My fingers reach inside the small cupboard searching out for the shape of a small tiny toy belonging to my daughter. But it remains hidden. It’s there, wedged in a corner somewhere, covered in fluff. I release a low growl from my gut as my fingers push further inside the cupboard. For now, it remains a memory of a familiar touch.
In March, I began to follow the advice of Marie Kondo to declutter my space. Keeping only those things that speak to my heart, and discarding items that no longer spark Joy. At times, I did wonder if this newfound lack of joy for things is more down to our current state of mind rather than the objects themselves.
I took part in this self-indulgent sport. From the broken tv units, legless ornaments, and the endless cables slithering around the floor, I have savagely and happily bounced forgotten toys, clothing, and broken crockery into the bin with a rage only met by a middle-aged peri-menopausal woman holidaying at a campsite in the rain.
In the middle of all this hell, I asked my daughter to write about the lockdown. True to form, she broke me and it down beautifully.
Lockdown by Grace Creamer
From her corner of the world, you could see COVID worry take shape in her hands. That first week they were dry and coarse. Tiny splits had plotted their way around each crease of her palm. Each split held flickers of dried red blood.
Each night, she would creep softly across the hall and hover outside of my bedroom door clutching a group of her most precious companions. She would stand still until her courage to enter the room grows and swells and urges her to turn the handle of the door. Inside, she would whisper her plea. A sigh leaving her body as she snuggles in beside me. She gives no battle to sleep, instead reaching round to hold my hand.
In the first few weeks of COVID, I stood motionless staring into the vast and persistent death news telly box. I watched the wave of emails sweep across all of my work, leaving behind only mistrust and disappointment.
“We’ll start again later”
“We can look at this in September”.
It was March and ALL of my work turned to dust within 3 days.
We all had our quiet hidden moments to cry.
With my family, I made a plan. We decided to step away, clear out, and clear off. No easy feat during a pandemic with three generations to tend to and ill health to consider. Even the boring mundane bits were horrendous. Sometimes, surrounded by the fatigue of it all, I had to remember that there is still much to dream on. I secured a small amount of work to maintain us until the leave date.
A few of my friends were immensely productive in the first stage of the curse. One person even completed a diploma. Others produced podcasts, action plans, and assembled information and guidance for people like me. I stood in awe and became a pro at booking online shopping slots. The backdrop to all of this was the rise in numbers of friends and loved ones who were ill or in hospital.
On one occasion, after a long chat with a friend who was in the midst of hunkering down in the dirt with rage about her civil liberties, I took my regular walk to the local shop. Our general groundhog bore of a day has been cut by small and large moments like this. On this occasion, I met a woman standing next to the dairy section. She spoke quietly with an urgency in her tone. She was waiting for her chemo to begin and had chosen to isolate herself alone. Around us were empty shelves and frustrated people muttering to themselves. We spoke briefly but my eyes welled up as I tried to help her. I have no idea how she fared in the forthcoming months. I still think about her.
My work focused on dreaming and creating a new world for my family. Shedding and beginning again. We scrubbed and cleaned and sorted our house and our lives into small folders and waited. I worried about the future constantly.
Just for fun, there is the menopause or perimenopause ( who cares which when you can’t sleep) ; which forces many of us to look back at our lives and remember that for over 80 percent of it you were a massive arsehole. There is absolutely no point in dressing it up any other way. We have to deal with pain, loss, and frustration and just settle in, buy some gardening shoes, and get on with it all. Take a damn good look at yourself. Let’s not talk right now about what happens physically. It’s both hilarious, cruel, and damn right frightening.
As the UK continues to resemble a hollowed-out echo to the past with much of its political decisions, I fell madly and completely out of love with it.
I still have a love for family, friends, places, and spaces but the structures, settings, and denial of the past have left me feeling that the UK isn’t just unsafe because of COVID.
And so, as the madness of zoom connections forced many of us into long days of shouting into our computers, we had to get very well acquainted with uncertainty and feeling unsafe and scared. It’s more familiar to some, the long term sick are regular bed companions with uncertainty and feeling unsafe and scared. We could learn a lot from them.
With the move complete and not without savage moments of loss and longing, I write this from my temporary home here in Ireland. My new space. It is not going to be perfect. I have a folder of things to work through and a folder of the past to look back at.
I am now more accepting of the uncertainty.
What else can you do? Hope and continue to strive for trust with people and ourselves. O and reach for tiny moments of JOY wherever possible…