Goodness. I’ve just finished my 7th work day back in the office.
It’s been strange. Whilst it has been good reconnecting with my people (note: our work lives are incredibly important for our purpose and mental health), I’ve found myself still needing to create space.
So I go home for lunch. I’m lucky in that I live a 1 minute walk from the office. I’m sure it would be fine eating in the office but I just need the space.
I’ve enjoyed starting to reconnect with customers. Having meetings offsite. Driving around again. The fact is, we are really busy right now and the mental health of our ‘team of five million is frayed’. Supporting my customers to look after their teams amidst making some challenging calls is draining.
I’m very conscious of the need to protect my own health.
How have you all found things? Happy to chat if you need. Be kind to yourself and each other. Be tolerant.
I think this will be my last reckons on isolation. We are now at level 2 so things are a bit more relaxed.
It’s been hard. The last 7 weeks or so.
My day job is in mental health and wellbeing. Every day I have had conversations with managers and business owners. Hearing their stories. Their pain. Their concerns and worries. Talking to people with their voices full of emotion. Full of tears.
My problem has been that I have been giving of me. Pouring out my emotional tank to encourage others. The lockdown has prevented me from actively refilling it and by the time Level 3 ended, I was spent. Drained.
I can honestly say that I have been impacted by my isolation.
Thursday night I made an attempt to go ‘out’. I made it as far as buying food (ya gotta support local) and then dashing home.
Friday night I went to a ‘welcome back’ gathering at a fave place. It was actually really good. Met some people. Got a hug. The first physical contact with a human being since March 23rd. It was sooooo very good.
I only managed 90 minutes.
Reintegration to society and people contact will take time. As strong as I am. As resilient as I am, I’ve been impacted.
And I know that every single person in this country has been impacted.
We need to be aware of each other. And kind. And tolerant. We are not going to be reacting to things normally for quite some time.
When you talk, listen. Hear the underlying story if you can. And just care. And love.
So, here’s to us. We now have a tale to tell our grandkids in a few decades hence. Be strong and be vulnerable. Allow yourself time to heal. You will.
I’m absolutely fine during the week. I have my work routines and tasks. I’m having good energy meetings and phone calls, and feel like I’m helping people.
But then get to the weekend, and I am finding it incredibly difficult to distract myself from focusing on the fact that the last human contact I have had was a month ago. A handshake.
I miss handshakes. And hugs.
On the plus side, I’m better at calling people for a chat. Video-calling people to see faces. I’ve had some fun and interesting conversations.
It’s really hard reprogramming yourself. Reprogramming behaviours, expectations. Switching from drawing energy from connection with people to drawing it from connection with solitude. I’m fortunate in that I seem to be able to move from extroversion to introversion when needed.
But it’s not easy.
It will be interesting to see what the Level announcement will be today. I suspect it will be staying the same until after Anzac Day. Mainly because people are starting to relax their lockdown behaviour in Level 4, and a move to Level 3 will trigger more behaviour that is contrary to the spirit of New Zealand’s response: Stay at home. Stay local. Don’t drive anywhere.
I could be wrong though.
At any rate, Level 4, Level 3 makes no difference to my bubble-of-one. So what will be will be.
For those that aren’t in New Zealand, we shut down from (including) Good Friday through to Easter Monday. It’s traditionally the last significant long holiday weekend and marks the entry in to Autumn and Winter.
Easter is the last opportunity to travel, camp, relax and reflect with friends and family. And this year, that opportunity was lost.
Easter Sunday was the hardest day for me so far, psychologically speaking.
I woke at the usual time. Made my bed. Went for a decent walk around Auckland city. Saw the people out and about, exercising, spending time with loved ones.
And I remembered that I was alone. Doing this lockdown, alone.
I’ve been so good in my isolation up until Sunday. My resilience has been evident and I’m drawing strength from the sources that are available to me. Until Sunday.
None of my usual go-to’s were working. The books I’m reading didn’t interest me. The Netflix documentaries that usually educate and inspire, bored me halfway through. The movies I love made me yawn.
This wasn’t a good sign.
I wasn’t even in the mood to chat, to message, to communicate.
Bedtime couldn’t come soon enough.
And today, Monday, I’m back to normal. Woke up. Made the bed. Cleaned. Did laundry. Played some PlayStation. Watched some Netflix.
It is like yesterday never happened.
On reflection, I have missed connection and intimacy this weekend, but I’ve come through the other side quickly. I have shifted my focus.
There will be an end to this lockdown. Covid-19 will be either contained or will become a part of global life. Things will return to a semblance of normality. There is HOPE.
And hope is what gets me through. Those of you who are close to me know that I’ve had three years of challenges, and that season of challenge ends in May. So my hope-focus is all about what next. Where will I be travelling to (and yes, I will be travelling)? How is my next life stage going to be framed? I’m desperate to explore cultures I’m not familiar with. Desperate to explore their food and learn their histories. (And yes, I’m watching ALL the Netflix food shows).
Where there is hope, there is also anticipation. There are the little things, as well as the big things that I am looking forward to.
I’m looking forward to being able to invest in a Weber kettle BBQ. I want to learn/understand low/slow cooking with charcoal.
I am looking forward to being comfortable having guests over for a meal. Well, I just need to buy three more dining chairs, but I have a plan in place for that.
Actually I have a plan in place for many and most things. Which is why I’m just waiting.
I have learned over the last three years to utterly let go of the things that I can’t control and pour focus and planning in to the things I can control. To line things up so when the time is right, I can press go.
Sunday? It’s in the past.
Sunday was a gentle reminder that I need to ensure I pay enough attention to my own care and well-being.
So, a few days ago (weeks? I have no idea… I’m really losing track of time), I was challenged on Twitter to make Beef Fudge. Someone had found a recipe that (I believe) originated in 1960’s Montana.
Note: I’ve reached that point in lockdown/isolation where I’ll do many things to amuse myself.
First I needed to obtain the roast beef required. I have to say, I’ve eaten well this week. This roast has a mustard and pepper rub in case you were wondering. It worked really well!
The recipe also gave me the opportunity to use some kitchen equipment I acquired a couple of years back when I was dabbling in learning the craft of sausage-making. Also, I have a lot more to learn in the craft of sausage-making. But that’s for another time.
Marshmallow Cream isn’t readily available in NZ (unless you go to places like Martha’s Backyard close by). I made a substitute by melting a pack of marshmallows (put them in a mixing bowl, above a pot of boiling water) and adding 2tbsp of syrup. You’d usually use corn syrup but golden syrup works also.
The end result? Actually surprisingly good. It’s fudge, and it’s not the abomination I thought it might be. Of course, this recipe and resulting product reminds me precisely why I don’t do baking. It’s lethal for those wanting to lose weight.
I decided for this one I’d focus on the things I am looking forward to (as opposed to focusing on the things I’m missing out on). Please note the positive framing.
In-sink-erator – Oh. This is a biggie. On day 1 of lockdown mine stopped. It hums. I know I can fix it, but do I have the tools? No I do not. They are in storage – a non-essential business. So… no mulching food waste for me. When life is less restrained I will be delighted to be able to correct this enormous inconvenience.
BBQ – I have plans for a Weber charcoal BBQ. Good plans. And it’s on my ‘to-buy’ list. And has been for some time. I was just about to push ‘go’ and then… So after lockdown I am really looking forward to exploring the joy of slow-cooked charcoal-heated meaty joy.
Long drives and walks – I have grown to like these. Being able to drive a distance to places around Auckland I’ve not been to and getting out to see what I can see. To enjoy nature, and to get to understand this place in which I live. Soon. Normality will come back. Soon. Company on such walks always welcomed. Call me.
Teenagers – Mine are largely ambivalent. For them it’s been life as usual albeit without the usual demands on their time around music practice and church commitments. I have to admit that I am rather looking forward to seeing them again. In all their hairy, smelly, teenagery goodness.
Work colleagues – Oh do I have to? Fine. I’m missing my colleagues. It turns out that I’m the annoying guy in the office that checks in on everyone and tries to bring joy. I am really looking forward to that collegial interaction. Professional with some, extremely rude with others. I can’t wait!
Physical touch – All I’m going to say is that there is only so much self-touch one can indulge in without going a bit odd.
A note on gratitude: I have found that for me, whenever the world around me spins out of my control, it’s important to centre. To focus on only that which I can control. Which, of course, may be only focusing on controlling how I react and respond to what is going on.
I’m grateful for this time in isolation. I’ve reflected that I have come a long way in the last three years. The challenges I’ve faced have prepared me perfectly for this current climate.
I’m doing ok.
I hope you are also.
As always, if you need to talk let me know – I’m here.
As New Zealand moves into Day 12(?)-ish of this lockdown, reality is starting to bite.
There are reports of people starting to try to bend the rules a little, “just a little”, to suit their own ends. I have been reading what a friend of mine has been through having contracted Covid-19 and recovering and it’s just not worth it.
It’s the reason I don’t visit my adoptive parents – I’m in a bubble of one, they’re in a bubble of two – but they’re in Torbay. I’m in the CBD. They’re also in their 80’s so are absolutely at risk. In fact I started isolating with them five days before the official lockdown took place. I certainly wasn’t prepared to expose them to my teenagers and whatever germs they carry!!
The days are blurring. I think we just had a weekend. I’m not entirely sure. All I did was cook, read, nap, watch movies and go for brief walks. Actually, that’s a darn good weekend. I might do it again soon.
That being said, I actually was looking forward to the ‘work week’. A little more structure and tasks to focus on is healthy. And I have tasks to focus on. Maintaining a routine is important.
I’ve noticed myself withdrawing a little bit. I like my people – their presence, their hugs. I miss them. But in order to make sure I’m not missing human contact, I’m going into my cave… it will be interesting to see how reserved I am when the lockdown ends.
It’s been a bit hard to get in to the work headspace though. Today marks the 2nd anniversary of my birth mother’s passing. She’d have been quite interested in the goings-on of the world today.
So. We’ve made it to seven days. It will be interesting to see if we only have three more weeks or whether the lockdown will be extended. I’m still bobbing around in my bubble for one.
I’m grateful I have my job. For me it’s business as usual, providing support, advice and encouragement to business owners, managers and team leaders, who make up my customers.
It’s a very challenging time for them and the future of their businesses is far from certain. I’m having some difficult conversations.
Which is why it’s been so important for me to maintain my routine. My brief walks every couple of hours are critical to reset and recharge my mind. It can be tough switching from empathy to objectivity and back in the space of a few minutes.
NZ business is going to look different when this lockdown ends.
NZ employment is going to look different when this lockdown ends.
NZ society is going to look different when this lockdown ends.
Will we be more tolerant of each other? Will we be kinder towards each other? Or will we be in the ‘every person for themselves’ mindset? Chasing our own dollars at the expense of others. Going in to a type of ‘fight or flight’? I have concerns…
On a personal note, the voices in my head are still gurgling happily. Nothing untoward going on there. Of course, the idea of building a pillow fort and carrying out my Skype meetings from inside is becoming more appealing by the day.
I hope you’re all doing ok. If you’d like to chat, send me a message.
We’ve made it through the first weekend. Some better than others I am sure.
Forgive this indulgence – It’s a record of my thoughts and observations (and possible a documented decent in madness) that I can look back on when I’m VERY old. I’m doing ok – but didn’t maintain my stepcount as I’d originally planned to. I’m back in to the work-week routine to compensate and catch up.
Of course, I have my walking outfit sorted. It’s a nod to perception and expectations of my fellow CBD-dwellers. Don’t judge!
This weekend, I spent A LOT of time on the couch. Netflix (Penn and Teller, Fool Us binge), finished the 8 Harry Potter movies. Watched Knives Out (I missed this in the theatre. Quite enjoyed it. I did struggle with Daniel Craig’s accent though!).
I loved catching up with my parents (via phone), my teenagers (via text), my close friends (via all manner of methods). This lockdown would be a lot tougher if we didn’t have the technology and infrastructure we have access to.
I spent waaaaay too much time wandering around the No Man’s Sky universe. It’s actually quite meditative and calming – well, that’s my justification for it. I cooked a roast chicken that will feed me for a few days. I made a Thai dry curry paste (to have in stock alongside my Thai green curry paste).
I really need to clean though. Being home all the time does encourage a degree of environmental neglect which actually makes things a little more mentally challenging. I’ve also bought some methylated spirits so I can do a decent surface cleanse, and also bought some oven cleaner. My oven has been annoying me since I moved in. It’s time.
I don’t see many people walking the streets still. The occasional homeless person still sits and waits. The interesting thing is that they’re wearing masks and their signs address Covid-19. So they’re certainly aware of the world around them. They must be doing it tough.
There’s also the occasional fight. The occasional time when the pressure-valve pops. I saw a couple last evening fighting on the footpath – well, by ‘fighting’ I mean I saw a woman beating the crap out of her male partner. Hair-pulling, face-punching. Screaming abuse. He just went to ground. Didn’t respond. Didn’t defend himself. Kept quiet. I don’t know what the outcome was.