These here are crazy times (8.21)

It’s funny how things pop back into your head from time to time. Like the phrase that titles this post. It’s been appropriate for pretty much the whole of the last 12 months, but it only came back into my mind this past week.

It’s the name of an album by Boom Crash Opera, a band from my later teenage years, and a lyric from their song Onion Skin. Some albums from your teenage years do not warrant further listening once you leave your teenage years behind, but in the past few years I was reminded of this band, and hunted out their albums on Spotify and enjoyed listening to them again.

But much as I might want to encourage everyone to listen to some Boom Crash Opera, that’s not the purpose of titling this post with a lyric.

From here, I can see the one year anniversary of working from home approaching. (Must remember to stop calling it that – what we are doing is LIVING AT WORK.) I remember that this time last year I didn’t have much fear of Covid-19 or its potential impacts; after all, there had been scares around viruses (virii?) before, but these had never impacted my life. At that time, I didn’t have any reason to doubt that Covid-19 would be the same.

I was wrong, so wrong.

Even on the day we left the office, for what was anticipated to be two weeks of working from home, we did think that seemed too short, and four or six weeks looked more likely. This week marked the end of the 50th week working from home. It is a long time and it feels like a very long time.

My world has got a lot smaller, not just in terms of where I can go but in terms of what I can do and who I can see. Even if there is a possibility for things to reopen (and the news from the Westminster government this week was that this will happen gradually from March) it will be slow, and I wonder, what will have changed? Lots of people seem to be saying they can’t wait to get out and go back to gigs and pubs and theatre and – gasp – even commuting to and working in the office.

But me? Social introvert working from home? I miss interacting with people, but the smaller world I live in now is comfortable. I have – surprisingly – got used to it. The prospect of jamming myself back onto a crowded train seems horrific now.

Leaving the neighbourhood requires carefully planning. Next month I need to see my dentist and doctor and have a follow up examination; all these places are convenient for my workplace but less convenient for my home, so instead of being able to schedule these appointments at lunchtime or early morning or late afternoon and dip out of and back to the office, now I want to schedule everything for the same day, a whole day of medical appointments, and go see my optometrist as well to get my new glasses adjusted. I have to jam everything into one commute, so I can limit my ‘danger time’ out in public.

This week I got an unexpected gift from our neighbour; she turned up at our door with a bunch of daffodils. I love daffodils at this time of year. They are like a bright yellow flag announcing the end of winter and the start of spring. They arrive at time when the long grey days have just about ground you down and give you hope. We have some daffodils in the garden but I never cut them to bring them inside, so this was actually a lovely gift. The daffodils arrived as tight green buds but have opened up into bright yellow cheerfulness over the past few days.

And I have needed some bright yellow cheerfulness this week. I had a black mood come over on Monday – poor sleep, stress, lack of sunshine – all combined to set a black cloud in my head. That feeling of wanting to cry despite there being nothing specific to cry over. The feeling of being scared when there is nothing around to scare me. A racing heart and sense of panic despite… actually no, this is the busiest time of the year at work so there is some cause for panic. Crazy times indeed.

Thankfully the black cloud has been slowly dissipating over the week, and I think I managed to put it to bed with a 10km walk on Saturday. I came home from that walk feeling quite worn out – too tired for fear or panic. That seems to be the secret. Exercise until you burn away the black mood.

And on the subject of exercise, tomorrow, Monday 1 March, is the day I have set in the calendar to resume my running regime. I haven’t done any running since the week before Christmas – more than two months ago. I’m not sure where my lung capacity and stamina will be but I will get up tomorrow and see how far I can go.

And now a quick reflection on things I have started but didn’t finish:

  • A Year with my Camera. I started this in June last year but after the summer break in August I didn’t managed to get back into it in September. I still get the weekly emails – some technical information and a practical challenge – and I am saving the emails that one day I will go back to it. I have to realise that as much as I like taking photos, I am not so enamoured of the process that I want to learn more about the technical aspects of photography. At least right now.
  • 30 days of yoga. I managed about 15 days before realising the challenge of doing yoga every day somehow spoiled the specialness of doing yoga. And as I write myself ever longer lists of things to do, something has to go, and it was this.
  • Healthy eating for weight loss. This hasn’t quite gone completely by the wayside, but this week was a struggle. And Monday, when I was not feeling great, we went and got greasy takeaway for dinner. (No five-a-day fruit and vegetable target was reached that day.) I’m feeling disillusioned also, because after some initial good results (weight goes down) I have already hit a plateau (getting bored and not losing any weight). (Or rather not losing any weight and therefore getting disillusioned and bored.) Time to do a mindset reset, to borrow a phrase from Mel Robbins.

One challenge I did complete was the Winter Wellness challenge. I set myself the target of walking 50km and reading 3 books – in fact I actually walked over 100km and read 4 books, so I can good feeling that I achieved something. I’ve done a lot of night walks this month, and those night walks have been great actually, to see the neighbourhood differently, to let my eyes unbend in the darkness after staring into a screen all day.

New challenge for March (in addition to the running, and the healthy eating, and ongoing gratitude practice, and mindfulness five days a week, and daily journaling – am I overdoing it on the challenges? ) is that I’ve signed up for a How to write a novel course. This also starts tomorrow. Please let me know if you think I’m falling prey to that cult of productivity that was so pervasive in early lockdown last year. I think I’m coming to it a bit late.

Have you set yourself any challenges for March? Let me know – especially if you need accountability on delivering on your promises. (I know I do.)

Have a happy and hopeful March everyone!

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