moment. My husband has caught the reading bug, so we are spending a few more evenings now reading, rather than binge watching crime dramas, and I do also sometimes read while the small one is watching TV (so fucking shoot me now…! See later in this post for some toddler parenting thoughts!) I have genuine aspirations now towards fiction writing, and I do believe that prolific reading is critical to becoming a better write – so technically I’m working, right?

I was quite inspired by this post from Raspberry Thriller, a blogger I follow, on the books she had read in 2019, and developed vague aspirations towards doing something similar as I go along in 2020. I use Goodreads to keep a record what I’ve read and want to read (guess which list is longer?), as well as follow various authors and keep up to date with what my friends are reading (some of whom are voracious readers, I envy them for having the time…)

So anyway, I just finished this amazing historical novel, part of Alison Weir’s Tudor Queens series, which I will write a review of soon. (I want to do it separately because I need to learn how to do the menu function in WordPress and this is supposed to be my “practice” blog…)

Lastly, I read something on Twitter today which made me cross – writing about things which make me cross often helps to dissipate the crossness, so here goes. There was a guy (a writer – I am following loads of writers at the moment, in the vague hope that one day something I write will go viral) who tweeted that he wished people talked more openly about how difficult it is parenting a toddler, rather than the usual “enjoy every minute” fatuous bollocks. Loads of supportive comments, empathising, making jokes in a sensitive way, sharing examples of horrific toddler antics (like, today my son hit me in the face with a digger), mixed with acknowledgements that the good bits are great (he also sang a whole Winnie the Pooh song with his dad at bedtime last night – cuteness overload) Highs and lows, friends, highs and lows.

Then some helpful person says “just wait til you have teenagers, mate, toddlers are a walk in the park”, or something along those lines.

Just fucking STOP doing this, please, humans. It’s so unhelpful. Yes, being pregnant might be easier than having a new born for some people, but telling an insomniac pregnant person who can barely walk but needs to pee every 20 minutes that they will never sleep again, or pee alone again, once the baby’s born – just why would you do this? It’s never going to make the person in question feel better. Would people do this in other circumstances? Imaging someone telling you they were going for a gall bladder operation – would you tell them that you know someone who had a horrendous recovery and the operation went wrong and they nearly died? No? So why would you say this to someone who’s about to give birth? Imagine a teenager talks to you about how hard they’re finding their GCSEs. Would you say, “suck it up, buttercup, A levels are much worse?”, “just wait til you go to university?”, “just wait til you have to pay 40% tax and work 70 hours a week?” NO, you wouldn’t, unless you’re a tosser. So don’t be a tosser to parents. Please. It’s hard enough as it is without these sorts of empathy fails.

Ah, better now. Thanks for reading, if you’re still here.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Journal post… first of many?

Part of the purpose of this blog is for me to be able to write freely about all the stuff I can’t write in my main blog, because it’s not pertinent to the theme or because it’s too personal. I have a feeling these journal-type posts are going to be SUPER dull to read, but it seems to be part of learning to be a writer too, this journal malarkey.

I have actually just written some prose – I had this MAD dream the other night where the whole of the opening scene of a novel came to me, complete with the full name of one of the characters. So I have just written 250 words – not the most productive session, I know. But it’s the most I’ve written in a very long time, so may possibly qualify for celebratory chocolate.

Otherwise, I’m feeling bored, frustrated, grumpy this week. Lots of boring stuff to sort out domestically, an extremely fractious toddler, some frustrating HR-related issues for the freelance work that I’m doing. NHS bureaucracy at its best. I sort of hate the word “bureaucracy”, sounds like the sort of thing idiot Brexiteers go on about, but in this case it’s definitely appropriate and there’s been a clear sense of “computer says no” in the whole interaction.

ANYWAY. We went out this morning to a Christian playgroup, essentially toddler church. Not my usual Thursday morning activity of choice, but it’s free and runs in half term so seemed like a good idea. And wow it makes me sad. I used to believe in all things Christian, very passionately, and I just don’t anymore, for various reasons. Maybe this is something to write about another time. But I kind of miss it. I definitely miss believing in life after death and a greater good. There was a moment during the prayers when the lady leading the session told us, “it’s ok to pray for things for yourself. God doesn’t always give you what you want though, but he will give you what you need”. Tell that the the 39 Chinese people dead in a lorry this morning in Essex. Tell that the the food bank users and the people having their benefits cut. It’s that sort of infantalising of life that made me turn away from organised religion, among other things.

Anyone still with me? Who knows. Plan for the rest of the day is to go and feed some cats (my other life as a cat sitter). I’m a bit concerned about them as they’ve been AWOL all week, except for coming in to eat their food, and I haven’t actually seen them. So hopefully they will make an appearance.

Then this evening the husband is out, so I can eat food he doesn’t like and do some more writing, probably. And drink a moderate amount of wine, and feel moderately guilty about it. The story of me and wine is definitely a post for another time.

If you read this and have anything to share about the experience of reading my journal ramblings, I will be most interested!