I started off with the intention of this being one post, but barely halfway through getting down what I want to say and it is already an essay my law-student-past-self would have been proud of….
So I’ll post the second half in a week or so and give you all some time to pick your way through my verbal vomit or vaguely coherent ideas. Tomaeto, tomato…
Also, Matrix references abound in this piece. If the image above does not immediately conjure up a chuckle as you think of the meme or an unyielding urge to rewatch the trilogy, hit up google first if you want the full experience.
For those that just lol’d, read on my friend!!
If you know anyone that has sailed through lockdown with no dark night of the soul or no micro (or major) mental breakdown, please put me in touch with them. I want to know their secret.
The reality for most people is that lockdown has been excruciatingly hard. Some have been more open about the mental difficulties than others, but a consistent theme within my network is that lockdown has been a grind.
I for one am sick of it. I’m fed up. I’m just a little bit angry too.
I’m frustrated that I can’t travel. I want to see my friends. I want to go on a walk without mentally calculating the 2m rule. I want to go for my morning row at the gym. I want to be able to travel. I want to be able to work from a coffee shop in the afternoon if I feel like it. In a phrase: I hate lockdown…CAPITAL H!
Of course whilst I can rationally understand the reasons for lockdown including protecting the NHS here in the UK, and the need to ‘flatten the curve’, it doesn’t make the actual experience of what amounts government mandated incarceration on a scale never before seen since the last world war, any more palatable.
I’ve had a lot of time in my own head during lockdown. Being honest, most of it has been positive, but a portion was not.
I want to share some of the positive reflections with you. But the internet is awash with positive corona reflection puff pieces. I also want to reveal and comment on some of the negative ones, in the hope that it might help you navigate the carnage that coronavirus has caused mentally.
Respect your routine
Outward observers of my life might be forgiven for thinking that I am some super-carefree, happy go lucky type that flits and floats from country to country visiting friends and forever laughing, doing whatever I feel like doing that day.
Whilst I can see where that perception can come from, and it is true you can usually find me laughing somewhere about something, underneath the exterior of my very free and self-determined life full of options, lies a very structured routine.
I wake up. I drink some water. I read something that feeds my soul. I reflect. I get out of bed and start working for an hour or two. I go to the gym. I spend up to 30 minutes chatting with whoever is on reception. I row for 30 minutes. I do another hour of work. I have breakfast at lunch (I’m an intermittent faster). I do some more work for 3-4 hours. I run errands. I prepare my dinner. I got to the sauna. I read something that feeds my mind, or some more work. I jump on the phone. I reflect on my day. I go to bed.
This is what my Monday’s, Tuesday’s, Wednesday’s, Thursday’s and Friday’s look like, give or take a few minor variations for mood or meetings. The only exceptions are when I am travelling orrrr a global pandemic…
Which brings me to the point of this point. Lockdown has nuked a routine that I spent years fine tuning for who and how I am. I didn’t have any agency in that decision, it was simply imposed on me in one fateful address to the nation.
Your routine may not be as fixed as mine, or it might even be more fixed…
…You poor thing…
In any case, we all have one. It might based around work or family or sport, but each of us has a familiar routine that we wear like our favourite pair of shoes.
…Speaking of shoes, if you have not watched “The last dance”
on Netflix, I highly recommend it…
When that is taken away, not so great things can happen. Sticking with the imprisonment idea for a moment, it is well known that inmates who have served long sentences can struggle to adjust back into mainstream society.
They spend years in a highly regimented routine, and then all of a sudden that routine is gone. For some, when faced with the reality of life without the routine they have come to know like an old friend, death seems more bearable.
I think many people are experiencing a bizarro version of this during lockdown and it is not pretty.
What helped me through my own dark night of the soul, was to first acknowledge how much my routine means to me. Once I appreciated how important it was, my feeling of loss and discomfort during lockdown suddenly made more sense and I could deal with those emotions properly.
We were not meant to be caged
…This one may seem pretty obvious but stay with me…
Freedom of movement is right deemed so fundamental to human existence it has been enshrined into law almost ubiquitously.
However, what we have seen over the past 3/4 months globally has been a suspension of that right for the greater good.
I can’t help but thinking the world has taken its first step down a very slippery slope to an extremely dark place. Due to the global outcry, most of us have done our part and sucked it up for the greater good.
I just have a niggling suspicion that something fundamental has changed in the fabric of society and the social contracts we have with each other and our governments. In my head it is akin to the unintended consequences that the internet, smartphones and social media have had on the global population- awesome leaps forward in many respects, but leading to a corresponding negative impact on us at a physical, mental and emotional level.
…Stepping down from my soapbox now don’t worry…
One thought that came to me when thinking about the above was this: does the fact that we chose our own prison make it any less a prison? What has upset me about lockdown is that I didn’t have a choice in the matter.
What were aspects of my life ~29-0BC (Before Corona) that I imprisoned myself voluntarily?
I’ll keep those to myself for now, but to give you a few nudges towards the line of thinking I took: do you imprison yourself in your job to escape a not so great homelife? Justifying those extra hours in the office as necessary in career progression?
What about your friends? Do you stick with them because they add real value to your life and make you a better human being or is it because they have just put up with you the longest and therefore are worth the negativity they dump on you?
Going a level or so deeper, how does your perception of yourself lock you in firmly in place, when you know you should be seizing an opportunity?
It hit me that we create so many prisons for ourselves voluntarily. One valuable lesson that has come out of this for me is to reduce the number of voluntary prisons I put myself in. Just because I have chosen them, doesn’t make them any better than the current lockdown I loathe.
The Matrix has been heralded as visionary by many, as prescient a societal commentary as it was a groundbreaking movie. One scene flickers in my memory as I exhale my thoughts here.
Instead of the oracle telling Neo about finding his ‘superhero self’ I saw the oracle as that inner version of myself trying desperately to get me to understand that everything was not ok in Sethland during lockdown.
It took me a little while but I got there eventually. I listened to my body trying to tell me that I needed to take a moment and take stock of what was happening, not just the equivalent of stopping life’s bullets with a raise of my hand.
I am not Neo.
Not even remotely close. I have my mental fissures just as we all do and the bullets life shoots at me most certainly do not stop at a raise of my hand.
Kevin Feige has a lot to answer for making me think the superhero narrative could be replicated here in the real world!!!!
…I digress again…
Once I really listened to myself, I stopped trying to just power through. For all my travels I hadn’t taken a mental holiday in years. I have been a slave to the ‘always on’ ’24 hour hustle’ mentality that consciously I thought I was freeing myself of.
…Ok so I hate lockdown a little less for giving me that nugget…
During lockdown I have let myself have lazy days where I don’t do anything airquotes, productive, rather letting my mind put its metaphorical feet up and take a well earned break.
BC Seth would have beat himself up for allowing such abject slackery.
PC Seth is getting to like this mental feet up business.
…In moderation of course!