I’ve always been sure of myself. Confident in who I am and my abilities. I’ve learned to understand my flaws, and to love myself enough to push through and continuously work on my own personal development. I have worked through adversity, emotional trauma, a terrorist attack, sexual assault and harassment and I am strong, despite those events. I was never worried about how I would cope in lockdown – quite honestly, I love my own company and being alone with my thoughts – who wouldn’t?
I never expected to be climbing the garden walls in the hope of making small talk with the neighbours, or to champion the family Zoom quiz (apparently you can’t call out a GDPR breach on your own mother for spamming your email). To be honest I didn’t expect much change, aside from the extra few lbs I’ve gained in ‘lockdown love handles’ anyway. I’m not going to lie; I’ve welcomed this feeble excuse to binge on sweet treats whilst we can’t go and see folk.
Turns out though, I was wrong.
I mean, I won’t exactly come out of this with a new recognisable life skill, or an inspirational art project to rival Braque himself, nor will I be fluent in any dialect of Mandarin. But I’m starting to see things in a way I never have. I’ve come to realise that maybe I’m not the type of person I thought I was.
I’ve lived in my current property for about 4 years now and have successfully avoided speaking to my neighbours for anything other than “yes, here’s your parcel”. I’m somewhat socially awkward and have even hidden in my car to avoid the dreaded small talk, the few occasions we’ve both been outside our homes at the same time. The past few months, I’ve willingly and actively spoken to my neighbours (who’re lovely by the way) more than anyone else in my life. I’ve cooked for them, delivered vegetables, borrowed conditioner… One of the neighbours and I have become friends. To the point my partner questioned if she and I were in fact having an affair. Which, in hindsight, was a reasonable deduction given my unusually sociable character.
I’ve never needed an excuse to open a silky bottle of red or casually pour a G&T to settle in with on an evening but lately, I’ve found this is becoming an almost daily occurrence. Okay that’s a straight up lie, it isn’t ‘almost’ a daily occurrence – it’s an ‘every evening without fail’ occurrence. Am I just bored? Maybe. Though I don’t appear to have an abundance of spare time.
I’ve always been a pretty laid-back person. In fact, at university I remember a fellow student saying, “if she was any more relaxed, she’d be under the bench”. And I really didn’t mind at all. I refuse to let how anyone speaks to me, acts towards me or tried to make me to feel, to have any influence over how I treat them. You want to be rude to me? Okay. But I’m still going to ask if you’re okay and hold the door for you. And I’ve always been this way in relationships, whether that be friendly, familial, romantic, professional or other.
Lately however, I’m finding myself feeling quite frustrated with the actions (or inactions) of others. For example, the postman not closing the gate is now a genuine annoyance and when my partner leaves (every) cupboard door in the kitchen wide open, I’m gritting my teeth as I close the doors – a little less softly than perhaps I would have closed them back in February. But why? Nothing has changed. We still don’t see each other an overwhelming amount and he still has the same ‘quirks’ that he’s always had. Aside from having extra Chihuahua cuddles during the day, not much has changed in our lives.
My irritability and sensitivity is increasing, along with my need to physically see and interact with real life human beings. But I’m one of the lucky ones. I don’t fall into a vulnerable category, I have a good set up to work from home, no childcare issues… in fact, on paper, I have no identifiable reason to be acting out of character at all. My heart breaks for those who can’t leave their homes, who are caring for family members, who have lost family members, who are struggling… But I feel like I’m changing. The things I thought I wanted in life, I don’t. And the things I ‘thought’ I didn’t want – I definitely don’t!
It is such a surreal time and I can’t help but wonder, will I even recognise the person staring back at me when all this is over? Or will life and consciousness just resume as it once was?