Living in Isolation

This week I got to be alone for once, it wasn’t as fun as I hoped.

It is not without irony that I note I have written many times about wanting time alone. Well be careful what you wish for because this week I have been almost completely alone. Like far too many, I have had covid since last week. I wouldn’t say I am completely out of the woods but I am hoping that I have got away with a very mild case. My family of course have been here too but I am in my room in quarantine and today is the first day I have had the energy to write about what it’s been like.

I haven’t the level of fatigue as yet that many have been reporting, though I am tired because it is hard to sleep when your chest is bad, but a malaise has settled over me and a dullness in my thought. I think my mood might be related to the fact that I have been so careful and cautious this whole time. And it’s happened anyway.

Shock was my first reaction when I got the result. I was lucky in a way that I had a pretty clear cough as many people I know do not develop this symptom and in the UK we can only test for loss of smell or taste, a cough and/or fever despite the fact it often presents with other symptoms. As an asthmatic I am pretty aware of that specific tight sensation in my chest and so I knew I was a little unwell but I honestly couldn’t imagine after all the caution, I would have got it.

Despite feeling quite lousy and worried I might pass it on I have done some things that have really helped in my first week of covid. I wanted to share my list in hope they might help others.

Preparing food. I have some jars of overnight oats in my fridge which is really good to get slow-release energy and filling too. Unlike the rest of lockdown, I have not been able to go back and forth to the kitchen. (I guess that’s one positive!) I have needed less to eat anyway but not having to think too hard has been a great help.

Going second. In order to remember to clean down in the bathroom or kitchen after using it I have contrived the routine to go second so that I clean up with wipes or zoflora every time I use anything. (Having a disinfectant habit has really come in handy!) We can’t be a hundred percent sure that my boys won’t also succumb at some point but we are doing our best to follow the cleaning advice and kept my towels separate. It’s given the day structure which helps when you are literally hours in the same room.

Doing my best: Those who have had this horrible condition may be surprised that I have worked. As I said, I haven’t had anything like the levels of fatigue I thought I would, as yet. I had been working from home as much as I can anyway so had taken on some different tasks than usual, swapping out some tasks that are based in the office. This week, I have been working slowly through the grunt work of spreadsheet and record-keeping that inevitably comes with working with children’s health records. I haven’t done that much, but having a methodical task has been good for my dulled brain. I have also asked to stop early on both days so that I don’t take it too far. Work have been supportive and there is no question that if I felt worse that I would take leave.

Being mindful: I have decided to do what I can, when I can. So the first morning when I felt rough I took a shower in case I got worse and couldn’t. Probably a mix of the steam that released my cough and the fact I was looking after myself- it really made me feel better. The biggest area that I have been mindful of is enjoying my food. I have many friends now whose taste or smell has been affected and so I have been trying to appreciate the joy of eating when I could, in case this happens to me too.

Meditation and audiobooks: My concentration is shocking which may be the brain fog others have spoken about but I think probably more to do with my anxiety brain trying to work on overtime. All this time alone has given me chance to do an hour of a guided meditation, dozing a little no doubt. I have also listened to audiobooks in short bursts. Belgravia with its sumptuous Regency setting has washed over me as I lay here. There something about romantic escapism that soothes you.

Reaching out: I have told friends and family many of whom are checking in with texts. I have accepted help from people dropping off prescriptions, to knowing who to ask to get milk. I know a lot have felt they can’t do anything because they are far away but knowing they are checking on you and thinking of you helps.

Accepting uncertainty: We have all had to deal with uncertainty this year much more, or at least been far more aware that this is the state of life. You really don’t know what life will throw your way. As such, I know I don’t know the long term impact of covid yet but I think that as always, taking small, positive steps has helped me and I can only take it day-by-day.

I hope everyone out there is well, being ill as always helps us remember not to take our health for granted. And also reminds us most to rest and take it very easy on ourselves.

In 2019 I had goals…

Any fans of the Gretchen Rubin Happier Podcast know Elizabeth and Gretchen reset every year with a list of goal. But instead of over-arching vague ideas, they get you to be specifoc. In 2019 I did it all: I set a word of the year, I set new goals 19 for 2019 and I started a Happiness Project. Habits were changed: more time was spent reading, blogging and cleaning. But despite that I am struggling to feel the sense of achievement I ought to. So I thought it was time to review what I had achieved.

CAREER GOALS

Writing goals: I plotted the first three chapters of my comedic novel and I blogged almost every week but did I complete my first draft of my novel? Reader, I think you may know by now I did not. I am 24 days off my first post on this blog: could I get it in on time for my Blogeversary?

Work Goals: Within months of starting the year, I started a new job. Thank you Universe for finding me flexible, interesting work. I have a lot to learn but I just found out I passed probation and I am a permanent staff member. There’s lots of training coming up in the New Year so this is one thing I can tick off my 19 for 2019.

Blog Goals: It was part way through the year before I started to get a hang of this blogging stuff. I have set up a Pinterest page and I am planning to develop in this area to make my content more. professional in future. This one will go to next year’s list.

A bit more time for me

HEALTH AND WELLBEING GOALS

Selfcare Goals: Are yoga and swimming part of my weekly life? No, they are not. Upholding these goals have been a very long term struggle. The few hours I have to do it, I do not get up and go. Lets be honest, this one will always have to be on my list but I am working on how to make it a habit.

Friendship Goals: I have completed some of my goals to see people more though scraping them in at the last minute by seeing Movies the last couple of weekends of the year. We are yet to have people for dinner but I know we had friends for brunch once, so that counts. I think I need to combine the exercise and friends goals probably to fit it all in.

Activity Goals: I didn’t manage to see three musicals but I did see two and the Tutankhamun exhibit so I am putting this down as a win. I know expensive activities can’t be everyday, but I am glad that the practice of Artist’s Dates is opening me up to a more creative life.

FAMILY LIFE

Education Goals: I am still stuck in the quagmire or applying for the right support for my son. This is a difficult one to have as a goal because I am at the mercy of other people. Despite not being through with this part of the process, I can say I have given this my all, dedicating a lot of time and often too much of my energy to a broken system. So, a win for me if not yet for him.

Relationship Goals: I can’t really tick off these goals but I can move them to the next list as aspirations. My husband’s work has been all-consuming but, just maybe, the light is coming at the end of the tunnel. I think we will see a lot more of each other in 2020.

BETTER HABITS

Phone time: Maybe because these goals were concrete and achievable. I have halved my time of social media. I have been better at saving my photos to the cloud though I need to share them more often with family members still.

A little less time online

Eat lunch at home: The past few months, I have been buying lunch out again but one plus of my new job is a I have a coffee machine at work which reduced my eating out costs. This one is to reestablish habits of earlier in the year.

So overall, I completed 10/19 goals and made some good new habits along the way. My housework goals were separate so I think I will give myself some extra points.

What I have learned is to be specific where I can to help me get that sense of achievement. I also need to review goals more frequently- some I had forgotten I had set! I must order them by priority so that I make time for crucial things like exercise or big things, like finishing the damn draft.

Seems like it’s finally time. Now I need more than goals, going to make my 2020 vision…!

Finding the right way to unwind…

So this was the year I stopped drinking and forgot to tell anyone

It struck me after a supremely stressful week that quite a few people around me suggested I treat myself to a large glass of wine. Not unusual advice. How many memes, tshirts and mugs are there about mothers needing wine or gin? But what they don’t know: this was the year I stopped drinking. Well, I had two drinks in total and may have a tipple or not at Christmas…

Giving up was not a big deal for me. I am lucky that I don’t have an issue with addiction though I have been around it. Saying no up was just a case of stopping when I didn’t fancy the side effects anymore. I know it was the right thing because earlier this week I had a two day hangover from having one small drink. Somehow though kind friends, who haven’t noticed my lifestyle change, thought I had really earned a drink this weekend after a tough week. But I am happy that I decided against it though I really needed to unwind.

You see, this time last year I had a few social occassions (this is rare, I have little opportunity and very few childcare options). Being the fun mum I am I took it way too far and drank too much on those nights out. I got migraine level hangovers (bad), flushed skin like hives (awful) and a debilitating bout of anxiety (the worst.) So, with actually very little soul-searching, I decided to stop drinking.

It bothered very few people. Afterall, I don’t go out that much anyway. A few older relatives were a little put out. I can’t decide if it’s because they were hopeful I was pregnant (ha) or they just felt judged. Most friends who do know though haven’t given a hoot. Apparently I am not alone, Millenials (I’m almost that young!) are also give up drinking or “Dragged down alcohol sales” as Business Insider put it in an article earlier this year.

According to them, this is a side effect of a surveillance culture because any indiscretion is immediately online. As I say, I don’t go out enough to really humiliate myself but I still realised this year I needed a change. For me, living with the consequences of a drink has been too much. Because the “hang-xiety” isn’t the only reason it takes me to a dark place. I think we often ignore the depressant factor in alcohol in order to enjoy being less inhibited. I am writing about a protagonist at the moment who is really not good at parties. Her awkwardness like many around her is only overcome by drinking copious glasses of wine. I mean, I may have given it up but I can still imagine myself in this position. But weighing it up, I can cope better this way.

This is not to say, of course, that anyone out there who uses wine to unwind is an alcoholic nor that anyone doesn’t have a right to use whatever they like in the name of self-care. Afterall, I have the book Hurrah for Gin in my kitchen to turn to after a hard day of motherhood. However, for me, this year has been giving self-care a bit of a makeover.

It is all about finding what works for you, for me, escaping to books is great. I have on a number occassions this year camped out in my bedroom whilst my husband entertains my son. And it is an escape that sometimes you need. I have also done much more swimming. So reminding myself of this, after a stressful week, I have turned to these two things over alcohol to unwind.

All this is to say, handling anxiety is more important than if I feel awkward at parties or don’t have an easy way to unwind. So for me, I’ll pass on the continuous memes and the wine for now.