I’ve been studying my daughter play on her own during this Covid-19 lockdown with a sense of relief and joy. It’s imaginative, determined, efficient. A curious way to describe a child’s play I know but there’s a self-contained happiness about her that I recognise. Being an only child myself, I too had to master the skills of self-play from an early age. I may have been lonely at times but I believe (perhaps cognitive dissonantly) that it has made me more resilient. It’s this skill of self-sufficiency that may be keeping my daughter going during these unsettling times.
However as an adult, the lockdown has been a little harder on me. Had I lost some of the skills that I had built up in childhood? Was it because my life pre-lockdown had become so convenient that my resilience had wasted away like an unused muscle? When I needed something I could Amazon, when I was hungry I could Deliveroo, when I needed to go somewhere there was Uber. When I wanted to socialise I went out but if I wanted the social connection without the effort, I could choose the passive option of a text or a voicemail. Life was too easy.
There was something else though. Being an only child, I was used to my own space. Spending hours hanging out in my mind and only coming out when I so desired. Luckily (or perhaps by design) I married someone who allowed me that space whenever I needed it. Maybe that’s also the reason I chose to become a writer, ‘the lonely profession’. To look at me, you wouldn’t think that I craved so much solitude, but from time to time, I longed for time to recharge on my own.
When the lockdown came, I went through a rollercoaster of emotions. Grateful for being safe, fear for the unknown, thankful that I only had the one child to homeschool, worried about finances. All in all, I ended up on the luckier side of the pendulum but my feelings still kept tending to the uneasy. It was then that I realised that the lockdown was posing challenges that were due to me being an only child. Suddenly the home which used to belong just to me during school / work hours, now belonged to every family member. With home schooling, food procuring, cleaning, cooking, washing plus the writing, there was no time or room to just be. There was this constant battle in my head with the only child in me who kept wanting personal space. How could I silence her?
It’s amazing how humans adapt. With the help of time and our natural desire to find an equilibrium, I have discovered ways to quieten down this voice inside and find peace during the lockdown. Here are some tips:
Be honest about your feelings
Share with your family members that you need time to recharge and reflect. It’s not personal and they will understand.
Carve out regular alone time
Whether this is through creating a designated space within a shared room, finding a little area just for you around the home or agreeing on set times when you can have time to yourself. Saturdays have now become my day to write, where I can potter around in my ‘study’ and ruminate while creating.
Be creative / lose yourself
This has been my main saviour and interestingly, I have become more creative during lockdown. I have heard others say this too. I lose myself in my stories and having recently launched an interactive storytelling platform called Quill Kickers, I have imposed deadlines which push that creativity.
A great way to still the mind and the soul. I follow Vedic meditation and it has done wonders to calm me and focus my thinking, as well as my creativity. Be in the moment. It’s what brings us back from our worries to the now and can help relieve stress, improve mental health and aid sleep.
We are all in this together and we will all come out of it together. Feeling this sense of interconnectedness in this world gives me hope for the ‘new normal’ that awaits us on the other side. Recently I was reminded by an inspirational speaker that crisis gives us the opportunity to shape our characters. What we do next, together as a society, will determine the next phase of human evolution. Perhaps this is the time to come out of ourselves a bit more and embrace being less insular and selfish.
It’s not forever
Try to tell yourself this whenever you start feeling a little anxious. Once again, time will help us adapt. There will be an end to this lockdown and the Covid-19 way of life. We will get back to normal, perhaps a ‘new normal’ but whatever that becomes, we will once again grow into it.
Natalie Fellowes is the Founder Writer at Quill Kickers, an interactive storytelling platform which invites you to be part of the narrative. It’s an outlet for creative people who are looking to move the storytelling culture forward. You’ll be contributing to an original story, published in regular instalments, by suggesting what happens next. Be part of the narrative.