I hit a wall this week. Yup. Full on Wile E. Coyote riled up by the Road Runner full on face plant. Snout concertina-ed, stars encircling the head, and entire body schlumped down into a heap on the floor. I’m sure for Megan, Skyler and Nick, who are stuck in lockdown with me, it hasn’t been a pretty sight to behold. I felt like physically striking out and verbally doing so. At the same time, I felt vented up with frustration at being unable to find the right words to express myself. I fantasised about going into a deep, dark wood and screaming my lungs out or head off—whichever would put me out of my misery first. Lucky those idiots who stormed the Capitol didn’t cross my path. I came up with a place or two, in my minds eye, where I would have liked to lodge the horns of the QAnon groupie. And all I’m saying is it would not have been a far cry from what Piggy and the boys on the Lord of the Flies island were witness to.
I can’t put my finger on it. The specific incident or moment that set me on the downward spiral. It could’ve been the pining for an actual in-person visit with my Dad or my brother and sisters or my friends on my birthday. Maybe it was the feeling of uselessness at having to hunker down in my Volvo while the vet took my kitten from our car for her appointment. Humans aren’t allowed to accompany their pets into the surgery and I already felt bad enough about shoving Coco in the cat carrier, driving her in the unfamiliar car and worrying she’d have to have an abscess lanced on her little sweet face. Then again the trip to Sainsbury’s and listening to them repeat on a loop over the tannoy a cheery thank you for wearing my mask and maintaining a two metre distance from others shoppers started to grate (and, indeed, feel very 1984ish to boot). The tapping on Skyler’s bedroom door to make sure he could log on to school also bugged me. Especially when he responded that it was “all good” because he could register without a video connection and stay in bed a little longer because he had two frees that morning. Even more so, it was that our conversation seemed actually normal. Gone, for the moment, was the nudging him into the shower to be up for breakfast, on to the bus and into school with his friends and teachers. No wearing of his suit and tie, not that they probably should be worn at this point as they haven’t, nor have we, been to the dry cleaners in months. Nor to the hair dressers or any shops besides the grocery store.
Or maybe it was my inability to thank my lucky stars that we also haven’t been to A&E (knock on my thick wooden head) with any life-threatening illness. I haven’t had to endure twelve hour shifts with PPE strapped on my body to hopefully protect me as it chafes my skin into sores. I haven’t had to deliver package after package of internet shopping to keep the world holed up in their homes safe from the virus while I risk exposure with each padded envelope and cardboard box. I haven’t even had to stack and stock shelves to keep the nations’ larders and fridges full.
I’ve had it incredibly easy.
I’ve got great WIFI and have even squeezed in COVID-silver-lining-participation in classes with my favourite writing mentor in North Carolina and book club discussions with my friends in Kent and Surrey. I’ve been warm and dry in the cold of winter. I have never experienced hunger. I’ve got clothes on my back. A generous hardworking husband in a steady job. Children whose company I adore. I get to read and write and do crosswords and jigsaws to my hearts delight. I have a beautiful garden to walk out in and a National Trust property, just a mile up from my house, where I can stroll with my dog off the leash to reunite with my beloved woods.
Who am I to cop an attitude? Who am I to be the Eeyore? Who am I to be deflated and stuck in the unfairness and stress of the pandemic running rampant around the world? Of Brexit? Of political uncertainty? Even with the likes of the delectable guilty pleasure that is Netflix’s Bridgerton to indulge in -who am I to be so hard done by? And yet, it finally caught up with me this week, and I’m ashamed of myself for struggling to shake my bad mood.
As I said, I was speechless and wordless. All I could think about was how lonesome—not lonely—I am for the world as we knew it. Lonesome for my far away family and social distanced friends. Lonesome for lighter worries to bear. Feeling hiraeth* – a homesickness for a home you can’t return to, or that never was.
So yesterday, I got up grumpy again. Ill rested and ill tempered. Trying to carve out a space in my head to find my positive nature again. Praying for guidance as I flicked on the kitchen radio and started preparing pets’ food while the kettle boiled. Utterly begrudging the rain. When Radio Four’s Thought for the Day came on and, I kid you not, the speaker, Martin Rowe, began his piece by launching into commentary about a therapist he heard of who was encouraging tree hugging for the alleviation of “lockdown loneliness”. How could I not stop and listen? Start at 46.58 to listen for yourself.
He noted “while nothing can compensate for the absence of human contact” tree hugging seemed to be helping the therapist’s clients. He even described giving it a whirl himself in which although it felt “surreal to hold one of the great silent living beings, and yet, in these days when nothing seems strange anymore, also surprisingly reassuring”.
I laughed listening to Martin Rowe. It was like listening to myself wax on about trees and their merits. It could have been my own words coming back to me via the BBC commentator. It felt like the universe had to decided it’d send me a little reminder through the radio programme, to remember I’m not alone, to reset and to keep my faith a little longer. I can honestly say I breathed a bit deeper hearing that show. Less muddled in mind and spirit.
I even felt energised to iron nine shirts (Kelly’s laundry at your service), pulled out my birthday jigsaw puzzle and started laying out edge pieces, tried on a new jumper I’d bought online in a January sale, chatted with my big sister, luxuriated through two episodes of Gilmore Girls with Megan, and, finally, felt like myself again.
I felt grateful that when I needed that extra hand to help me stand back up, shrug off the cruelty of the world and return whole heartedly to embrace my incredibly, good life, the words came. When I took the time to listen, the words came and I was able to once again remember this isn’t forever and there is much to be amazed by.
This morning I woke up under a blue sky – what a bonus—as I came down to begin the daily routines. I let Winston out for a stretch, filled the cats’ bowls, loaded the dishwasher from last night’s dinner and decided to write it all down. Particularly when even the Pringles can from last night’s snacking “spoke” to me when I nestled it back into the pantry. It nudged me in the right direction and furnished me with just the word I needed to bring back to the forefront of my vocabulary. Around the belt of the illustrated Santa holiday packaging, in all caps I saw spelled out the word I needed to be reminded of most : HOPE.
Now that’s my kinda word, I thought.
Especially with the American inauguration to look forward to on Wednesday and vaccinations being administered worldwide. Especially with the daffodils emerging at the base of my favourite tree growing tall outside my kitchen window. In these days when “nothing seems strange anymore,” I’ll even gladly take some advice from my potato chip packaging and rise like the best of the Looney Tune cartoon characters. HOPE this post helps you to do so as well.
Ttttthaaattt’s All Folks!
*Thank you, Christy, for teaching me this word.