It’s exactly 11 weeks ago today that our lives changed forever here in Ireland. Some people might think using the word ‘forever’ is a bit extreme, but it’s how I feel. It’s taken me until now to begin writing about this experience, but I really do believe that my life has indeed changed forever. It’s taken me these eleven weeks to reach this conclusion, and it’s one I think will resonate with many.
It was late morning on Thursday 12th March that I was driving home from my part-time work as a support worker with Ulster University. I was then to go to my main job of working with children at The WRITE STUFF Kids Club. This is a club where I facilitate daily workshops in creative writing and reading with children all over my local area and beyond.
The announcement was made that all schools, colleges, community centres and more, were to close that evening from 5pm. I drove home in a daze. My work had finished for the foreseeable future. Initially panic set in. What was I going to do? How was I going to cope? If schools and other public centres closed, there was no way possible for me to run my workshops. When I reached home, many messages began coming in to my inbox and my email. Everyone was in the same boat. This was some kind of reassurance for me. Knowing I was not alone, and that it wasn’t just me who was going to be out of work, enabled calm to take hold.
That first weekend, and indeed that first week, I felt like I was on a much needed holiday. My two sons arrived home from Dublin and then realised they would have to stay home too. They began working from home, as did my husband. As the second week neared its end and more restrictions were put in place, I seemed to have a sense of relief come over me. I was out of work, but somehow it felt that this time was really needed. It was completely out of my control and I had no choice but to accept the situation and just live, and stay well.
When April came and we realised this was going to be much longer than first expected, I, like many other creatives, began to run some voluntary online tasks from my kids club and continue encouraging the kids I have worked with for many years, to continue with their creativity. I began to enjoy this. There was no pressure as I was doing it all from home. I was doing it voluntarily so there was no pressure to achieve, but just to encourage. In doing this, I found it was also encouraging me. I was having a purpose and I was providing an outlet for children to continue to explore their creativity. This is ongoing and will be such until we are able to return to our workplaces.
As summer fast approaches and schools and public places still not open, with social distance firmly in place for the foreseeable future, my work is still on hold. But that’s ok. It will return as soon as it’s safe. I am now taking time to plan and prepare, and be able to take my work online from September on a part-time basis. This will then lead to a return to the workplace as soon as it is safe to do so.
Back in those first weeks, when I accepted that I had no control over how this pandemic was spreading, except to stay home and protect those I love and more, I began to see life in a whole different light. Life had slowed down beyond belief. My family were all safe and healthy and taking care of themselves under the public health guidelines, and that became the number one priority for myself and everyone around me. Days are being spent talking to each other here at home. No one was rushing to get to work. I wasn’t rushing between jobs. We all suddenly had time. I began to read again. Read books I’d been meaning to read for years. I began to rest, take walks, phone friends, zoom friends and family; I began to live.
And that’s what lockdown living has done for me – I have begun to live. Not living for others, but living for me. I’m doing what I love doing every day – taking walks, reading, even writing again, phoning family daily, and just taking time for me, and to just ‘be’.
The concept of ‘staying home’ has been such a positive one for myself. For many, I understand it’s not such, and many are living very different lives. But I can only write about mine. This time has allowed me to reconnect with myself and with family. A family which was torn apart just last October with the death of my Dad. This time has allowed me to grieve. It has allowed me the time I really needed (and I need more still) to deal with this huge loss in my life. So, to lockdown living I am grateful. I, like many others, spent my days running around trying to catch up with myself. I failed miserably. But now I’m finally getting caught up with me.
Lockdown living has restored my faith in humankind. I’ve had support from the best friends and family I could’ve asked for over these weeks. And I’ve had such support from the children I work with. Yes, I miss my work. Yes, I miss all the children I work with. I am so looking forward to getting back to doing the work I love. But I will never return to the non-stop running that I was doing. When I’m tired, I will stop. I will rest. And I will not disconnect from the people around me. And I will appreciate the work that I am so privileged to do, always.
Lockdown living has allowed us all to take a step back. In fact it has allowed us all to take quite a few steps back. When it’s over, I can’t wait to take a couple of steps forward, but I’ll count them, and I won’t overstep. Life is too short, and life is too precious. Yes, my life has changed forever, and I’m grateful for that.
Stay safe, stay well, and stay connected with people and with life.