A few weeks later, and here we are. The PM is currently in hospital, the queen has given us a speech of stoicism and hope from the World War Two generation (I found it genuinely moving), and the fatality figures from Covid-19 grow in the hundreds day by day. The government has done its best to step in and help both businesses and individuals in this time of bizarre and surreal need for many, which does bring me a small sense of relief. Every social media platform is flooded with info from the NHS, support for medical and front line workers, and memes focused around isolation and how productive or unproductive, how gluttonous or disciplined, how lonely or together everyone is currently feeling.

In my little home for one, I genuinely hesitate to say, I seem to be doing relatively well. In the past when sloth and gluttony were an option (I just finished Stephen Fry’s Seven Deadly Sins podcast, bear with me) for an indefinite amount of time, I feel certain I would have taken them. But as with all things, I believe timing is key. Before the spread of the virus had begun, I knew there were several large goals and milestones looming in the distance. The final deadlines for our degree are at the beginning and middle of next month, I knew I wanted to reach a goal weight by both my birthday in June (28, quite looking forward to it🎈) , roughly a stone per each of the years I’d been studying, and having achieved all of this wanted to celebrate in slender style come July with Champagne. True, there will be no graduation ceremony for us- not until a while after at this rate, and the likelihood may be that my birthday will be spent either on my own or in a very limited celebratory fashion. However, some things do still matter and are worth working for. The marks I get for my degree, and the degree itself, will stay with me forever, well into the future when this strange cocoon of Corona is a (hopefully) distant memory for the lucky people left unaffected.

My body will never be angry at me for abstaining from alcohol for a healthy period of time, for doing yoga 3-4 times a week and getting into a healthy range of weight for the first time in my adulthood (fingers crossed). My face and neck will thank me in years to come for the (excessive) research and money I’ve spent in trying to find the best skincare products, routine and ingredients for a ‘glowing and radiant’ complexion (though hormones seem reluctant to ever let me be truly blemish free). And my brain will be all the healthier and fuller in the long run for having read lovely literature, listened to podcasts, audiobooks and music on some long, slightly lonely walks out on the quieter isolation days.

If others are having a similar experience to myself, they may know that perhaps the most joyous aspect of all this tragedy and change is the sheer amount that friends old and new, close by and continents away are reaching out and connecting at the moment. Never in my life have I sent or received more texts, videos, voice messages, photos and memes all with the singular purpose of making the person on the receiving end feel seen, connected with and a little happier that day. This has truly been the brightest light in a sometimes frightening, occasionally depressing time, and I hope our most vivid memory when all this is one day over.

Like with any stressful situation though, there are always those select few. The people who are naturally drawn to negative outlooks and a victim mindset, who even on the best days see the situation as ‘me against the world’, who thrive on the drama and seem far more apt to wallow in the darkness than reach for the light. The natural reaction to hearing about people like this is ‘Well, distance yourself from them! You don’t need that shit in your life right now.’ I quite agree. But sometimes, and I’m certain there are many other people in a similar situation- be it a significant other, friend or relative, you don’t have much of a choice. You have to pick up the phone to hear them slur and repeat themselves for half an hour. You have to hear the news from your sibling about how badly they’re being treated by this person, and not be able to do anything to help them. Hear about how little they’re caring for themselves, and how the time that could be well spent slips them by as they sleep through the day, and self medicate through the night.

I know it’s very complicated, and that these people are often ill in both mental and physical ways, but there is a part of me that knows that there is a choice- because more than once we have all had to make them. You can choose to go to bed early and try to get eight hours, or stay up and drink that bottle of wine. You can choose to smoke those cigarettes or chew some gum to give your lungs a rest. You can choose to listen to an uplifting podcast instead of letting your negative thoughts spiral. Every day we are surrounded by our choices, so to blame the world for our total unhappiness and circumstances is to deny our own power and agency. But enough of that, I’m old enough now to know that some people simply cannot or do not want to change, and all we can do is protect ourselves, and be grateful for the good that’s in our own lives.

That’s how I’d like to end this post I think, on a note of gratitude. Not the smiling at the sunset, ‘isn’t this a wonderful time to be alive?’ kind of gratitude, but the personal, intimate sense of thanks we can all feel, in those quiet moments when we know we are lucky in our own ways, and things really could be much much worse. I’m grateful for my own health, as it is right now, for the flat I sit in and the privacy it gives me, for my body that I can exercise and my brain that can (reluctantly) churn out the essays I need to succeed, for the friends who have recovered and the strangers that have helped them back to health, for the super moon that’s glowing tonight and for the sunshine we can still enjoy every day. I’m grateful for the progress I’m making and the lessons we’re all learning at the moment, and hope we all come out of this better, happier and more thoughtful people.

2 Comments on “Quarantine a la Clementine

  1. Lovely read … you are a pillar of strength. And you’re right – some people can’t change, they’re wounded or weak or perhaps just ill-equipped. I always think that’s easier to accept than ‘won’t change’. You’re amazing Clem. Goals in sight! 💖

    Liked by 1 person

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