By Kay Newton
There was BC (the time before COVID-19) and eventually, there will be AC (after COVID-19). Life will never be the same. Here in Mallorca, Spain, my husband and I have been housebound for over a month and although the island seems to be coming out of the worst, we still have a few weeks before we settle into our new AC life, however that may be.
My daily habit of finding three things to be grateful for has become even more significant. Grateful for my intuition and being more prepared than most – I had actually written the word ‘prepping’ in my diary in January. The larder was stocked and enough house paint was bought for a six-month project. Grateful that the car broke down two days before lockdown and left us housebound early. Grateful for living on an island.
Then our new lifestyle began.
As I work from home, there was very little that actually changed apart from the strict rules about going outside. Citizens can only go to the local supermarket, chemist or walk the dog 100m from home. Permissions are needed for those who have to travel. If you are caught outside without these permission slips, you are fined on the spot.
At first, life seems surreal. You start lockdown by spending time listening to the news and feeling the panic rise. Stories of empty food shelves, and the toilet paper saga. You realise that there is a second virus running parallel with COVID-19 and possibly more significant than the virus itself – fear. Fear is contagious, you begin to see it in everything. It can become all-consuming, leaving you without sleep or energy. At this point you have a choice to turn off the news and begin to breathe again or head further down the fear rabbit-hole.
Your shopping expeditions now called ‘forages’ feel strange and unnerving. You feel grateful for the inhabitants of the village who remain calm and supportive. Each evening at 8 pm, everyone gathers on balconies and claps for those who cannot stay home: the health workers, local dustbin collector, the delivery driver. You realise who the true heroes are, and you wish their salaries were increased tenfold.
You yearn to have a conversation with the family across the way who play the drums and Mallorcan bagpipes each evening or the man who hugs his dog or the German children who wave each night out the window. They are your new ‘family’ members now, and you are grateful for them.
As time goes on, you may feel like you have been hit by a train. The grief train. Grief for the old life you had. Grief for the things you wish you’d done, the travelling you dreamed of, meeting with friends more often. You will feel a deep sadness for family members, those working in hospitals. You miss your adult children in another country and although you know they are safe, you realise you may not hug them for many months to come. You will think further afield to other countries and feel their suffering. The pain you feel will be excruciating. It will all be too much and you will weep uncontrollably.
Gradually, the new way of life will seem the new norm. You will find ways to make your cocoon homely. You will paint and varnish every surface possible until it looks new, grateful for the opportunity to re-bond with your husband of 28 years. This is the longest you have been in each other’s company in a constant stretch. You are grateful you still love each other and are beyond childbearing age – there will be no divorce or unexpected babies.
The kitchen becomes the focus of the day. You try new recipes and create mouthwatering dishes from weird leftovers or pantry staples you found at the back of a cupboard. You vow that when this is all over you will not eat in restaurants because of the money you have saved and how healthy you feel.
You will notice the dawn chorus; it is loud and magical and you have time to stop and listen to it. Each sunset and sunrise will catch your breath. You will ponder how time flies by so fast. Less is certainly more. You will suddenly feel guilty for all those wasted purchases that depleted the earth of all its resources.
Zoom will be your new socialising platform allowing you to go to online birthday parties, hold coffee meetups, go to networking events and make new friends all whilst wearing your slippers and PJ bottoms, only having to dress up from the waist up! There will be so many people offering free online courses, webinars, tutorials, the noise will be deafening. None of it feels relevant and you will begin to delete and unsubscribe frantically.
Your husband may surprise you one morning and suggest that you go for a romantic weekend away. Packing your overnight bags, you move into the spare bedroom and then on Monday, decide it is not worth the effort to move back.
In an attempt to stay COVID-free, you ban shoes and coats outside the main door and clean like a madwoman yet refuse to use bleach as you know it will damage your lungs, lungs that you need to have in tip-top condition in case you get coronavirus. The paranoia will set in. Next, you will ban everything from entering until it has been washed in hot soapy water (husband included). When your ‘entry protocol’ becomes a new habit, you will relax and accept that this is the way it will be from now on.
As you lock out the outside world even more, it will be the little things that mean the most. Gratitude for the sunshine, waking up, the ability to laugh or sing, a hug. As you focus on the now, you begin, at last, to understand that today is all we have and we can choose to be grateful for it or not.
What are you grateful for?
Kay Newton is an award-winning speaker, writer and midlife strategist. Follow her on KayNewton.com.
First published in eShe’s May 2020 issue
This article is part of our ‘Lockdown Diary’, where we invite women to share their experiences at home during the COVID-19 lockdown.