Something occurred to me the other day, as I was starting to feel the panic rise concerning Corona Virus.
Firstly, my mindfulness training is an absolute godsend - whilst nobody could ever have predicted what was coming our way at the start of 2020, I feel this is the exact kind of parachute all of the mindfulness teachers bang on about . . . the one we weave methodically every day whilst we sit in stillness with our breath, whilst we watch those thoughts bounce chaotically through our minds (What's the point? This is boring. Where are the Doritos? Does my hair look shit?), whilst we run the risk of looking like utter weirdos by slowing down in a world that seems to operate on no speed other than 'frantic'.
Now, finally, I think my parachute is nicely woven. Nine years of continued mindfulness practice against all the odds will do that for you. Now I can use my parachute to land softly right in my home and take each moment as it comes, accepting my fear as something natural and ok and transient. Yes, there are still plenty of challenges, but mindfulness cushions me gently so I can be in the world (self-isolated or not) more easily.
But that's not even the thing that occurred to me the other day. That's not even what got me writing.
Here's what got me writing . . .
Like many people, when the news came out that we would likely have to stay at home for the foreseeable future, I kinda had a freak-out. Not a freak-out that anybody would have noticed, but a freak-out that was deep and quiet.
It wasn't long ago (last winter, in fact) that I was pregnant. Even though it was planned, my husband and I knew it would be our last. Which was just as well, as it was the hardest one to date. I have never known illness like it. You can read more about it in the blog post I wrote, but rest assured that I was pretty much housebound.
There followed an early miscarriage which was awful and tragic and brought about another period of isolation. We all have to go through loss in our own way and mine was to go into myself even more. Not typical of me really, being a bit of a social animal, but this time, the only way I could find solace was to wrap myself up actually and metaphorically until I was ready to face the outside world.
And less than three months down the line I'm facing (along with the rest of the population) yet more time at home. I know I am lucky because my home is a place of sanctuary and safety and love - I wish I could say that for everybody right now. But it did bring back what I can only describe as flashbacks, of that period of seclusion during my miscarriage. We imagine PTSD to be dramatic and loud and all-consuming and epic, but there I was, cowering in a corner, at the thought of becoming that poor woman again - grief-stricken, ill, confused, lonely, sick, heart broken and sore. I could feel it all again, just by thinking it.
And once my parachute (aka mindfulness) landed me safely back into myself, this experience got me thinking about other challenges I've faced as a mother. I know, they're too numerous to count, right? And they range from extricating foreign objects from little nostrils to entering into complex negotiations about TikTok.
I don't know if anybody else can identify, but I know that my intensive training as a mum has got my back on this whole self-isolation / social distancing thing.
Because when I look back on the last twelve years, especially in the earlier days when Big Lad and Little Lad were nought but nippers, there were so many times when I somehow worked out that the equation of:
Isolation + motherhood squared a billion times = I can do this
Here are just a few:
MOTHERHOOD LOCKDOWN #1
I had my first baby in Turkey, which obviously sounds like a right blast. I imagined myself flip-flopping along golden sands, my baby swaddled close, sunshine streaming down on my beautifully tanned limbs and I'd basically channel mother earth. But no. Instead I got a baby that couldn't or wouldn't feed, heat like I'd never known so I couldn't leave the house until 7pm, a husband who had to work twelve hours a day, a language I couldn't understand, no midwifves or health visitors knocking, no friends, no baby groups. Just me and my baby and my defeated, exhausted body.
MOTHERHOOD LOCKDOWN #2
We moved to the Highlands of Scotland. I should have known better after the Turkey experience but again, I foolishly envisaged how it would be. My baby and I would explore the wilderness of the moors amid endless swathes of purple heather, rosy-cheeked and wrapped in flowing scarves made from the wool of the very sheep that came to graze nearby. Or maybe not. We came to Scotland with not a penny to our names and had to stay in the coldest flat known to man. You could actually see your breath in front of your face. I knew nobody except my auntie and uncle who were twelve miles away. No car. No money. No decent flat. We had my first miscarriage. We both got depression and - honestly? What made us think that moving to one of the most isolated places in the world was going to be the best start for us?
MOTHERHOOD LOCKDOWN #3
We moved back to my homeland of the North East of England. Foolproof plan, you'd think. But the reason we moved was that my Dad was dying of cancer. Not easy at the best of times, never mind when you've got a toddler that blatantly rules the earth, you're pregnant with your next baby and your hubby has to stay in the highlands to keep his business going. It stayed like that for seven long months . . . and then when my husband did finally join us, the baby was born, my Dad was gone from this world, there was still no money and our one tatty little car was needed in the hubby's epic job search. I was home alone with the kids. Again.
MOTHERHOOD LOCKDOWN #4
Skip forward a few years and we decide to make a change for the better. The hubby moves to Devon to see if a business he's interested in is viable and I stay up north temporarily with the Lads. I'm not in lockdown, as such, but I'm managing a part-time job, part-time self-employment, being a lone parent and running a household on - yet again - a tiny budget. The hubby comes back to celebrate Eid (he's muslim) for a total of four days and the bloody buggar gets me pregnant. I miscarry in the very early stages and have to endure the devastation, the loss, the blood, the pain without my soulmate with me whilst still holding it together for the kids. Most of this is done at home because it's too hard to go outside unless I have to for school runs etc.
And those are just the juicy ones. There are many other times, as a mum, I've had to stay close to home, to nurture and build our little nest amid sicknesses, tantrums, potty-training, nap times, teething, broken washing machines, arguments, stifling debt, mood swings and just not feeling able or willing to get out.
I know I'm not alone in this people . . . if you're a parent - particularly the primary caregiver - then you'll know what I mean. You'll have your own stories. Your own episodes of being an at-home warrior when you've had to hold yourself and your family together.
And if you have, then you'll also know the little things that made it tolerable. The things that lifted you up when you thought you were going to sink even deeper.
For me those things have included:
My children's insane giggles as I chase them up the stairs
A warm bath after all the bedtimes have been done
A glass of wine in front of Eastenders
An early morning streak of sunshine across my living room floor
A five-minute yoga practice
A family mealtime where everybody actually eats what I've made
A long-overdue phone call with a best mate
A huge mug of hot chocolate
A crumpled note sheepishly passed to me that says 'I love You Mummy'
A headstrong cluster of daffodils poking out of the earth of my excuse of a garden
Rainbow coloured nail varnish on my toes and fingers
There are many more things I could add to this list and none of them are out of the question now, even whilst the corona virus is rife. I'm sure you have yours too - your arsenal of tactics to make all this time at home not only bearable but - dare I say it - enjoyable?
I don't know, but I'm hoping that ultimately, we'll emerge out of this strange time stronger, happier and healthier - both as individuals and as a mass community. What I do know though, is that anybody who is a parent or caregiver of any kind, will already know how to do this. You already have your parachute. So trust yourself. It's there in your instincts. Your parachute is wide and colourful and lovingly made, so land softly in your home and just be.