Research suggests that a third of people in the UK have enjoyed their time spent under lockdown and I am firmly in that camp. I couldn’t write anything without first acknowledging how privileged it is to be able to make that statement, given that so many have had a very different experience. But, I have personally found myself thriving during the last year.
After a brief period of overworking in the initial weeks of the lockdown, I’ve finally discovered the elusive work-life balance. I’ve always needed something to do. I’m a people pleaser and always end up agreeing to me than I should. When lockdown started, that shifted. Having something to do no longer had to be having work to do. I had time to unwind.
I spent proper, uninterrupted days with my husband. We took the plunge and adopted a second dog without needing to worry about how it would fit around work. We played darts, drank cocktails and sang along to our record player. We made time for long walks and talks, tested new recipes, spent whole days in our pyjamas and competitive game nights. For the first time in my life, I ate three homemade meals a day, every single day. I did crafts, exercising, took control of my health and regularly switched my phone off. Isn’t this what life is supposed to be like? Slowed down and at our own pace.
Whether you’re an introvert or extravert comes into play when looking at your response to lockdown. I always joke I’m an introvert pretending to be an extrovert but despite it, I’ve learned I do need an element of solitude to build up my energy. Lockdown simply providing me with the opportunity I need for self-reflection and growth.
For the first time in years, it felt as though my brain had slowed down. I felt inspired, relaxed and a strange sense of calm. The hours previously spent commuting let me indulge my natural sleep cycle all while taking an hour to myself each morning before even sitting behind a screen. I learned to listen to my body – and brain – and took breaks when I needed them. Writers’ block? The dogs love a mid-day walk or sitting in the garden while I enjoy a cup of tea listening to the birds. Overwhelmed with admin? Nothing a quick 20 minutes on the Peloton can’t settle. The days of forcing myself to stay at my desk under some false sense of productivity are gone.
Now as things start to unlock and we go “back to normal”, I’m hesitant to jump back into my previous routine. To the office, to social pressures and to expectations of being okay. I’m worried about my output when we return to the office once forced back to 9-5 constraints. The time I carved out for myself in the morning will be replaced by getting ready, settling the dogs and commuting. Will cooking dinner become a chore again? When weekends be limited to housekeeping, laundry and Sunday scaries?
But the fact of the matter is this: the world will be returning to normal at some point, whether or not we feel ready. What I do know, it’s up to each of us to decide how quickly we want to get back into things.
What I am is eager to see my friends and hug my family. To have long dinners with a group that goes on until the early hours. To re-connect in person with all the things and people that make life worth living in the first place. Even though no one is talking about it, I suspect I’m also not the only one feeling this way but how do you reconcile the guilt of “enjoying” lockdown with the fact that, for many people, it’s been the worst time of their lives?