So This Is What Lockdown Fatigue Looks Like
Don't get me wrong, at the end of March it was actually OK.
We were told to keep the kids at home, Stay Home and Save Lives and send one member of the family out to get shopping (in our case it was me) as few times as possible. I stalked through the woods that connect our house to the supermarket as if I was Katniss from The Hunger Games, barely seeing another soul. We checked in on our neighbours (by text and loitering at the end of driveways), spent a few balmy days out in the garden and the kids were diligently doing homework up in their bedrooms. We'd clap and bash rolling pins on pans for the NHS every week, on Thursdays, after dinner. It was all kind of good. Contactless deliveries. Queries by email. Working from home. Buying local. Community spirit. Life was more quieter, peaceful, slower and OK.
And then, about two weeks in, everything started to cave in a little bit.
I discovered that one of my daughters was doing a little bit of the work she'd been set but was mostly playing games, watching Netflix and WhatsApp-calling her friends instead with the rest of her day. She had a backlog of work building up, so I jumped in with a plan to stop her getting too far behind, which involved me sitting next to her, cheerily motivating her for four hours a day like an exhausted cheerleader. My other daughter is in the last year of her GCSEs, deep in revision. It stressed me out that some schools were getting two or three hours' of work a day, while ours were giving out full school days' worth (ours). Some were doing video lessons, while others were emailing worksheets or presentations to work through. They were even setting 'additional' tasks on top (we didn't do those). That homework notification app just kept pinging with new schoolwork notifications at breakfast, at dinnertime and after they'd gone to bed. It was relentless. I started to get up earlier and stay up later just to get everything done.
It wasn't all stressy. I learned a lot. I learned about refraction, the Benin Bronzes, Andy Goldsworthy and how to say 'clothes' in Spanish. I learned a lot about my daughters, too. One likes to work alone, highlighting and annotating and doing mind-maps while the other one doesn't like pressure and would much rather stay in bed dozing until 2pm than do a science experiment using paperclips.
But it wasn't just school. There was a real emotional impact to lockdown, too. Hugging friends and family that you don't live with was banned and it's been almost four months since I've been able to hug anyone outside my household. It's amazing how much I took hugging for granted. God, it feels good. A quick hug when you meet a friend for coffee. A goodbye hug to a relative. I met my friend for a coffee in her garden, got a bit tearful over something and she had to just gaze sympathetically in my direction over the garden bench. I'll never under-estimate the healing power of a hug again. If you are one of my team, you're getting a hug when this all ends.
It doesn't help that I'm a naturally awkward introvert, but there was also so much anxiety. Masks. I absolutely think we should all be wearing them and dutifully strapped it on when I got on the bus or the train, or did my weekly shop. And then I saw people without them, or just tucking them under their chin. Or wearing them just over their lips. The darting. The scurrying, when you see another person emerge unexpectedly from behind a corner of the baking aisle in the supermarket, while you both try to maintain a 2-metre distance.
Facebook was full of people calling you out if you were a couple shopping together, if you happened to clear your throat in public or if you just looked too happy.
And then as things started to loosen, you were allowed to go shopping in clothes shops - but you weren't allowed to try anything on, and you'd have to have your temperature tested (on the forehead, don't panic) before you walk in. You could eat inside a restaurant eventually, but you had to wear a mask in the supermarket. One adult per household in shops. The cleaning. The washing (did I wash for the full twenty seconds? I'd better do it again in case). The singing Happy Birthday at sinks. The lack of eggs, toilet rolls, pasta and tinned tomatoes. My friend and I left boxes of eggs on each other's doorsteps when we could find them, for each other. Our friendship now is literally forged in eggs.
There were rumours of illegal backdoor eyelash extensions getting done and we all walked around with mop-hairstyles while our pixie cuts and buzz cuts started to grow out.
I looked in the mirror yesterday. I look tired, and my skin is a weird greyish tinge. My eyes have sunken deeper into their sockets. I have a little jiggly lockdown belly. I can barely stay awake to see 9pm. My immune system is down, which isn't the best timing, and I'm fighting off a mild infection. My body clock is messed up and I'm waking up every day at 4.30am. I used to find the six-week school summer holidays tiring - I just realised we've already done two and half of those since March. And we have another one - the actual six-weeks one - to go.
I'm not complaining. Lockdown was important, for sure. If anything, this is just me putting out there that it was a struggle for me so that if you're reading this and feel the same, you'll know it isn't just you. We're all exhausted. It's Lockdown Fatigue. That's what it is, and, according to Google, it's actually a real thing.
But yes, there were plus points to this experience, and I learned a lot from it. Fewer cars on the road made the air sweeter. We all noticed it. Everywhere was quiet. You started to hear the birds again and slow tasks down a little bit, only because fewer places were open that would chase you up. Fewer gatherings meant fewer infections being passed on. More time with my family. Tea in the garden. Barbecues with just the four of us when I could eventually get hold of charcoal. We planted pea seeds and watched them grow, picking off the ripe little pods for a snack. I like to hope that lockdown did slow down the virus and get it under control. I am grateful for that and for the lessons it taught me. Really.
But personally? In my little bubble?
I'm stressed out of my mind and barely get five minutes a day to myself.
Two more days to go until the end of term and the six weeks' summer holidays.
I can't wait. 😆
Did lockdown change you? Did you learn anything from it? How was it for you? Did you experience Lockdown Fatigue, too? Let me know in the comments below.