Hello, and how has your week been? I have to admit, I’m feeling a bit ‘down’ now—this whole lockdown experience has moved from weird to depressing. For me, I hit a real low point when Boris Johnson was admitted to Intensive Care. Now, I have a few differences of opinion with Boris (such as whether it’s okay to lie to people) but I didn’t like the idea that our Prime Minister was now fighting for his life. It was very destabilising. I was sent various ‘calls to prayer’ on social media (I get sent lots of Christian messages and videos on social media—some are excellent, many are not). It was a reminder that we should all be praying for our leaders, whatever our political view.
Some things about lockdown are good—I have rediscovered my breadmaker, and am churning out cinnamon buns and focaccia breads as fast as my family can eat them. I find baking to be therapeutic, if not especially good for my cholesterol levels.
Our conversation has become rather predictable though. Someone will start talking about Covid-19, we will discuss the information for about 5 hours, and then someone (often the person who raised the subject) will say: ‘But we’re talking about Coronavirus again, change the subject!’ We also regularly comment on how quickly the dishwasher refills, how much bread/milk/tea has been consumed, how all the mugs are dirty again. We discuss (though don’t necessarily do) possible types of exercise, plans for the garden, general tidying activities. Mealtimes have become important, and have become the focal point of the day; there is something comforting about familiar food when the rest of the world seems to be off-kilter.
I find I am lonely. Although the house is full, everyone is busy working, doing important conference calls and ‘Zoom’ meetings, and I am left with a lot of dirty dishes and a vacuum cleaner. I have become a 1950s wife but without the pointy bra and lipstick smile, and at low points in the day it upsets me, and I wonder what the point of my life is. This isn’t something I can post on social media, where everything is jolly and jokey (as it should be) but I thought I would share the truth with you, in case you sometimes feel the same. If you are unsettled by the news, and find that you’re not sleeping as well as you used to, and worry about the unpredictability of the world, then take comfort in the knowledge that you’re not alone. There are lots of trite solutions flying round the internet at the moment, but actually, if we are real with each other, ‘now’ is not a great time, and there is lots to worry about.
I am also fed up about my writing (if I am going to have a truthful moan, I might as well share it all!) For an author to be motivated to write, they need to know that someone is going to read their work, which for a novelist means selling books. This is not something that any author I know enjoys, but it is necessary. If no one reads our work, there is no point writing it. I found the best way for me to sell books is at book-signings in bookshops, and stalls at craft fairs. Obviously, these avenues have closed for now. I had booked stalls at several fairs (at a cost of between £40 and £60 per session—which is quite a lot of books to sell just to break even). Each day, I dread opening my emails, reading that yet another event has been cancelled, another opportunity to sell books won’t happen. Although my books are also available from Amazon, I find it difficult to promote them, and I sell very few to new customers. All very depressing, and it all gets tangled up with worries about the economy, and what will happen if people start to lose their jobs, plus the health risks of the virus, and at 2am it whizzes round my brain in a sort of never-ending loop of negativity.
And so, each morning I force myself to run down the lane (which brings me quite close to actual physical death, and so takes my mind off the depressing virtual death I worry about). I then have a decent cup of coffee, eat some cake, read my Bible, and tell God about my worries, before going and baking something delicious. It sort of works—I’m still here.
I hope that you are finding ways to cope with life as we find it.
Take care this week.
Love, Anne x
Now, after I had written the above, I began to worry, as I often do after writing blogs, that someone might misunderstand what I am trying to say. I remembered something I have seen online recently, where Ellen (famous American person) described feeling as if she was in prison due to lockdown, and instantly, lots of people sent complaining messages (or ‘tweets’ as I believe it was on Twitter) saying that it was appalling that she used that analogy, as she lived in a massive house with great views and a swimming pool. And I began to worry, maybe someone would point out that I am lucky enough to have a garden, and how can I complain, when some people are stuck inside a flat?
But here’s the thing. Yes, Ellen lives in a mansion—but for her, lockdown made her feel like a prisoner. It’s fashionable at the moment to say: “it’s okay to not be okay.” But then, with the next breath, we are outraged at someone who admits they are ‘not okay’ because there are people worse off than them, and they jolly well should be okay! Well, it doesn’t work like that. Ellen might live in a better house than me (though actually, I don’t think she has cockerels roaming her garden, so maybe she doesn’t…) but she still felt shut-in. I live in a nice house with a garden, but it’s still depressing. You may tell me that someone in a flat is worse off than me, and yes, they are, but I can still be fed-up. The person with the flat is better-off than some of the slum-dwellers I visited in India, but that doesn’t make their situation any easier.
There is something in people that likes to point out when others are worse off, to suggest that admitting we find life tough is not, actually, okay. I don’t think there is a limit to this. When I had a brain tumour (and accompanying 5-year migraine) I was often reminded that people with cancerous tumours were the ones who ‘really’ had a right to worry. And yes, they had it tougher than me, but other people had it tougher than them, and if we are going to continually tell people that ‘someone else has a tougher life’ then we are going to continue the cycle where we cannot admit we are not happy, we do not look ‘Instagram Ready,’ we are not all hunky-dory. And so, I would like to state that I know I have loads to be thankful for, I have many ‘blessings’ to count. But today, I am fed-up, and if you are too, that really is okay.
When I tell people I’m feeling low, they often send photos of sunshine or jolly little messages designed to cheer me up. Whilst this is kind of them, it mainly makes me want to punch them! No, what I find most helpful–and you might too–is to read the book of Ecclesiastes (which is about the middle of the Bible). It doesn’t have any trite little messages, it basically agrees that life is pointless and like chasing the wind. You should have a look.
And then, you could do worse than to read one of my books. They’re available from Amazon, and the UK link is Here! You can decide whether to choose a feel-good happy book, or one that is gritty. Depends on your mood really. . .
The Invisible Jane story continues tomorrow
A good blog; worth ready; especially if you’re feeling fed up!
I learned recently (from a friend) about self compassion. It encompasses the whole “it’s okay not to be okay”. Whenever I finish a whinge by apologetically acknowledging my luck compared to others I know (or don’t know), my friend always reminds me that I have a right to have feelings. And poor Ellen is getting a real thrashing by the media at the moment. Goodness knows why. I don’t read the articles. Sometimes the media are like angry dogs at a carcass. This COVID business hits people in different ways and at different times. You never know when the blues will strike. But when they do, they’re real enough, no matter how big your house, your income or your health checklist.
Thanks. Sounds like you have a good friend.