With three family birthdays thrown in to the mix, social distancing hit a little harder this month. Being stuck in Southampton while my family celebrated birthdays, even if from a safe distance, was weird, but life goes on.
April 5th was my Grand-pops’ birthday, and I think this was the hardest one to be away for. Even so, I enjoyed a lovely little phone call, after which he told me he was going to sit down and have a drink. Specifically a glass of wine, red. Or no, maybe open that nice new bottle of Rosé. As much as I wished I could just sit and have a glass with him, I did find comfort in the fact that my Nan was cooking up a good meal, and that those who could go round and talk from the front garden, did. I also learnt that some of their neighbours who are more able to go out have offered to grab any bits of shopping they need. Still, nothing could quite shake my want to give him a big old hug. Soon Pops, real soon.
Two days later it was my mum’s birthday. We arranged a video call for the evening with my sister involved too, complete with a little birthday tipple each. It took a little time with technological issues, but we got there; all in separate houses, all just chatting pure nonsense and having a good ol’ laugh. It’s never easy missing a birthday, especially just after missing mother’s day, but video calls certainly lighten the mood. It wasn’t long before my sister’s birthday rolled around and I might be wrong but I don’t think I’ve ever missed her birthday, so this felt a little odd. But again, we took to the saviour of our times, the video call. Although, I’m still trying to figure out how I really feel about them.
Birthdays aside, April was just kind of blah. Not much happened in the life of Sam, not that anyone is really surprised. I don’t know, maybe I’m even adjusting to this current way of living. I’m not naive to the fact that I have it pretty good; living with housemates I get along with, on furlough with access to a garden. I’m also not naive to the fact that when things go back to normal it is going to be so inexplicably strange.
While some might be eager to get back to work, I’m okay. Perhaps it’s because I have turned to writing more in this time, maybe even realising that working as a writer from home would in fact be ideal. It’s not to say that I’m not looking forward to getting back and seeing everyone. Sure, sometimes I do just fancy making pizzas for a few hours and enjoying a nice beer afterwards.
I guess I am just seeing things in a new light. Going from this time last year where my job was my life – the be all and end all. To now just seeing it as something that gives me some financial support, and I just so happen to enjoy the company. That being said, I still take pride in what I do, I take care to do my job, but then I leave and forget about it. It’s easy. Maybe one day my job will be my life again, but only because I want it that way.
I have certainly been feeling a lot more lethargic this month. Bored of doing nothing, but also no urge to do anything. My plan is to treat myself to some kind of craft project, or even a lego set, but I can’t say that I won’t just stare at it for hours, even days, before actually starting it. That’s okay though. It is important not to feel pressured in to keeping ‘productive’ – whatever that means anyway, maybe it’s time to for a new definition of the word.
Looking after ourselves is important, as is knowing how to do so. Some strive off endless to do lists, some do best just taking some time out, others a good balance of two. Of course these aren’t the only options and generally, one isn’t better than another, it’s all relative. We’re all getting through this one way or another, all having our good days and bad. It just takes recognising what makes you feel good in the moment, rather than worrying about whether you’re truly making the most of ‘this time’.
I feel like it has never been more important to curate my social media to optimise my mental health. Not just removing things that don’t make me feel good, but learning to admire, rather than compare. I have thought (and spoken) many times about being less passive in my problematic scrolling of Instagram and Twitter, and aiming to be more interactive. We’ve heard it all before; commenting on beautiful photos, sharing inspiring posts, actually reading articles and maybe even researching further. I feel like it should be a distraction of sorts, a form of escapism rather than application to real life.
Whatever I’m doing with my time, I do want to make that time on my phone more purposeful, particularly with my phone’s weekly updates on my screen time. Don’t get me wrong, I have learned to forgive myself for the increase in time spent on my phone. After all, less time at work does result in more time spent checking things online. It’s really only natural, I just want to make sure that what I’m seeing on that screen is making me happy.
For me, it is also important to have time properly to myself. We’re all available now, and are having to be honest about when we’ve had enough of conversation, whether or not we say it in the plainest terms. It’s okay to say that actually you want to just lie down in bed and do nothing for a minute, you know? Of course, we all know that we can do what we want. It’s not news to anyone, but with everyone going on about this being something that brings us all together, it is worth remembering ourselves.
Let’s talk about the video call some more. As much as they are a vital tool for keeping in touch right now, I sometimes find them quite hard, particularly in groups. I’m very much a quiet person, not necessarily because I’m shy, but more because I’m busy taking in the moment. Even if I’m lacking the energy to bring much to the conversation, I thrive off just being there, soaking up the atmosphere and feeling the physical presence of those around me. The warmth of their bodies, the odd touch of hands here and there, holding someone’s gaze for a second or two.
With a video call it’s like I can’t mentally take time out to sit there silently and still feel that same buzz. I’m sat in my room, distracted by the dust on my blinds, the clothes I left on the floor – maybe I just need to clean my room more, but that’s not what I want to be thinking about while in conversation with people. Obviously, video calls are my only option of hanging out with large groups of people, but as much as this is a great way of communicating, it just makes me long for ‘real’ interaction more.
Of course, it’s not always like that, in fact I might favour the video call in terms of purposeful conversation, or just having someone to be there while we do nothing in particular. I mean it’s better than nothing, right? I’m just not necessarily up for ‘zoom’-ing a large group for the sake of it. Maybe we play a game together or have a quiz, or maybe I dip in and out, I don’t know, but it’s just not something that always feels so good.
Perhaps I just need to get used to this ‘new normal’ or whatever we’re calling it. Clearly I’m a little confused about it all. Then again, aren’t we all? We’re all going through it, all feeling every emotion – even the ones we might have forgotten – all thinking about things we never considered before. I think we’re all learning new things about ourselves, most of the time not even realising it.
For some of us in our twenties and beyond, it can feel strange to consider that we may not be the people we think we are. We forget how early on in our lives we really are. Working through it all, having been forced to make life decisions from tender teenage years. We might not have truly considered what we want from life. It’s quite probable that all this time is making us think of all the possibilities, realising what we would be doing, if only we could. Sometimes it takes not having the ability to physically do something, to make us see our greater truths.
Again, this will not apply to everyone, but is certainly something that I have been feeling. I’m still not entirely sure what that greater truth is, however more thoughts have been floating around my head than ever. Frustratingly though, these ideas seem to flit around so fast that I can barely hold on long enough for them to fully form. It’s like waking up from a dream and desperately trying to remember all the good bits. A lack of focus for sure; even with all the time in the world, the brain still needs to work hard to figure these things out.
I guess the point is to have patience with ourselves. Take time to recognise new feelings, and try not to let those down days eat us up. Find a way of making it better, whether that be doing something, or nothing at all. Being kind to ourselves is one of the most productive things we can do right now. Take care.