Thursday, 30 April 2020
Wednesday, 29 April 2020
I've just had one of those moments. Not one of those “eureka” moments that many people believe creative geniuses have. The so-called epiphany that leads them to write their first Booker-Prize winning novel, the brainwave that stimulates them to compose the next opening song at ‘Last night of the Proms’ or write the lyrics to the sensational chart-topping single that becomes the anthem of the decade or the split-second moment of inspiration that is expressed in that masterpiece that now hangs on the wall of The National Gallery. Not one of those moments, because, forgive me if I am about to ruin the idealised notion of creativity, their existence is questionable. (I apologise now if your creative portfolio is the result of a reliable supply of “eureka” moments.) No, I had the kind of moment which I have when I’m typically
a) on a walk
c) having a shower
d) on the toilet
and a mulititude of tiny fragments collide, converge and coagulate into a realisation. That feeling you get when, after spending hours pondering how to solve the logic puzzle, the solution is revealed and it is so blatantly obvious.
Today my moment happened when I was c) having a shower. A few hours earlier I had been in a weekly Walton Library staff meeting taking place on Zoom. Item 2 on the agenda: Staff catch up. One by one we reported on our work-related activities as well as a brief update on our personal life. I was asked to kick off proceedings. Work activities worthy of mention included the spreadsheet project that I had worked on for Linda, the book reviews that I had written for World Book Night promotion and the other material I’d created for social media. Rather embarrassed, I admitted that I had hit a rock bottom over the weekend and was only just beginning to feel more mentally stable. I then went on to hear about the heroic efforts of the interlibrary loan team, who have been inundated with requests; the amazingness of my colleagues who, not only have to manage working from home, but also have to amuse, care for, and home-school their children (hats off to all of you); the athletic adventures of Joe Wick’s devotees who religiously begin the day with one of his workouts, or accounts of various other exercise regimes, and the dedicated team of home-improvers who are putting their DIY muscles to use, cleaning their houses from top to toe and turning their gardens into spaces worthy of appearing at the next Chelsea Flower Show.
The more I heard of this the more I feel like I’m letting myself and the team down. Of how I have not been making the most of my time. I have no excuses or reasons. I can hardly say that I have been home-schooling my 9 year old or potty training my toddler. A large proportion of last week was spent telling myself that I am ok. That it will pass. I am not alone. Focusing on my breathing. Being mindful. Employing some of the techniques I have picked up over the years. Challenging the voices in my head that constantly beat me up. They repeatedly tell me how I’m a failure for all I’m not doing and reminding me of what I should be doing. They remind me of what everyone else is doing and make comparisons.
My internet conked out and I missed the end of the meeting.
A little while after I was contacted by a colleague asking if I was ok. I told him of my struggles, and he reminded me that what I was picking up on were the highlights of everyone’s week. A snapshot of their day. They hadn’t shared the days they couldn’t be bothered to exercise or spoken of the extra packet of biscuits that they consumed as a result of yet another frustrating laptop failure.
Then I had the moment, the moment when I realised that I too have been presenting a snapshot of my days through my lockdown diaries.
I started these as a way for me to remember what I have been doing in these strange times. So I won’t forget the audio books that I’ve listened to, the films I’ve watched or the new music I have discovered. A way for me to share the excitement of seeing my first sweet pea shoot or record the activity on my birdfeeder. Notice those little things and appreciate them. I am using it as a tool to cope. And it has been working. It has made me feel connected to people as they make suggestions of films or books. They offer to swap seeds with me and compare notes on tactics for propagating rosemary. People from my childhood have got in touch and we’ve shared memories. Comments have been most complimentary and have made me feel good about myself. I love that I am inspiring people and it is making me focus on all the things that I enjoy.
When I was stuck in hibernation mode yesterday the thing that turned my day around was a couple of conversations with friends. While we ‘checked in’ with each other, and shared some of our daily challenges, lockdown did not dominate. We talked about what we are passionate about, about the things we are involved in and the things that make us who we are. We celebrated each other’s talents and encouraged each other. We shared our love of a certain television series and discussed the many layers that unravel in series three. I felt alive again.
So please treat my lockdown diaries as a snapshot of the good things in my day. I don’t want to deceive you, but I want my diaries to help me challenge the voices in my head and start stimulating conversations. I’ve learned what is useful for me. It is not my intention to make you feel unproductive because you have not done what I have. If you begin comparing your day to mine, please step back and remember that I’ve missed so much out. There have been hours spent waiting in queues outside a supermarket; expanses of time when I have deliberated whether I should clean the bathroom or reorganise my sock drawer when really I should be facing the pile of paperwork that I’ve still yet to file; gone through the multitude of options of what I should cook for dinner only to settle on the first thing that popped in my mind all those many hours ago; and nights of disturbed sleep due to my inability to turn my inner critic onto mute (hence the bags under my eyes).
Everyone will have their own way of coping and these may change on a daily basis. It’s a great big learning curve. I’m learning to take each day as it comes.
One thing that remains constant though is my love for my family and friends (Walton colleagues – this, of course, includes you).
Thanks for reading and I hope you continue to enjoy my lockdown diaries.