Freeze! This is a Lockdown!

February 22nd 2021. What a time to be alive!

When the first UK lockdown happened back in March 2020, I must admit it had a different feel.

Two weeks prior to the news, my dad had had a massive stroke and I’d been trekking up and down the country to see him. At the time, it was very much a touch and go situation: emotionally I was exhausted and experiencing anxiety like never before. The first lockdown almost gave me relief from all that – seeing my dad on deaths door was no longer an option and in a way, the current times had become so surreal that they took me outside of my own problems. We were in a global pandemic, all for one and one for all!

Facing such bizarre and uncertain times was almost a little bit thrilling: “Oh my god Parvs this is insane, we’re in a lockdown! Hear that? HELICOPTERS!” I spent the first 5 weeks with family friends as the thought of quarantining alone just didn’t make sense. I was also inadvertently smug, as it meant the guy I’d recently stopped seeing couldn’t have sex with anyone.

I later found out that he was in fact still having sex, as everyone in this country has their own definition of what a lockdown is.

It’s true though, right? The UK has been at loggerheads like never before this past year, with the argument being: “I know people are dying, but my mental health is suffering”. Sigh.

Seeing people squabble over why they’re visiting friends, or why they aren’t wearing a mask, has made me wonder whether we’ll ever wake up from this surreal nightmare. One thing’s for sure: we’re a country divided. Maybe it’s always been that way.

I was so perturbed with the uncertainty of my father’s fate – and with my mum living on the other side of the world – that I began exercising every day (I mean, what else could I do?) It was the only thing that could keep me from losing my sanity, which let’s face it, has always been on the spectrum.

Within about 3 months of ‘Lockdown One’ I lost around 2 stone, to which I received much flattery: “Omg you’ve had such a glow up this summer!” and “Wow Chels, how did you do it?” The answer was simple:

You push one of your parents in front of a bus, leaving them in critical condition. Don’t go and visit them for 3 months and when you do, know that you won’t be able to touch them. You can talk to them providing you keep a 2 metre distance and most importantly: wear a mask so they hardly recognise you! The stress of this will be so severe, you will turn to drugs or exercise – for me it was the latter!

I’m an asshole.

Of course, I am very lucky to still have my Dad here; to know that he is being taken care of by our key workers on the frontline (let’s give them a pay-rise, not a clap this time, hey?) He is now in a nursing home, though paralysed, wheelchair bound and only able to speak a few words (which in itself is a mini-miracle).

When he was discharged from hospital and started to shows signs of recovery, the gratitude I felt towards those nurses and care-workers is something I can’t articulate. No amount of hampers or thank you’s will ever be enough to describe the relief of knowing he was in safe hands. They saved him.

Still, it’s dire times. I haven’t been able to visit since October – my birthday – as shortly after receiving new visitation rights, Tier 4 was announced and BOOM! Another lockdown.

To state the obvious, this pandemic is far, far bigger than me, than us. The UK has lost over 117,000 citizens, leaving the country in a state of shock and trauma. My own life-circumstances are merely a tiny blip in a universal ocean: everyone is suffering.

I am one of those folks who wants nothing more than to go on holiday, to party with friends; gaze over candlelit dinner into the object of my desire’s eyes and you know what? Even with all the misery, things felt considerably OKAY before the third lockdown.

I was fine with the restrictions. I was happy to wear a mask, to stay in my group of 6 and not dance my way to the bathroom at All Bar One. The problem is, I was naive. I thought the first lockdown would be the last and now here I am 2 months in, sitting in my top floor flat like the Rapunzel of Acton.

Chopped my hair off though didn’t I, ’cause Boris Johnson isn’t on his way to announce my freedom.

I wasn’t intending for this to be a miserable post. I was hoping to spread some hope and joy and say “Ooh! When this is all over, I’ll bake a bread so big it’ll be enough to feed the entire nation!” But we all know baking supplies are limited right now and yeast is in very high demand.

Thankfully, I have been finding new ways to bide the time, with feeling extremely nostalgic at the top:

  1. I keep thinking of past homes I’ve lived in, old flatmates, holidays, songs; streets. People who wouldn’t usually cross my mind under “normal” circumstances have been resurfacing like never before: “Ahh, Eddie the Shop Keeper. I’ll never forget when he caught those 10 year olds stealing bubblegum from under his counter back in 1999! What a scandal that was!”
  2. I’m keeping active. It’s been almost a year and I exercise at least 4 times a week now. It’s become habitual, though I still haven’t experienced the infamous runner’s high. I don’t have abs, either.
  3. I’ve been super creative. I have pages and pages filled with art now; ChelseaReveals has been revamped with my own illustrations. If life were as it used to be, this is something I wouldn’t have made time for.
  4. Karaoke. When I was younger I went for singing lessons, but my vocal limitations disappointed me. These days, I find myself singing constantly – after work, on my lunch break; in the shower. I feel bad for the neighbours but hey, at least I’m not crying!
  5. Obsessing over EVERYTHING. I had become better at this, but since ‘Lockdown Three’ I’ve really tired myself out with the whole “Why can’t I control this?” narrative. Checking my phone for replies, looking at the news every 5 minutes to see if we’re still in hell; overanalysing every past and present situation. Honestly, I have “obsessively looped” so hard I could write a whole post about it. And at this rate, maybe I will.
  6. Last of all, I got a kitten!! Yessss, Darling Marilyn Hipwood is her name. I’d like to say having her has brought out the best in me but instead, I developed this kind of “Me and My Cat Against the World” complex and quite honestly, turning into the mean old crazy cat lady was never on the agenda.

So yes, I haven’t completely lost my shit though the string I’m hanging from is fine. All I want is to see my mum; to feel the sun on my face with the ocean at my feet but it doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen soon. Instead, I’m just a locked-down fancy prisoner, trying to find some freedom in the mind.

Life hasn’t felt normal for so long now. I’ve been to the same parks and the same grocery stores, stared at the same four walls and tried to make the most of it. I’m grateful for all I have, but what I had now feels so distant. It’s true, the vaccine is working and yes, cases are falling but still, when I think about how many haven’t been able to attend their loved ones funerals, to hold their loved ones hands without so much as a goodbye…well, it’s the stuff of nightmares, isn’t it?

We’re all just doing our best right now, even if our best is just being. So deep breaths, day by day and tomorrow….we start again.

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