Eight months of isolation

It’s been eight months since I arrived home from my last day in The Real World and began shielding myself from the world because of the COVID19 pandemic. Eight months! 245 days! I really don’t know that I expected this period of isolation would last this long. And, at the time, I really didn’t expect that after eight months I would be preparing for many more months of this strange new reality. But here we are!

I will spare you a month-by-month recap on this post, and instead just direct you to last month’s reflection which does just that. But as a more general recap, these eight months began with relatively strict levels of isolation that slowly decreased by the end of the third month before beginning to move back towards strict isolation again by the end of Month Six. And I expect that as I head into Months Nine and Ten (the deep, dark of winter) my levels of isolation will become stricter than ever before!

But before I start predicting the future, I’ll reflect on the past month; Month Eight.

In the 2-3 months before Month Eight began, I found myself becoming quite frustrated and disheartened with the whole situation. I was jealous of people who were out living their lives in a way that hinted at a return to normal. I was jealous of people going out to cafes and pubs with friends; of people going to museums and shops and restaurants. I was jealous of people flitting off here and there for holidays. Sure, I was out walking in the hills and visiting old ruined castles and ancient monuments far from the beaten path. But my adventures were planned to keep me from humans and away from enclosed spaces. So, really, I was jealous of their human interactions as I kept socially distanced from the world.

But then, at the start of Month Eight, my jealously turned to anger. I was watching the world get sicker and sicker as this [censored] virus spread further and faster and I was angry! I was angry that all that fun and socialising that others were doing added to the spread of this deadly virus. I was angry that other people’s fun meant more isolation for me and others – those who, like me, are extremely vulnerable, and the “healthy” people who are less likely to have serious complications.

I don’t know how fair that anger was to everyone, as I do know that a lot of people (I like to think most people) have been following “the rules” and taking as many precautions as possible to help keep themselves and others safe and healthy. But I also know that there have been large numbers of people who’ve spent much of the summer and autumn months (and before) behaving as close to “normal” as they can. There have been people mixing and mingling with multiple households in close quarters. People have refused to wear masks, refused to socially distance, refused to stay home. And that has given the virus a chance; more of a chance than if people hadn’t been out and about.

So, yes, anger was the theme for this past month! Although I have also been trying to remember that people, with rare exception, are not being malicious. They are just trying to get through this crazy period like the rest of us. And I don’t know their stories, so I have been trying (not always succeeding) to think kind thoughts and give them the benefit of the doubt.

I am, however, pleased to say that I am feeling less angry now. I am still frustrated, and I am still anxious for the end the pandemic. But I am less angry. And that’s a good thing as I start to think of yet another three, four, five, or more months of isolation.

But it’s not all about emotions! Month Eight also included a couple of small escapes from the cottage and surrounding grounds. Most recently, I made a quick trip to the doctor’s for routine blood work. Of course, I have only left the estate by foot, which has limited my adventures to the Roslin Moat, where I spent two Saturday’s participating in a tree survey, and last weekend’s geocaching trail near Loanhead. But to be honest, with the darkness settling in by the time I’m finished working, I wouldn’t have really done much more adventuring this past month anyhow!

Thank you, NHS, for your hard work and dedication during this deadly pandemic!

However, I have decided that it is time to purchase a little run-around car* to help me cope with the ongoing isolation. That will provide me with more opportunities for adventures in the Pentland Hills and further afield as I will be able to drive a few miles to start a walk that would otherwise be beyond my reach – especially as I will have less daylight during the cold winter months. With a car, I will also be able to get to doctor’s appointments with ease and I can even drive to meet friends for socially distanced walks away from the estate (when it’s safe to do so). And who knows, maybe I’ll even treat myself to a McDonald’s drive-thru (probably not). My hope is that the investment in a car will be an investment in my physical, mental, and emotional health and wellbeing! (Stay tuned…)

Of course, as I enter Month Nice, I also know that I am entering a “dark” zone for my own emotional health. That might sound a bit melodramatic, but I have learned over the past 11 years that November and December are two challenging months for me – although they are easier now than they once were. The struggles I face are because Paul’s birthday and Thanksgiving (my favourite holiday) are in November followed by Christmas and New Year in December. And whilst I have grown stronger and have developed new traditions to help me through these emotionally-charged holidays, I am still aware of Paul’s absence and that can, at times, bring a level of sadness. I also know that, whilst I am noticeably stronger, this year might be harder because of the additional levels of isolation that I will be facing.

However, I will be working on a lockdown Christmas plan to ensure that I have a wide selection of activities and distractions throughout the holidays. It’s not that I am trying to borrow sorrow, I just know that I cope better with the upset when I have a toolkit of ideas and activities ready to go. Of course, knowing that I have that kit/safety net also helps me to feel confident enough that I don’t actually need other coping strategies! But I digress, as I often do.

So, with that, I begin Month Nine today. As I already said, I fear that this will be a challenging month, as will Month Ten, but I am also confident that I am strong enough to meet the challenge. I will be extremely busy with work and hopefully my spare time will be spent practising for my driving test. I will also plan to get a couple of decent adventure walks in and I’ll get a good start on my holiday crafting.

As always, I hope that you are finding positive ways to cope with these uncertain times. Stay safe and keep healthy, and we’ll all get through this together!

* This, of course, means that it’s time for me to finally get my UK driver’s licence. My American one is fine for occasional car hires, but it won’t do for insuring a car. So, I’d best finally work on that goal that I set for myself several years ago!

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