By Harriet Mearns-Thomas
Day one: Self-isolation. I have been doing this, of a kind, for the last month. Hospitalised, discharged, left alone; COVID-19 gathered speed without me noticing. And now, three more months of social distancing. The week I am finally granted the relief of working from home is the week the world bemoans the same. For four weeks I have been told to enjoy my rest (how anyone can enjoy a ten-day inpatient stay has clearly never tried to get comfortable in a hospital bed), to catch up on boxsets (why? The TV has never held any interest for me so, unless this disease comes with an about-turn in my personality, I cannot see how now would be the time to start discovering a hitherto unknown affinity for the small screen), to slow down (not a speed I recognise). I have however continued reading, ploughing through two books a week, panicking there will be nothing left on my bookshelves, ordering ordering ordering before the last chapter envelopes me. At the same time, I have been avoiding magazines as my subscriptions stockpile and seemingly self-multiply whilst I avert my eyes. Their talk of glamour, of dressing for power, of bossing the boardroom, their manuals for making it in management shame me. My working life is like a phantom limb, twitching, twitching, casting circles beneath the surface. So whilst the world woke up screaming this week and did not stop pushing and pulsating and publishing think-pieces at breakneck speed on time management, on breaking the monotony, on not going crazy, I woke up grateful. Selfish, yes, but I rejoiced at my re-entry into adulthood (albeit in a limited capacity) as the world joined me. I am functioning and for once, the solar system seems to be spinning in solidarity.
Day two: Panic buying has been hitting the high street for the last week. As a person in anorexia recovery, this is terrifying. I have strictly defined foods that I deem acceptable to eat. Dietician approved. Chickpeas, tinned tuna, vegetables. These are being stock-piled and not by me. Shelves emptied of my safety net, despite the warnings. Today I drew the line at queuing outside of a supermarket twenty minutes before opening time (but had no option when picking up a prescription, one person allowed in, one at a time). We are living in a Weimar Republic, a run on the banks surely feels next. If history teaches us anything it is that we are ugly. I am trying not to be. The coffee shops I love have all closed. These have been my respite for the past three weeks. An expensive escape, as my espresso machine idles on the countertop after 10am, now denied to me. One more restriction. I feel like we are populating a dystopian novel, a collection of characters (caricatures?) poorly cast to survive the deluge. Is this just an author’s experiment, an Orwellian game? Are we dancing to Atwood’s fiddle as she sets the world aflame? My husband is sleeping on the sofa. It is midday. Is this my life now? And for how long? Am I slowly going insane?
Day three: Three holidays now cancelled, likely four if the world has not righted itself on its axis by July. This diary reads as a litany of complaints, the worst of which is the denial of all but my parents being able to attend my Nana’s funeral. The final indignity. But persevere we must. So a list of good things are now to follow: the sun is shining and will all week; winter’s wings have been clipped and it is now officially Spring; my tulips are blooming; I am slowly gaining weight; I am relearning myself. I am redefining myself. I will survive this disease and will not contract the other. I refuse. I am crafting, I am cooking, I am living even if just in the confines of these walls. I am lucky. I have a beautiful home. I will curate it more. Curate it harder. Make it the Cecil Beaton exhibition I had booked to attend and have now been required to cancel. Model it on all the National Trust properties I have seen and those I long to see, whilst my membership sits in abeyance until normal service resumes. I will bring the beauty to me and maybe make myself beautiful in the process. I will choose to take pleasure in the small things, choose to FaceTime my family, choose to engage with seeing everything the world outside my window has to offer me. I will choose living, life, beauty. The slow food movement, applied to me. I raise a glass to that with my friends glitching on my phone screen. Perhaps, if we alter our positioning, the new world order will not be as bad as it once seemed.
Life in lockdown. Womankind approached its community to write about life in lockdown around the globe, notably a three-day diary of everyday life under the threat of COVID-19. Womankind is publishing these stories freely to show how the pandemic is affecting women from all over the globe - from New York, to Barcelona to Glastonbury.
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