Firstly, can we take a moment to throw up a bit in our mouths at the expression ‘freedom day’? It’s tacky and gross, but more to the point it’s wrong.
Freedom day is all very well is you are fit and healthy and happy to be out and about amidst a virus, (which I am and I appreciate that), but the virus hasn’t gone away. If you are vulnerable, physically or emotionally, the idea of suddenly now not even having the protection of face masks in busy places must be terrifying. Not exactly freeing for sure.
But this post isn’t a call to arms of any kind, because this is a personal blog and so it’s All About Me, dur.
I’ve not been having a great week.
Okay, that’s not true, Monday was good – we had a few hours left of our motorhome break, (see my Goboony stories highlight on Instagram), and then after we’d dropped the van off Belle and I did a casual Egyptian themed escape room on the way home in 45 minutes – one of our best times in a while. I’m not saying we’re competitive, but there was a lot of high fiving and post room debriefing around how amazing we both are.
And then we got home and everything sort of collapsed in on itself. The thought of having to go back to ‘work’, and I admit I use this term as a freelancer in the loosest possible sense, felt appalling. Not only did I just NOT WANT TO, but I was sure that no one would ever want to give me any work ever again. I checked my blog traffic, I felt sad, my thighs felt vast, the house looked a mess – fair to say I was overwhelmed.
I was hot though, and tired, and I know that coming home from holidays can be tricky. A good night’s sleep I thought, then I’ll feel better.
I didn’t feel better.
I actually woke up on Tuesday with a slight but noticeable sense of dread – something that hasn’t happened in months. I eased myself into the day with coffee and a book in the garden, finally pulling myself together to start work at 10am. At 10.05am I shut my laptop and went upstairs to see Belle. On the way up the stairs I started crying and by the time I sat on her bed I was in full on toddler mode.
‘I don’t WANT to work,’ I sobbed. ‘It’s not fair. Why aren’t I rich? I just want to drive around in a van and have coffees and go on steam trains. I just want to be retired. I don’t want to have to DO things, I want someone ELSE to do them.’
I couldn’t have been much more dramatic about it if I’d actually stamped my feet, or perhaps peed my pants in protest.
After about ten minutes of me crying and Belle sympathetically patting me on the arm and asking if I was pre-menstrual, (maybe, who even knows anymore?), I realised that it didn’t matter how much I cried, the work would still be there in the end, so I set myself a 20 minute timer and got on with it.
It was hard though.
My mind wandered and if I let it go too far from the screen I would feel overwhelmed and make small, pathetic whimpering noises.
I’m boring myself now with this story.
The upshot is that I thought about it a bit and I began to wonder if it wasn’t entirely a coincidence that my anxiety had coincided with ‘freedom day’, so I did what all good influencers do and I posted on Instagram about it.
‘There is something about moving on that makes me sad,’ I said. ‘Amidst the horror and the fear there were moments that I grew to love – the empty roads, the nods in the park to other solitary walkers, the thrill of a takeaway coffee on another weekend walk because there’s nothing else to do but actually you don’t mind because you’ve grown to love the space and the solitude and the slowness.’
I really am sad to let that go.
What I think feels so sad and scary about it is that we will never be able to willingly recreate it. While we can learn lessons from it, try to give our own lives a slower pace, to hold on to the good parts about lockdown, we will only really be able to do it on a very small scale, and probably only by retreating into our own lives and homes, and that’s not the same.
It’s not the same as walking to the beach and it being deserted and being able to see a vast, quiet landscape in all directions. That’s the bit that scares me and makes me sad – that we have all rushed back in to fill the spaces and no matter how much we want individually to slow our lives, we can’t control everything around us.
(I know that this is the crux of it because when I wrote this bit I felt my breath catch and I cried a little bit. I find writing useful like that, as a way to help me figure out what’s bothering me. Bit awkward that I’m in Costa waiting for my car to be serviced next door, but I don’t think anyone noticed because, ironically, it’s too busy and loud.)
What I’m saying is, freedom day hasn’t left me feeling free. During lockdown I felt freedom from decision overwhelm, from the pressure to socialise, to shop, to fill the space, and now I feel crowded, physically and emotionally.
While we may have gained some practical freedoms, it feels like so many others have been taken away.