As I look out, the sun is shining. Uncharacteristically so for a Bank Holiday. Aside from that though, it could be like any other. Except it isn’t. This one marks the start of the 14th week of lockdown for Fran and I. This is now our ‘new normal’. Going outside feels unthinkable. The little things I used to take for granted, nipping to the shops, putting fuel, in my car seem so far away and irrelevant.
Being completely honest, as I always am on this blog, it is a very bitter sweet time. As I write this I feel guilty, as the reality is in many ways, I am in a privileged position. I am still alive, still healthy. I have my own house, access to outside space, a hard won supermarket delivery slot. All I really have to do is sit it out.
On the other, I find myself looking longingly at a photo of my parents back garden. In a photo, Dad stands proudly over my parents latest project to keep themselves busy, a newly constructed garden pond. Dad is glowing with pride. Despite being over 70 and having a heart condition, he is in better shape than he ever has been in many years. Photos are regularly sent, videos and FaceTime too. I still get to see my niece growing up. From a distance. From a distance. A few times I have been tempted to head there, to Cheshire, some 160 miles away. I know I can’t though. Not yet. I have to stay the course.
In other positives, I have just been fortunate be able to take a holiday (Fran points out that I am legally allowed, but it still feels like a privilege) and proved to myself that I don’t need to be ‘away’ to take a holiday. I even managed to go a couple of consecutive days without checking my work email. As a combination of a workaholic and a control freak, I’ll take that as progress.
People often ask how we’ve got this far. I’ll let you into a couple of secrets. They are staples that have endured over time and I have gone back to them now and over the past few weeks overall.
Also known as delayed gratification, this has got me through many things, especially my PhD. At the risk of stating the obvious, it takes quite a bit of discipline to write a thesis, which in my case was way over 100 000 words. These words need to be thought about, planned, researched, analysed, over analysed. kicked around, drafted, polished and then written up. This is the short version of that process. When I used to get distracted, I used to have to remind myself that the thesis wasn’t going to write itself. I used to imagine what it would feel like to actually graduate. The reward would come later, with hard work, through grift and graft.
This sense of deferred gratification is what stops me getting on the road now. I know I can’t. When I do, and I finally get to see my family, to give them a long awaited hug, to sit in the garden and drink in the surroundings, to laugh together again, it will be made sweeter for the fact I have waited. It is the longest I have ever gone without seeing my family. The day will come though.
Wave After Wave
I’m not a huge golf fan. That said, I find the psychology of sport fascinating and for this reason, I love the Ryder Cup. The aspects of the team preparation are always really interesting to hear about. The team structure and use of Captains, pairings and motivational techniques to create a team spirit in what is largely an individual game. Over the years, the European Team have been particularly good at this. There was one example where the Europeans were particularly meticulous in their preparation, drawing from famous figures across the world of sport. As part of this quest to take in best practice, none other than Sir Alex Ferguson. The slogan ‘Wave After Wave’ is used to encapsulate his famous attacking style which is designed to relentlessly subdue any opposition. No let up, no compromise.
So I approach this time. No let up, no compromise. I can be a bit up and down, and I acknowledge that allowing myself to feel the ups and downs of a wave is fine. Fundamentally though any doubt has to be dealt with, any any lingering negativity met with a positive energy to overcome it. You have to dig deep. And if that isn’t deep enough, dig deeper.
It is this approach that we have also resolve the recent issues with Fran’s Social Work. Thankfully, through a combined effort of my talking, Fran’s knowledge and diligence, and the use of common sense on the part of the Senior Social Worker, we have managed to have the review put on hold until we are out of lockdown. So we haven’t solved it – just kicked the can down the road a little. But at least it allows us to focus on facing more immediate challenges. So when a problem arises, throw everything at it. If that doesn’t work, throw some more things from a different angle!
It is true to say also though that the prospect of further cuts due to a Care Act Easement remains a possibility. There isn’t the space to go into detail about that here, but basically an Easement means that under the Coronavirus Act, Local Authorities can suspend the Care Act. What this has meant in practice for some Local Authorities is significant cuts to social care which have been acknowledged as ‘deeply troubling’.
I’m having to make a conscious effort to put myself ‘out there’ with friends via virtual catch ups, check ins, and even the odd attendance at an online disco has been known. I’m also watching films, trying to get out in the garden and I even read for pleasure the other week. Wonders never cease!
I have clung on to this one too. I still have hope that in the long term, whilst acknowledging there is a long road ahead, that there will be a way ahead and we’ll get through in the mean time. There is always hope. One of the best bits of advice I was ever given was that if things get really bad, you can always allow others to hold on to hope for you. Never underestimate the power of hope, as part of a wider mix of good things.
Wherever this finds you, I wish you well. Here’s to staying the course, and staying safe.