Once a control freak, always a control freak?

So many of us ached for our old lives at the beginning of lockdown. For those of us who love and need to be in control of the world around us, as a way of coping with our past trauma we may have found lockdown mjuch more challenging. As a survivor of childhood abuse and as a confessed control freak, workaholic I found lockdown massively challenging. Would I go through it again? Yes. In a heart beat.

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Ironically, six weeks before #Lockdown I said to my long suffering husband how much I wished life was slower. I had seen a house for sale on a remote Scottish isle with transient Wi-Fi, loads of sheep and few people. It seemed appealing at the time. When he smirked and reminded me that within a few days of that kind of isolation I would crave company, I laughed at him. Up to my ears with running a business, coaching clients, writing a book, renovating a house and being mum to six children aged from 22-13 I was worn out and craved peace, time and space to think.

‘Be careful what you wish for’ some wise person whose name evades me, once said. For within six weeks I went from out and about, out and out busy to stopping stock still.

I love routine and am a boring creature of habit. Some may say that it is my Virgo birthing which rules my foibles, but I put my need and blatant desire for routine down to a hectic and uncertain childhood where I walked on egg shells and experienced sexual and physical abuse. I got through the day by keeping myself busy, having order and structure where I could; this continued through to adulthood. I was always busy studying, exercising or breeding! I showed little self care or empathy towards myself and knew that in essence ‘busy’ was my drugs and alcohol. Being busy stopped me from thinking about the traumas that I had experienced as a child and the choices that I may have to make should I have acknowledged my abuse by the perpetrator, my father.

I recognise the same need to control every aspect of our lives and live with routine within so many of my friends and acquaintances who have come through the trauma of domestic abuse, sexual violence or childhood sexual abuse : 1:3 women in their life time experience domestic abuse (ONS, 2019), 1:10 children suffer sexual abuse before the age of 18 (Darkness to Light, 2019) and 1:5 women have experienced some form of sexual violence. (Rape Crisis, 2017)

With an enforced lockdown I wonder how these busy addicts fared. Within a day I had lost all of my clients and had to put on hold the plans for launching a new business as suppliers ceased trading. I had no reason to get up at 06.30 to start the school run as the kids were off school and my mind craved for normality and any routine. In the first week I struggled with motivation and mindset. I felt ill at ease, lurching from moments of joy and peace with my new ‘no routine life’ to complete panic and the need to cry.

I hated the stupid woman who had eaten the bat which started the whole crazy storm and vehemently hated those who flouted the rules. I tried to push through the feelings of desperation and anxiety, telling myself I had been through more and that I was strong, yet I didn’t feel strong. I mourned my old life, the ground hog day of hours filled and seconds planned and wallowed in self pity. I cried endlessly at how well my resilient kids coped with home schooling and how they kept in contact with friends from school via video calling and messenger. I felt weak and vulnerable. I frequently mouthed, ‘I hate Corona Virus. I am so done with it!’

And, I couldn’t control the virus or the spread. I was not responsible for the behaviours of others. I was not able to predict how long we’d be in lockdown for nor how many days would elapse until I could get my ‘life’, as I knew it back. And so, I stopped fighting. For the first time in my life I rolled over and submitted to inevitability. I deduced that I would cope better if I let lockdown run its course and if I allowed whatever would occur, too well, just happen. It felt alien to me, so inherently, wrong. It felt as if I was swimming through treacle. In relinquishing control I felt powerless and so I set about putting in place a flexible routine which worked for our family, our emotions and our wellbeing. The focus was not on what ‘had’ to be done, but moreover what we chose to do, moment by moment.

I stopped fighting with the kids about being at their desks by 9am and allowed them endless lie-ins. They began starting ‘school’ at 11am and working through until their work was done for the day, managing their own time and schedule. I watched with pride as they decided when their lunch break, snack or rest break should be and I saw their confidence grow as I stopped micromanaging them.

I began running with my No 6 child before he started his work, while No 5 made up her own exercise routine. Together we huffed and puffed our way around the seafront, inching our route up from half a mile, to one, two and three miles. The joy on on his face as he got fitter and stronger and led the way was unimaginable. Had it not been for the schools closing because of CV-19 we would never have had this blessed time together to spur each other and grow.

I began to stop thinking about what I should or could be doing and focused more on what made me smile in a particular moment. I walked the dog, read my book and dozed in the sun. I planted endless shrubs and tended to our small seaside garden. I set myself a target of writing 500 words each day and failed on the first day! The following day I wrote four thousand words with little or no effort. I was in the moment and doing things that truly honoured how I felt. My husband cottoned on to this new-found freedom and being self employed was able to suggest an afternoon walk, a coffee in the garden or a bike ride with the kids. He seemed more relaxed and chilled as he realised that his diary did not have to be so rigid. He embraced fully the fluidity of ‘Lockdown’.

As it stands we have not been outside of our town for nine weeks. We have laughed, barbecued, walked, had outdoor movie nights wrapped in blankets, sung around a fire pit (thanks @wirefires I adore it), picnicked in the garden and I have consumed twelve books guilt free. We all have longer hair and the kids are desperate for new flip flops. The school shoes which were last used in March will be too small again as both children have grown like weeds and we are all as brown as berries. I have embraced the grey coming through my dyed hair and my husband’s fringe is much longer than mine. We have stopped fighting and worrying about our fringes, shoes and greys. They are immaterial concerns. Hairdressing scissors have become as rare as hen’s teeth and red hair dye more illusive than self raising flour. And, life goes on at a slower, more beautiful pace.

We have achieved so much and grown in so many ways during lockdown and all because we stopped fighting with ourselves about what we could or should do. We coined the phrase ‘no guilt’ to allow ourselves the whims of a biscuit, a lie in or a late night snack. In filling our world with more of what made us happy in the least material sense, we became richer.

I do not ever envisage a time in our lives when we will be able to take our foot off the gas, live a less structured existence and be more at peace.

I am grateful to lockdown for the gifts that it has served us and will be sad when life begins to evolve back to a new normal. Our lives will remain less regimented, more fluid and chilled and I for one have learned once again that my past is not WHO I am, but sometimes it is HOW I am.

#Lockdown #WeeklyPrompt

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