How to live with yourself as you really are when you can’t escape anywhere

Alternative title provided by Badgerman: ‘when you can’t get your kids off the Switch and the neighbours are building a human pyramid’

NB: I wrote this yesterday in between aimless web-hopping and listening to the girls playing video games with their dad, and now I can’t be bothered to figure out how to rewrite the first sentence, so here goes:

I had to remind myself that today is Tuesday and that we’ve just had Easter weekend; the days are definitely merging into one. I’ve had a look at the calendar and I am on Day 26 of the lockdown which is also how long it’s been since I last physically left the house. To be honest, it has not been as difficult for me as I know it has been for others. I’m not sure what I expected, especially after an emotional first weekend, and I know I have it easier than the majority of people with my house and garden and no person under 5 living in it. So yeah, it’s been ok so far all things considered. So I’ve been thinking about that, about the psychology of being stuck with yourself when there are no distractions like work and other places, and how we are all continuously learning about ourselves and it’s not all rainbows but we have to make do, and also why we really REALLY need to give ourselves a break right now.

Knowing yourself is super important and other really obvious things

We’re all trying to cope with the lockdown as best we can and being stuck is highlighting who we really are as individuals. This is neither good or bad… as long as we are honest with ourselves about the findings. At the end of the day, nobody is perfect and you’re more likely to survive in close quarters with family if you don’t behave as if you are and you don’t expect others to be perfect themselves. I don’t think it helps to pretend that you are coping better – or worse – than you are.

Natural temperament obviously plays a part. I don’t mind not going anywhere and not seeing anyone. Literally. I also know myself well enough to know what would make a bad day worse so I don’t fret as much over what I should or should not do with it. This is not something I knew in my twenties when I was trying to be the best person everyone else wanted me to be.

Now is probably not the time to ‘try harder’ at being someone you’re not

I’m naturally introspective so nothing I’ve discovered about myself so far during this strange time has been completely new. Nonetheless the less savoury parts look even less good in enforced close quarters. I know there are areas of my life where I could do better in a lot of ways however I don’t think now is a particularly good time to work on it, because there is no quick fix for changing habits and patterns. It takes time, and the shortcut we tend to take is to try harder at pretending to be someone we’re not – like new year resolutions, or trying to stop smoking by sheer force of will. It doesn’t work.

Over the last fifteen years I have had to face some of my limitations and I have learnt to accept who I am – and who I am not. I’m not saying that I don’t sometimes wish I were more of something else, but when it comes to a challenge like the one we are facing right now, the aim is to make it as easy as possible for myself as I am and not as I wish I could be. Hopefully it will also make me easier to live with! It is far better to try to find a rhythm that works for you than to think you need to ‘fix yourself’ by being more like other people and then find it only makes you miserable and stressed.

It’s OK to feel things

We’re spending more time on social media at the moment and it’s a challenge when the green goblin of comparison turns up. It is stressful to feel lots of unwelcome feelings on top of everything else. I find my brain exhausting at times and wish it would just give it a rest. Then I remember this: feeling things is normal. Feeling negative things is normal. Feeling the things, good and bad, is also very much involuntary. It is neither healthy nor helpful to pretend you aren’t having these negative emotions. They tell you something about yourself; they may be a reflection of where you are at but you are not your feelings; they do not define you. What you can control is how you act or don’t act in reaction to them. So I give them a wave – hello feelings of inadequacy and jealousy and wishing I had more capacity – and then I let them go. I literally picture myself waving them away like a mosquito. You know that these feelings likely have something to teach you about yourself but right now may not be the best time to be having a big go at them (unless you’re already doing this and your therapist is on Zoom).

What I know about myself and why it helps to face the warts

Now is the time to find non-harming ways of not making a bad situation worse for yourself. It will look different for everyone. I should have been less surprised to realise that some friends’ ways of coping would likely fry my brain if I tried them! My more extroverted friends are packing the day with activities and looking forward to the day when they can see people in person again. I’m mostly longing for quiet.

I miss seeing people in person of course, especially colleagues because argh, working from home every day is a drag, but I could actually go on like this indefinitely. Literally, doing all the same things I’m doing right now only alone and not with the cackling sisters sitting next to me. It appears that my kids Never. Shut. Up. As soon as there’s a lull in the noise levels, they start humming or singing in a made-up language whilst jumping on the sofa or doing hand-stands. I really just want a bit of quiet. This said I am THERE for the banter when they are competitively playing video games. The sass is unreal. ‘I won, like I always do, with a bit of booty shaking’ – verbatim quote – whilst the other one is humming Frozen 2 ‘Into the Unknown’ at maximum goat voice – it’s a thing and you don’t want to hear it. Youngest takes the credit for her sister’s wins at least half the time so the levels of outrage are high and then they try to kill each other ‘I got 60! No you didn’t you poo, you got 16 you diarrhoea chops*!’ All. Day. Long. *actual insult I heard today.

As a nerdy introvert with an inclination towards laziness (studied over many decades) and a cap on my energy levels (because of the introversion) I don’t like to fill the days with lots of people and doing things. There’s not a day that I can’t find a half-hour to read a book. I also get little satisfaction in cleaning and tidying up so you will never find me busy bee-ing around the house at the best of times. In the current circumstances, things take a turn downward towards apathy and ‘one more game/level/page and I’m done’ syndrome. I have to actively make myself do things otherwise a whole day can go by where I have moved from the computer to my book on the sofa and back again and that’s it.

It is going to sound pathetic to people for whom self-motivation and self-discipline come naturally but I do much better with a list or set goal (ideally set by someone other than myself) with a time frame: the magic of deadlines and paychecks is how I get shit done. Now there’s a big black hole of nothing and it is a massive struggle to make myself do stuff so I have to find a hook and look for smallish activities that are fun but not elaborate, easy to set up and with minimal mess. Blogging is perfect as long as I have a topic to write about, and I have rediscovered how much I enjoy drawing and painting, as you might have seen on my Twitter and Instagram. I have a small stash of art supplies that haven’t been touched in years and they have been an absolute godsend. Cooking and baking are also great. I try to get the kids on board but if they don’t then I just do things on my own. Otherwise, I am a really hands-off mum. The girls are mostly left to their own devices and I expect them to entertain themselves, unless they say they are bored and then I give them options to choose from. At the moment, it’s the holidays and they spend a lot of time online or playing games and watching movies but seriously, this is a crisis and forcing the kids into a routine that I then have to fight them over is a hill I am not prepared to die on. They don’t need me more stressed and anxious over an arbitrary thing that I decided. So trial and error is the way forward.

Anyways, that was a lot of words. I am not qualified to give any advice past these observations about my own life and how I process it. Hopefully it will land with some of you. Otherwise, well, it was rather cathartic and it filled nearly a whole day so yay for that!

Things I’ve loved this week

I did a live-tweet of Jesus Christ Superstar. It was fun and confusing and I gave it an 8 on a scale of Joseph & the 70s Carpetcoat to Phantom of the Opera.

I am in love with this lady’s Shayda Campbell‘s watercolour designs, her tutorials are just at the right level for me and I am following them assiduously on her YouTube Channel.


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