So Long in Lockdown

It’s only recently that I’ve come to accept that ‘introvert’ isn’t actually a dirty word.

A few years ago saying it out loud would have felt akin to admitting I mainlined heroin for breakfast, or really liked watching reality TV.

But I’m out and proud.  And now I’ve accepted it my world is a much better place.  It’s helped me to understand who I am and why.

I’ve been doing quite a lot of exploration around introversion and I subscribe to a weekly newsletter which, for the most part, is a little too touchy-feely for my liking but now and then it does throw up some useful advice.

One of this week’s articles was: ‘An anxious introvert’s guide to keeping calm’.

There were six suggestions on the list which included:

“Extreme cleaning”  Whaaaat?!….. Fuck that.  Next!

“Create a treasure-chest of self care”.  What a load of bollocks!

“Escape reality with the lost art of daydreaming”.  Okay, *now* we’re talking.

So I started making a list of the things I’m going to do once we’re allowed back out to play.  

Thus far, in no particular order:

  1. Take my nephews for MAHOOSIVE ice creams – we’re talking three scoops, flake, sprinkles, raspberry sauce, the works.
  2. Get a new piercing,  Somewhere other than my ears.
  3. Get a tattoo.  Or two.
  4. Buy a pair of Dr Martens (can you believe I’ve never owned any?!)
  5. Hug my brother, sister-in-law, nephews, and wonderful friends so tightly, tell them how much I love them.  And mean it.  I haven’t touched another human being in weeks and weeks now.  It hurts.  A lot.
  6. Get my roots done – they’re starting to look UGLY.
  7. Buy screwdrivers, pliers, hammer.  Note: a knife, scissors and a shoe are poor substitutes.
  8. Go see the sea.  I fucking miss the sea.
  9. Book in to a hotel so I can have a soak in a bath.  Make it three.  With Molton Brown bubbles.
  10. Walk, walk, walk, walk, WALK. Walk some more without being terrifyingly afraid of everything and everyone.

I think that should suffice for the first week.

Going back to the article from Introverts’ Weekly, or whatever it’s called, the writer of the post made a really interesting point: 

“Part of feeling anxious involves frequently struggling to turn off my brain.  My thoughts whip around in my mind and require untangling from time to time.  I can spend hours or days stuck in the same repetitive thought patterns and I can’t figure out how to get out of it – until I put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. When I write down my thoughts, stream-of-consciousness-style I feel unbelievably better in, like, five minutes!  Just getting those thoughts out of your head can be freeing” (-Sarah Walsh).

Amen to that.

Having thought about this some more I agree that it’s certainly liberating to off-load.  After all, a problem shared is a pain in the ass and all that.  But for me I think also it’s about the process itself – the physical sitting-down-to-write thing.  I’m a terrible starter-finisher.  I love beginning projects but I’m never very good at seeing them through to the end.  So writing an entire blog post is always a huge boost to my confidence – setting off doing something and actually completing it.  I also find the whole story-telling process kind of life-affirming – it makes me feel like I’m not a complete waste of space even though, invariably, the stories I share end up being tales of woe.

Anyway I digress.  The point is that now it’s officially beneficial for me to offload – an article on the internet said so!

After a lengthy absence from blogging I’ve grown to really enjoy my Sunday afternoons at the keyboard once more but without any travelling adventures to tell you about I am increasingly looking for different subjects to tackle.  So today I thought I’d tell you about something new I discovered earlier this year and how it’s being affected by what’s going on with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Are we all sitting comfortably?

I moved to my new hometown just before Christmas and began working shortly afterwards.  My workplace is relatively near to home so I decided it would be a good idea to walk to and from the office.  Being January this wasn’t possible every day as, even with a good umbrella, I don’t really do wind AND rain together.  But on average I managed three days a week to start with.  Add to this walks to the shops and the railway station and quite quickly I got used to covering in the region of 20 or 25 miles a week. 

With no feasible travel plans for the foreseeable future due to my personal circumstances, I decided a good thing to aim for during 2020 would be to try to walk a thousand miles before the year was out.

I was absolutely loving my walking.   Even though I took the same route to work every morning and back again every evening I got in to a really good habit of noticing everything – birdsong, the air on my face, the size and shape of the gardens I passed.  On one walk I’d explore every piece of stone I could see, examining its shape and size, questioning why it was that colour when the bit next to it was another colour, looking at its age, the moss it was covered in, where it was worn and how it was split.  On the next walk I’d look at fences, another time front doors.  I saw the first crocuses of the season and trees coming in to bud and as the days got longer and more-spring like I began to enjoy my walks more and more.  I became close to obsessive about my near-five miles a day and pushed harder and harder to walk everywhere I could.  As much as I like my car, it felt disappointing if I had to use it for any reason.

What I found was that walking improved no end how I was feeling about myself and my life, the choices I had made and the consequences of the actions I had taken.  Despite facing a challenging and devastating set of personal circumstances walking somehow took the sting out of it all.  It became my daily meditation, a time when I could put to bed my feelings and let them work themselves out.  Physically I didn’t lose any weight but I felt healthier and was starting to sleep sounder at night. 

I was hungry for more and promised myself that once the weather came warmer and the days got longer I would start to explore my new hometown and its environs in greater depth.

Ironic, then, that just as it got warmer and lighter the onset of the pandemic meant that, with what seemed like very little warning, the days also suddenly got desperately dull and very dark indeed.

Being furloughed from work and living alone in lockdown in the middle of a town centre with no garden when you’ve had your main coping mechanism forcibly removed from you creates an altogether new challenging set of circumstances.

I’ve gone from walking 25-plus miles a week to managing a tenth of that – if I’m lucky.  

I’m going to be honest – and this is quite difficult for me to say out loud.  I am really struggling with my anxiety levels, particularly given that the logistics of where I am living at the moment mean that if I step outside the door I am literally straight on to a busy high street where I am unable to stand two meters away from anyone who might happen to be there.  Even the mere notion of going outside at the present time is nothing short of terrifying.

This morning, after a particularly bad dream, I woke suddenly at 4:30am.  I rolled over and ended up waking my cooped-up cat who then proceeded to prowl around the entire flat howling her head off.  There was no chance of going back to sleep so I waited for it to get light and then I stole my chance.  

I went out for my first walk in 10 days.

Up until a week last Thursday I was managing to go out maybe a couple of times a week for a short wander to the park where I would make a beeline for a bench away from other people and sit in a nourishing patch of early-morning sun, drinking coffee from a flask. The sitting bit meant I was ‘safe’ – I didn’t have to pass by or try to avoid bumping in to people, dodge runners or cyclists or dog walkers.  I felt secure in the sun in a quiet corner under a tree – not breathing on anyone nor being breathed on.

We have since been told that that’s a no-no.  So my anxiety has slid even further into spiralling decline.  We have been warned that we have to keep moving for longer than we sit – or else!

But I was close to desperation this morning and I figured that there couldn’t be too many people about at the crack of dawn on a Sunday.  Sure, I had to dive around a couple of dog walkers, but otherwise it was all relatively quiet.

It was a teeny, tiny expedition.  But it was an adventure nevertheless.  I went to places I’ve not been before.  On my own.  In a state of anxiety.  I walked a stone’s throw from a part of town where I’m hoping to move to in time but it was as challenging as being in Seoul or Tokyo all by my little old self.  It felt, in a weird way, a little bit like travelling.  I didn’t know what was around the next corner.  I felt that old pang of curiosity which I’d forgotten about.  I even felt daring enough to take some photographs, capturing some suggestions of the glorious sunrise.

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By 7:00am I was back home, relieved to have survived without too much trauma and ready for a large mug of tea and a plate of poached eggs on toast.

I am worried about how much my confidence has been shattered by the lockdown.

But today I feel a small amount of satisfaction, knowing that I can still have a small adventure on my doorstep, even in such devastating times and in the most challenging of personal circumstances.

That said, tomorrow I have to go to the post office – and I am absolutely shitting bricks just thinking about it.

A friend messaged me this morning to ask how I am and that made me realise the rollercoaster of emotions I’m dealing with.  Some days I’m really angry, other days sad, quite often frightened and sometimes completely numb.  

But it has to be said that I am mostly incredibly selfishly grateful that I am safe, my loved ones are healthy and that I am not on the frontline trying to save lives without having been supplied with the proper tools for the job.

I am in no way belittling the gravity of what is going on.  It’s absolutely terrifying and devastating.  But I have found that constantly checking the news and reading first-hand accounts on social media isn’t always that helpful to my mental health.  While I know that it’s important to be on top of the facts, equally, I recognise that I need to manage the amount of information I’m exposed to – and, in turn, the kind of details I’m passing on.

So I just want to say that while I’m prattling on about absolute nonsense during the pandemic, it’s not because I don’t care or I’m not aware of what’s happening, it’s just that sometimes we all need to switch off a little and keep reality in check.

Well that’s quite enough from me for today.

I hope that you are all spending your Sunday being as happy and healthy as you can be in such uncertain times.

More nonsense soon!

Shauna x

Published by Shauna

Hi. I'm Shauna, a 40-something solo tripster. By tripster I mean part-time traveller. solong.blog is an amalgamation of plenty of personal rambling on my experiences when travelling on my own, how I feel, where I've been and what I've seen, and advice on how to go solo if you've never done it before but always wanted to try. After all, if I can do it, anyone can!

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