I don’t know about you, but some days I don’t know whether I’m coming or going. You’ll know what I clumsily mean, despite realising that I’m neither.
It’s that time vacuum feeling that used to be a feature of holiday planning-going-coming-home, when the months before departure were rich with hare-brained schemes and endless listing of what to pack for a three week adventure that was over-too-soon, once our bums were back on the sofa getting ready for the next school year.
My melted head hurts like a hungover time-traveller from the full awareness that it’s only been forty-two days since I landed back in Saint Lucia and the evolving national Covid-19 reaction plan. That was on March 23, the very day they closed the borders and checked three hundred arrivees into quarantine-hotels.
Only forty days ago, the PM surprised us all by imposing a 24/7 lockdown without warning, catching many people by surprise and resulting in a little bit of terrifying behaviour from an unimpressed public. He also took away our booze but as Rick Wayne would say, that’s for another show.
Just twenty-eight days ago I was deposited back to my flat and went into Marisule Martha mode for two whole weeks. That felt like the real start to my lockdown after fourteen days of all-inclusive quarantining. The adrenaline rush of familiarity and nesting kept me going from 5.30am until collapsing to sleep at an old-fogeyish nine o’clock.
With domicile cleaned like there were visitors coming, every available receptacle sprouting with tomatoes, basil and pumpkin, and several blogs a week posted for my wonderful resort client, the blues came along after about eighteen days home alone. They didn’t sweep up with a dramatic slap, but as the manic level of activity ramped back, the time became filled with a slow-gathering feeling that doing my civic duty was an excuse to indulge in some of those depression behaviours that were a major feature of my past life.
In the early days, ‘not going out’ was like a game more than a challenge to my single-work-at-home self and in my head I had leveraged that game for days: Move the bed and have a rationed rum and coke at sunset; sweep the balcony while the kettle boils for a coffee; generate an interesting and informative four hundred words with six images for Marigot Bay Resort and Marina before watching Shrek or whatever denialistic movie takes my fancy on Netflix.
New habits form in twenty-eight days, so despite knowing full well that it’s not a good thing, my fixation with watching daily live feeds of coronavirus updates from London, Scotland and New York became almost an obsession and will probably need some weaning. My one thousand, one hundred and fifty-nine Facebook friends were a great comfort, despite rabid unfollowing every time I discovered an eejit among them. Far less a pandemic political proselytiser.
Just as I became almost completely dependent, a four day enforced break from wifi taught me that priorities change, and pandemic news definitely moves at a crazier pace than you’d even imagine. That long-weekend disconnection from the internet was probably the straw that broke the gathering gremlins’ back, requiring me to hang on by the skin of my nails to another type of awareness I’ve been learning about for four years.
Where was all my “gotta-be-grateful” malarky when the constant presence of social media, free messaging and YouTube were suddenly removed from my lockdown reality? How would I cope without my bi-hourly check on the news sites and evening roundup from PBS? What would my diasporic family think when my beautifully-composed photos of baby basil plants disappeared from the WhatsApp chat? Who would know if I fell and broke my neck in these socially-distanced days and nights?
Well, that’s easy. My lovely landlords are just a holler away and have been great in a previous crisis. The what-ifs of living alone are not a route I allow my general musings to take very often, but it would be a lie not to admit that as a women of certain years who considers herself a born-again lone ranger in life, there’s a time to reflect in the right way.
But it was really hard to halt the slither of invasive, self-pitying thoughts until The Universe took me out onto the balcony to look at the calm blue sea of Choc Bay and listen to the singingest set of birds ever to live in an avocado tree. That view alone has made me happy every day that I’ve lived here, and the pears are already popping all over the branches I can reach. There are dozens of classic movies on my laptop and two orderly shelves of books I promised myself to read once the tiny-interior redesign was complete.
Once established, Gratitude-with-a-capital-g is the hardest good habit to break. In my own experience, the more you remember to practice, the more mental health benefits accrue. At this unprecedented moment in our collective existence, some points in our day are bound to be mentally challenging. For some, the stresses of close confinement and home-schooling are a real thing. For others, loneliness that already existed is amplified under these public health restrictions. Others still are without a comfortable place to stay safe, far less stay home. So many people are vulnerable in ways unimaginable, and that’s always a healthy thought to keep in mind.
During those four disconnected days from my seaview perch on the hillside, I remembered to be grateful for:
- Being the mistress of my own domain with nobody to annoy my peace and quiet;
- Having ample food in my cupboard and fresh produce in the fridge;
- Having family and friends who will seek me out anyway, because I matter to them;
- Being able to continue filling my days with productive – and mindful – activities while the lockdown continues.
And mostly I felt the deepest gratitude to my friends Marise and Wendell, for teaching The Art of Living principles that brought me to this and other practices that helped anxiety and depression become a manageable element in my life, rather than the dread hand that governed my existence in previous decades.
But what happened on Monday morning at 9am when my phone exploded to life with a cacophony of bings?
Oh yeah, I was all over that laptop like white on rice!