I’m feeling grateful today that I don’t live in a city or built up area. Just over ten days ago, our Covid restrictions were increased to Level 5 again here in Ireland, though thankfully there have been some changes to the businesses that are affected this time round.
Back during the summer when we were all staying and working from home - all for the greater good - there were a huge number of businesses that had to stay closed as the services they were providing were deemed ‘non-essential’. Pharmacies, grocery stores, veterinary and animal supply stores and the like were open, but everything else was closed. It made for empty streets and silent towns.
This time though, while there is still an emphasis on working from home, not mixing socially and cocooning those more vulnerable, there are lots of shops open and trading that I had assumed would not be. I have passed homeware, giftware and even flooring businesses that were open, while local hair boutiques have been forced to close as their services are not deemed urgent. It is a little baffling to say the least!
Farming and living as we do, the imposition of the increased restrictions really makes very little difference to us. Our lives revolve around care of the animals, so everything that we need is available to us. The fields are still full of grass to be grazed before the winter. The pantry is well stocked. I have lots of meat in the freezer and a tank full of heating oil. We took delivery of a load of firewood yesterday. All in all, with the exception of the howling wind and driving rain outside my window, I’d say we’re in pretty good shape.
However, when the announcement in relation to the restrictions was made two weeks ago, it made me feel very low. The worry and the ‘what ifs’ of the situation played on my mind and laid heavily on my heart. It gave me a gnawing, sick feeling in my stomach that made me want to crawl under a thick, heavy duvet and stay there. The promise of more cases of the virus, more deaths associated with it, loneliness and isolation. The promise of shorter days and colder weather. The threat of a pared back Christmas season hanging delicately in the balance. The disappointment of Hallowe’en trick or treating being cancelled.
In the days that followed, I could feel that I was dragging myself around. Trying to get my usual jobs done, but struggling to find the motivation or the clarity of thought that would allow me to be properly productive. I thought about setting some goals for myself: in ‘Round One’, people made all sorts of plans for self-improvement and upskilling - maybe that would work for me this time. I could make a sourdough starter, I thought, or maybe learn Italian.
Before I got completely swept up in the idea of planning something new, deflecting my energies elsewhere and ultimately procrastinating, I stopped. I took a deep breath. I reassessed the situation.
We are in the midst of a global pandemic. Death rates have slowed in Ireland for now but I expect that we won’t be out of the woods for some time. Current restrictions last until December and then the festive season comes. Most likely, we’ll have another sharp increase in the number of cases as a result of those who simply must enjoy Christmas like it is any other year. The cycle will renew again and there is no vaccine on the horizon for now.
It would be better, I decided, to think long term rather that short term. The cycles of restrictions being increased and decreased, while necessary, are emotionally exhausting. So my plan is to approach things a little differently right now. I want to be more conscious about how I nourish my body: the food I eat and feed to my family, the intellectual stimulation I give it and the time I spend caring for it. In the long-term, my health and overall wellbeing should take higher priority than developing a new skillset.
Really, now is not the time to be putting ourselves under undue pressure. It is not the time for resolutions and big promises. As many are asked to work from home, the work-life balance is again thrown on its head, others are out of work and the stresses of simple everyday living are enough to make anyone’s head spin. We are unique individuals and each of us will deal with and process these new challenges differently.
I say this to you now. If you are merely ‘getting by’ or ‘surviving’, that’s fine. Now is as good a time as any for a bit of introspection and self-care. Working through each day, one at a time, is a strategy for survival in itself. Know that taking care of yourself is not vain or selfish – you cannot give from an empty cup, so fill your own first. And if you feel like you’re struggling or that you are not ‘getting by’, reach out for help. There are countless organisations to support those feeling isolated, anxious, depressed or at risk in any way.
So here’s to the long dark nights: the cold ones, the wet ones and those that seem to set in just a little too early. Here’s to the rain falling, the wind blowing and animals tucked up and cosy in their sheds. Here’s to snow falling and settling like a white blanket as the plants and bulbs in the ground ready themselves for spring. Here’s to storms and hail outside, as we’re nestled indoors listening to the crackling of a log fire.
Here’s to brighter days ahead. Stay safe. Stay warm. And wear a face mask.