Distancing #4: When change is not a choice

Notes from journal entries penned at the end of March, edited and shared as part of a new series called Distancing. Read them all via this link.

How has life changed for you in the last month? I barely recognise mine.

Rewind and it’s the end of February, moving into March. I’m tallying up almost a dozen train journeys a week around Scotland’s central belt, having meetings and making connections over coffee with potential brand advocates. Otherwise, I’m in the office scheduling content, planning partnerships and writing copy.

At the weekend, we head along to one of the beaches in Fife’s East Neuk, following the seaweed-strewn strand line on a windy afternoon, laughing and holding hands. Later, we drive further east and enjoy a fish tea at the famous Anstruther Fish Bar. The next day, I plan going to a food festival with my mum, tidying the spare room for her arrival the following weekend. In the end, she didn’t come.

Memories seem grainy — the idea of going into a restaurant, of working in an office, seeing strangers…

That seems like a lifetime ago now — the thought of going into a restaurant takes on the air of a vintage film, the memory grainy. The idea of sitting next to strangers makes my heart beat faster. That job I mentioned? It’s evaporated, international marketing rendered irrelevant in a world that’s lost under lockdown. And driving an hour east to a beach wouldn’t exactly be labelled essential travel now, would it?

Life has changed. We have changed, because we don’t have a choice.

I’m not sure what your daily routine looks like now, if you are lucky enough to have one that’s consistent in these chaotic times, but this is ours. Instead of the two-hour daily commute we both had, we work from home. Up and working by 10, lunch sometime after noon, then another 6 hours of work. If we’re not too busy or tired after that (and if it’s not pissing with rain) we’ll switch off our laptops, lace up our hiking boots and go up the hill behind our home.

I’m still not bored of that walk yet. Every evening there’s something new to notice — tonight the clouds were thick like a tired grey-blue duvet. In the pond, the grasses shook with an army of frogs moving stealthily through the mud. At twilight, when we descended through the limes and pines, the birdsong built to a crescendo. Despite the repetitious route, any boredom is undone by the fortune we feel at having nature, fresh air and a dose of perspective right on our doorstep.

A routine walk is only boring if you aren’t paying attention.

Regardless, the thought that this is life now is a struggle to accept (despite our relative privilege). We won’t be able to eat lunch in our local café, go on a long weekend walking in rural Scotland, or plan a trip abroad for months, if not years. Could a family Christmas be cancelled? Quite possibly.

All these simple things we took for granted now seem significant as they slide further from our fingertips in this distorted reality. Even for introverted, isolated people (I count myself amongst this group, thanks to both my personality and where we live!) daily life looks and feels different. There’s definitely a mental hurdle to overcome in knowing you’re alone, rather than simply choosing to be.

I wonder — when this solitary existence moves into months, if not years, how will we feel? How can we ever go back to normal after this, without at least trying to reformat some of our most destructive habits? Without holding our families tighter? Without being grateful for the smallest of things?

We must remember that being ‘stuck at home’ is actually a privilege.

We change because we have to. And in that change there is pain, anxiety, loneliness — but there is also love, community, positivity. Through this storm, it’s the light we must try to hold on to.

We must also remember that those of us who are ‘stuck at home’ are actually lucky. We are privileged to be safe within our own four walls, whilst health workers and delivery drivers stick the proverbial finger up at those who called them unskilled just a few short months ago, and single-handedly keep the economy going.

On that note, I have some news to share. You may remember I mentioned that I’d lost my job a few weeks ago. I wasn’t surprised when it happened and tried to stay positive, knowing that I wasn’t the only one in a similar position.

A few days ago, though, I was offered a temporary contract to support another public sector social media team. Between sending in my CV, former managers advocating for me, and probably a good slice of luck I have work again — and in the midst of a growing global pandemic, I feel incredibly grateful for that.

I hope there’s even one positive thing that you can hold on to just now. Until next time, take care.

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