Fika - (noun) Swedish. A moment to slow down and appreciate the good things in life. "Coffee with friends".
The first UK lockdown began on the March 23rd 2020, the second on November 5th 2020, and the third January 5th 2021.
I'm sure we can all admit that we've at some point felt anger towards Coronavirus for robbing us of a year of our lives and causing us all to miss out on the luxuries that we once took for granted; however, it has also proved to be very eye-opening as to how lucky we all are.
Coffee with friends, family meals at nice restaurants, popping over to your mates for a cup of tea, or spending the night hitting the town. These are all things that back in 2019 you never would have expected to be taken away from us, or even be illegal to participate in.
But taking a 13 month break from the world that we once knew hasn't proven to be all bad.
Here are a few things that I have learnt, both physically and mentally during this time...
You some-what have control of your mental wellbeing...
For the first few weeks of lockdown #1, I became a recluse. I shut myself in my bedroom, binged TV like it was a national sport, and only ventured out for either bathroom breaks or to scavenge for food. I lost all motivation to communicate with my family, I would lay in bed watching TV until daylight and sleep through til dark, and became a shell of my semi-active self.
Each day felt like a lifetime: Wake up midday, get food, watch Netflix, snacks, Netflix, Netflix, Netflix, go to sleep around 5am. I found myself in one of the worst depressive episodes that I've ever had, mainly because it was although my entire independence had been stripped away.
You see, I'm a bit of a social butterfly. I always have to be doing something or seeing someone to keep my mind from going into overdrive; whether it be work, friends or family. I always made sure that I was busy from the moment I woke up in the morning, to the minute I went to sleep. So when those distractions were taken away my head was left spinning - and my depression sucked me in.
Finally I decided to drag myself out of my hobbit hole, kick my arse into gear and try and take control. Despite the obvious drastic limit on what we now (legally) could and couldn't do, I knew I had to find a way to socialise and keep busy whilst not breaking the rules. And as you may have all learnt to appreciate as much as I have, video calling is an absolute god send! Obviously I would much rather be able to hug my Grandparents in real life, and hear my friends voices coming from their mouths instead of the speaker of my phone, but we had to take what we could get and I was still extremely grateful for that.
The value of human contact...
I began FaceTiming my best friend all the time. We would synchronise our daily 1 hour walk and chat whilst we did laps of our areas. I realised how much I had relied on our nightly meet-ups before lockdown, and this became the next best thing. I missed being able to drive places in the same car as her. Go in a supermarket together. Grab a coffee and a bite and sit at the same table to gossip while we ate. All of these minuscule details, that no one really paid attention to before, soon became some of the most cherished moments that we longed for again.
I would take any opportunity to see people. Picking up shopping for my Grandparents and sitting at the back of their garden with my own flask of tea for a quick natter, or dropping care packages to friends so that I could see their faces. Even though we couldn't physically touch, or be within two metres of each-other, memories are memories, and these are the things that kept us going until we could be together again.
You can be miles apart from someone, or (in this case) literally have laws preventing you from seeing each-other, but that doesn't mean that you have to press pause on your relationships and stop making memories. You only get one life, we can't afford to waste it.
Being introverted isn't all bad...
Prior to lock-down, I did not cope with my own company at all, hence my need to alway be busy. Being alone would immediately cause my mind to fight itself, and leave me feeling depressed and anxious.
Therefore once we came out of lockdown #1 last August, I overcompensated for all of the missed social gatherings and nights out, and I spent months trying to catch up.
I began drinking around 5 days a week, sometimes more. I stayed away from home for the best part of a months, just so that I could be around friends and party as often as possible. I went from zero to one hundred in the space of a few weeks and pushed myself to the point of complete exhaustion.
Fun drinking sessions were no longer fun, and instead became intense binges. My mental health to decline massively, I was having more panic attacks and violent thoughts than I had in years, and yet again I found myself in another bad episode.
Now noticing my triggers, I took a step back, reevaluated, and gave myself a break.
I spent a few days in bed and focused on myself. And much to my surprise, being alone in my room didn't fill me with the usual overwhelming sense of loneliness, sadness, and hatred, but instead I was laying there, Marvel playing on the projector, so cocooned in duvets and blankets that you could only see my face, takeaway pizza beside me and cats sat at the foot of my bed, and I just kept smiling at myself. It was bizarre, yet such a pinnacle moment for me.
I finally realised that I was somewhat happy with my own company. I had exhausted myself to the point of NEEDING a break, and learnt to accept myself a little more in the meantime. An unconventional method, but I'm glad it happened.
We take too much for granted...
Isolation has highlighted aspects of life that I took for granted and the things that I perhaps didn't enjoy as much as I thought...
What I miss:
Pre-drinking and nights out with friends
Meeting for a coffee
Holidays and road trips
Having a good volume of work to do in work.
Sitting in the car and singing to our favourite songs at the top of our lung
What I don't miss:
Shopping in over-crowded stores
Rush hour traffic
People invading my personal space
Working 5 days a week
But I find myself scraping around, looking for more negative points. The truth is, that they are all signs of normalcy and old life.
I would put myself in those situations in a heartbeat if it meant that COVID times were over - well, maybe not the personal space one.. Invaders can stay in 2019.
Material things don't matter...
Sitting at home alone proved how unimportant material possession are. Yeah, okay - phones, TVs, and xbox's can be pretty damn fun but I'm sure we've all had enough of them this past year.
There's only so long you can occupy yourself with electronics before you begin to crave human conversation, the fresh, cool breeze of the outdoor air, or a good belly laugh at a not-so-funny joke.
Maybe we should spend this next year with less screen time, and more human time?
Switch off your ringtone, put your mobile in your pocket or bag, and embrace the freedom that we're slowly regaining. This time will be for making new memories and having new experiences.
Lets make up for all the lost days and have a hoot!
Fresh air is good for the soul...
As a way to spice up my day, squeeze in some good ol' mindfullness, and shift a few pounds, I began walking. Some days I'd only do a few miles, others times I'd do 10 (sporadically, not all at once..)
And it made me realise that since I passed my driving test, I have become majorly unfit. It's so much easier to jump in the car and pop to the shop, out of the cold or rain, than it is to walk from A to B. However, as restrictions didn't allow much in the way of leisure activities, evening strolls seemed to be the only choice.
Walking in the Summer is often unbearable because of the heat, so I'd leave it until about 8 o'clock when the sun was starting to go down and the air was a bit cooler, and would bimble down the local country lanes, discover new paths, and find four-legged friends.
During an uncertain time it really did bring such clarity and help me sort through my jumbled thoughts. Wandering over the dual-carriageway during rush hour and seeing cars whiz by beneath me, very far and few between, was the strangest of things - yet provided a welcome noise since the world had become so quiet.
I found a few favourite spots that I would visit each day to watch the sun set, behind the flowers and the trees, giving them a golden silhouette as if they were glowing. Bees buzzing around, going about their bees-ness (Haha, get it? Business - BEESness).
It was as if all of the people in the world were on pause, and the planet itself was calm, collected, and carrying on. Like a metaphor for life; even though shit happens and times get tough, we have to carry on in order to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Physical things that I learnt...
How to make palette bench. (Please see pictures below and tell me how cool my palette bench is)
How to embroider.
How to vinyl my wardrobes and shelves.
How to make whipped coffee.. I'm sure everyone appreciated this trend.
How to use to sewing machine and make my own face masks
Lessons the world learnt...
Did you know the extent of the harm we cause to the world? And do you know how the world has flourished since we were all put under house arrest?
Venice waters are clear and and blue for the first time in years and fish can be seen swimming around.
Delhi - one of the World's most polluted cities - has blue skies and clean air.
Two giant pandas mated in Hong Kong Zoo for the first time in a decade, away from the prying eyes of tourists.
A group of sheep were seen pushing each other around on a roundabout in a deserted playground in Wales.
A coyote was spotted on Golden Gate Bridge
Lets make the most of life...
Vorfreude - (noun) German. The joyful anticipation that comes from imagining future pleasures.
Hopefully this'll be the one and only world-wide pandemic that we all will have to deal with.. But I'm also wishful that we can all carry across a lesson or two that we have learnt from the experience.
Life is too short and too quick. Make the most of it.
Next time you're able to see your Grandparents, hug them just a little moment longer, and a little bit tighter; they'll appreciate it and its a memory you'll cherish too.
When you're in the car with your friends, listening to your favourite playlist, put your phone away, turn the volume up, and sing as loud as you possibly can.
As soon as nightclubs open back up, do the whole getting ready routine of sending the "what're you wearing?" text, take pictures with your friends, pre-drink enough alcohol to keep you going for the entire night and dance your little heart out!
Learn to say YES!
Embrace your newly gained freedom. It'll be sweeter than ever before.
In hindsight, the Earth standing still seemed to give us the break that we and it needed; to remind us of the beauty and preciousness of life.
After all, "the Earth does not belong to us, we belong to the Earth." - Chief Seattle.
Sometimes it takes losing something to make you realise how much you needed it in the first place.
A learning curve for us all.
Until next time,