What stage of lockdown are you at? I’m listlessly zigzagging between the "new hobbies" and the "can’t be arsed" stages.
First, I had a go at drag queen make up, picking up tricks from the luscious glamazons of Youtube. As any drag-fan knows, the transformation isn’t just about slamming on a wig and a pair of stripper heels, it’s a conspicuous blend of art and attitude. I wasn’t fully committed in either sphere. Consequently, my attempted pizazz was more "polished turd", albeit one rolled in glitter, with glued on eyelashes. Sashay away, hunty!
The next foray into the creative arts began with a root in my sewing box, long since relegated to the loft. All it took was a quick whip through Pinterest and I found my temporary calling: I am embroiderer, hear me roar! Unencumbered by any skill, talent or knowledge of needlework, I quickly discovered that embroidery takes friggin’ ages and I’m shit at it.
Fishing for caterpillars
Most recently I had a crack at gardening. I’m more of a Margo Leadbetter than a Barbara Good (google it, young ‘uns) so after a couple of hours in my Marigolds, dragging a tiny trowel over some nature, I’d had enough. A further confirmation that the outdoors is not my forte was received later that day when I fished a caterpillar (RIP) out of my bra.
I’ve since downed tools and embraced the inertia for a bit. I’m not on my own in barrelling through whims of activity. Isn’t it interesting that lots of us are independently encountering similar phases and emotions during these "living through history" days? Maybe you think that the correlation is both obvious and inevitable – we’re all going through the same thing. Come on, though. We’re definitely not.
Those of us who aren’t key workers only have the one thing in common – we’re shut away. And that shut away experience varies greatly depending on the same differentiating factors that shaped lives before lockdown: housing, money, relationships, responsibilities of care, and now more than ever, skills and access to technology.
I know that to some extent I view life through the mirror of my pals, colleagues and acquaintances with whom I share similarities, and that panorama fashions my perception of "normal". However, I’ve found the commonality of experience surprising even in the social-bubble context.
People have spoken of feelings of fear and helplessness, stacked next to periods of slightly shameful joy at the enforced slowness of life. There has been greedy enthusiasm for how to use all the extra hours, followed by a total lack of motivation to actually do anything with them. Then there’s the strange sleep patterns that force the body into an ongoing jet-lagged state – either pinging awake at 5am, or being unable to shift from a semi-conscious drowse.
I wonder if there’s a prevalent path through these common experiences, like the stages of grief. Having little understanding of psychology, I always thought the purported grieving process – a trudge through denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – was some daft twaddle made up as the framework of TV dramas.
Until I found myself helplessly sobbing, "If I could just have one more hour with her" following a recent bereavement. Doesn’t it make sense that there could be a comparable emotional journey through this, perhaps simply because we’re all reacting to the shock that it actually has happened?
In the last few days it feels like the discourse is starting to change. Maybe because we’ve got used to the ever shifting state of uncertainty, the new focus seems to be, what next?
How will this change things?
There are the huge whacking-great ramifications of this global crisis, which will no doubt lead to changes that are too fundamental to visualise as yet. Then there are the personal consequences, that sit differently with each one of us.
This period has catapulted me into an unexpected life-audit. A jolt to make me stop plodding through life and move with motivation towards what matters to me.
I just have to work out what that is. I can tell you one thing for sure. It ain’t chuffin’ gardening.
Sarah Simons works in colleges and adult community education in the East Midlands and is the director of UKFEchat