The first thing that popped into my mind as I was watching Boris Johnson announce Lockdown Part Two was the chorus of “Here I go again” by Whitsnake.
There I was, chocolate muffin in one hand, a dog poo baggie in the other (a clean one, a clean one!), getting ready to take the dogs out.
I was expecting to feel shattered.
I was expecting panic and dread and a high-pitched wail to drown out everything except my own immediate struggle to come to terms with the fact that we had to go through all of that again.
Instead, I just calmly transferred the last bits of muffin to my mouth and the melody to my lips, and hummed a bit tunelessly as I whistled for the pooches.
Turns out, I have unbeknownst by myself learned quite a lot about living in lockdown – and I was fully committed not to repeat the same mistakes twice.
Here are my valuable life- and work-lessons self-taught in lockdown (v1):
Working from home is a b****
Let’s just admit this right away.
Yes, working from home is amazing. It truly is.
You get to set your own alarm clock, your own coffee break, your own casual-Monday-let’s-stay-in-pjs-all-day dress code. You get to sleep in. And work late. And work in bed. And sneakily also watch The Crown while answering emails.
Even if you have a couple of kids, a pair of dogs and a solitary husband to keep you company.
I’m not even talking about the pain of sharing a small space with five other souls every day – that I could deal with.
I missed the catch ups with colleagues over coffee. I missed the relaxed atmosphere of feeling lucky to be able to work from home. I missed the option of not working from home, if I so chose.
But I survived it once – and now that I knew I was going to hate it at times, I could accept the emotion, and move on.
You can’t replace fun with work and vice versa
Which brings me to my next point.
When lockdown started, my husband and I made a pact: I was going to focus 120% on work (as my job was luckily not affected as much as his was, and I could reasonably expect to earn even more than usual), and he was going to focus 150% on the girls.
This meant I had put an insane amount of pressure on myself, and was stuck in an either/or cycle of doom for a good three weeks.
I was either full out working and not doing anything but working (and eating 2.5 meals a day, sleeping, and putting my girls to bed), or not doing any work as I had snapped the previous evening and needed to be around humans (and dogs).
This all work and no play and all play and no work system effectively shot my productivity between the eyes on that very first day, it just took me three weeks to notice I was lugging around a dead body.
As with everything else in life, the key is in the delicate art of balance – a slice of work, a slice of play, a sprinkle of self-indulgence, a slice of work, a slice of sleep. And so on.
Video calls with friends can be exhausting
Do you remember all the video quizzes with friends? And all the banana bread making via FaceTime? And the family dinners over Zoom?
I swear I have not had as many video calls in the 10+ years I have been working online as I’ve had since March.
And while we all wanted to be in touch and see the faces of the people we love, we hadn’t reckoned with the simple truth: video calls are exhausting.
First, there’s the fact that you can often see yourself.
And that you can’t quite be your usual self, or at least I can’t.
I can’t look at a screen non stop, like I look at a person in person. I look away. Then I realize I’m looking away and stare right back.
I want to fidget. I want to not be there.
So this time around, I am doing phone calls. No video, stereo audio. And only the occasional video call, under 10 minutes preferably.
We stare at screens enough – we don’t need to look at our friends through them all the time too.
You need to treat yourself, period.
This is a lesson I feel we are all struggling with.
We don’t want to spend any money or effort on ourselves – after all, there is a pandemic out there.
But we also feel we deserve a bit of indulgence, just to keep ourselves going.
This see-saw is probably incredibly common, yet everyone suffers from it very personally, and very deeply.
There’s the debate of “don’t online shop, it’s taking up delivery slots” vs. “small businesses and ecommerce stores need to survive, they are employers too”.
And while I am by no means claiming that I am making the right and publicly accept choice: I have decided I am treating myself to things this time around.
First of all, I am buying myself a popcorn maker. Random, I know. I’ve seen this review on The Confused Nester, and I can’t justify not buying one anymore.
I am the biggest fan of popcorn you can imagine. I eat it every single day.
And I’ve wanted one for years, so as soon as I can remember my Amazon password, I am ordering one.
Second of all – I am also making that Function of Beauty order. Also been eyeing it for ages – now is the time to make myself feel good.
Every day is a special occasion
On a similar note, I’ve decided I am no longer labeling items I own as “saving it for a special occasion”. What does that even mean? I’m only going to wear that extra nice jumper once a year? I love that jumper!
I’ve only now realized how many items I keep saving and preserving for god knows what.
What’s the point? Today is a special occasion after all – it’s another day in this crazy world, and we get to enjoy it and the things we have purchased for ourselves.
As I type this, I am wearing the most extravagant makeup item I own, a Natasha Denona eyeshadow palette.
I never could have imagined myself wearing it just around the house.
But as I’ve harshly been reminded back in March – who knows what tomorrow holds, so let’s make the most of today, Natasha Denona and all!
All you need to do is make it to tomorrow
Finally, let me touch upon my worst pet peeve about the first edition of lockdown – being hyperproductive, learning a new skill, starting a workout routine, etc. In short, feeling like you need to do something incredible in order to make it worth it.
First of all – how on earth are we supposed to be that productive when we are not getting enough sun and fresh air?
When every routine we’ve ever worked hard on establishing has been shot to pieces?
When we are worried 24/7?
If your coping mechanism is to work harder than ever before, learn a new skill, perfect an old one – hats off to you, and kudos!
But if you’re like me and the majority of the world – just making it through to tomorrow without a breakdown can sometimes be enough of an achievement.
Don’t think about tomorrow and what it might bring. Focus on now, what you are doing now and what you have and enjoy today.
Matt Haig puts these things wonderfully on his Instagram – head on over there when you feel stuck and particularly ineffective.
Here’s to the future
I do hope that whatever the tomorrow we are not thinking about brings is better than what we had yesterday and what we have today.
Hold on to those you love, and most importantly, love yourself a little bit more this year – it truly is all you need to be doing, banana bread and workouts be damned!