I honestly had no idea when I started this series of weekly blogs that they would become something of a cathartic way for me to share my thoughts and feelings on a global pandemic and our yoyoing in and out of lock down.
Dealing with the response to the pandemic here in England has become my every day; it is my day job. I spend all my time trying to understand the rules and restrictions so that I can help others know what they mean for them. This means I live and breathe the ever-changing messaging from the Government, trying to pick out the pertinent points from a confusing pile of sound bites each time there’s a press conference or updated web page. I am paid to see the bigger picture, to explain the reasoning behind the rules, to encourage positive action, and that is getting harder and harder.
And so, believing I’d got our work messaging spot on, looking forward to two final working days of the year where I could sort and file and get organised, and having made plans to wind down properly as well as spend time with family over the festive period, the announcement on Saturday hit me smack in the middle of my face. Our Government effectively picked up the goal posts, both our professional and personal ones, and threw them in the dirty pond in the middle of the park.
Why Cancelled Plans Hurt
The rules changed again. And this absolutely sucks. Don’t get me wrong, I totally get why, and I will be following the rules because I believe in being a good citizen. The pandemic is real, I have seen the effects it has had on people I know, and I am not about to suggest we just give up. I also understand that I’m in the same boat as everyone else in this country; we’ve all been screwed this time, especially those living in the new Tier 4 area (and those hoping to see some of those people over Christmas), who are now under Stay-at-Home rules.
But the rules changing again, and at the last minute, really got to me. It’s very hard not to blame the situation on the sheer ineptitude of our leadership rather than the science of a virus. Which in turn means many more people resent the rules, it becomes harder to care, and makes me feel numb.
I think one of the biggest psychological elements at play here is around planning. No-one has been able to plan anything ahead this year. We’ve not been able to plan holidays, trips, sporting events, birthday celebrations, festivals, trade shows, religious festivals and celebrations; our diaries have felt empty.
And so, when the Christmas Bubble idea got announced, which was re-promised as little as a couple of days ago, boy did we all plan. We planned in intricate detail, working out how to make sure we stayed safe, within the rules, and got to see hugely missed loved ones in actual real life rather than via a web cam.
Changing and cancelling those plans then becomes all the harder, because we feel betrayed and belittled at the same time as being at risk of a deadly virus.
Kindness Should Prevail
Then, almost as soon as Boris opened his mouth on Saturday afternoon, social media filled up with people saying all of the things:
“You should all be like me, I wasn’t going to see anyone anyway because I knew this would happen. I’m so fricking good at knowing all things about everything, I’m such an expert, told you so. You shouldn’t have been so happy to meet family and potentially spread the virus anyway, you’re so cruel. Just look on the bright side and be thankful you’ve been saved from yourself.”
I hate how people can be SO quick to judge other people’s situations and upset. I love social media, especially Twitter and Instagram (you can keep Facebook…), but where it brings out the best in some people, it really does bring out the worst in others.
And do you know something? It’s totally fine to be upset about changed and cancelled plans. It is possible to understand the reasons and be happy to do your part to look out for others, and feel aggrieved at the situation, both at the same time. These feelings are not mutually exclusive.
Being disappointed is normal, natural, and okay. Kindness should always prevail. Sadly, many people think that kindness is not on trend enough to share on Twitter. And some of those comments, can very easily stick the pins in even further.
Afraid for 2021
I also admit that I’m afraid for 2021. I’m afraid it will be worse than 2020 in terms of cancelled plans and constantly changing rules, and will be harder to deal with because we are already tired and fed up.
I’m afraid the general public will run out of steam and the anger will get worse. I’m afraid all our dreams for any kind of normality are based on hope rather than science. I heard Boris say it will be much better by Easter… I’m afraid I don’t believe that.
The Struggle is Real
While we should all do our best not to wallow, self-pity isn’t exactly a helpful pit to sit in, it’s okay and well within our rights to feel down about the whole situation. Let’s face it, this is hardly ideal.
If you are struggling with the ongoing lock downs, confused leadership, virus risk, cancelled plans, potential for even tighter restrictions to come, then please know that in a year of weirdness, you are not alone. And we might as well throw Brexit into the mix as well seeing as the timing couldn’t be any more perfect.
The struggle is real. Taking a moment or two for a whinge or a mope is perfectly acceptable. You don’t have to be happy about it. But…
I guess the main thing here is that once we’ve had our moment or two, once we’ve come to terms with our emotional response to a ridiculous situation, when we’ve had our angry outburst or tearful phone call with a friend, we must then do something to help ourselves through this. We must move through it. I must move through this!
You know I am certainly talking to myself here. As mentioned in a recent blog about toxic positivity, and another about self-care, I’m not anywhere near qualified to provide a cure for the pandemic blues or a list of ten ways to make the best of life in lock down. Only you know what kind of things will help you through this weird time, and I know what works for me. Spending lots of time outside, seeing views from the top of hills, walking in the woods, writing things down, and making plans to do fun things when times have improved again.
Yes, I have started making plans for 2021. Small plans and big plans. With what I said above this might be a more than a little premature, and my planning does feel a little tainted because there is so much uncertainty. But I can’t not plan t hings, I need those plans to keep me sane and looking forward. While I know a second year full of cancelled plans could break me, making them is what makes me, so that’s what I’m doing. And I hope it works!
If you have had your moment and are now ready to take some positive steps for your own self-care, then now is an excellent time to get started.
My weekly blog was always meant to be a place for me to share the real-life stuff in between the fun adventures. And so this week it’s taken a bit of a turn. “Normal” service will be resumed next week, when I hope to be able to talk about being off work, going for long walks, and eating too much Christmas dinner. See you then.