Nine months and one day ago, I was making my way home from a work trip to England. That trip was ended early as offices were closing and the UK was getting ready to enter lockdown. As I left Waverly Station in Edinburgh to return to my rural cottage, my mind was buzzing with the practicalities of starting my new job (the offer had been made earlier that day). I hadn’t even considered that it might be my last visit to The Real World for the rest of the year*. But here I am: Still in isolation after nine months!
Once again, I will spare you a month-by-month recap on this post, and instead, I will direct you to all posts tagged as “lockdown” and “shielding” which includes all “x month of isolation” posts and a few related posts. I mean, if I tried to give a summary of each month moving forward, you’d have to scroll for days to get to the current month! So…
My ninth month of isolation has been one of the most isolating months of this pandemic to date. That’s because the COVID situation has only gotten worse as people began to let their guards down and/or never had their guards up in the first place (a rant I had in my Month Eight recap, which I won’t repeat here). This increase in infection rates has meant that I have not enjoyed any socially distanced walks with friends – or any solo walks, for that matter, as I have avoided The Pentlands because there are too many people from across Scotland flocking to the hills right now. (I have, however, managed a fair amount of running as I work towards my 2020 running goals!)
Aside from not getting out for walks in the hills (with or without other humans), I have found Month Nine to be extra isolating because of the Christmas traditions I am missing from The Real World. Although some of that is more of an anticipatory disappointment, as I have realised that my normal Christmas preparations either haven’t happened or won’t happen, depending on the timeframe. But I’m getting ahead of myself, so I’ll come back to Christmas in a couple of paragraphs…
I have said on a couple of occasions that I feel I am managing (mostly) well during this pandemic, especially compared to others who might not be accustomed to long periods of isolation or working from home – and those who don’t have the same privileges as I do. However, that doesn’t mean I am managing this isolated life as well as I think I should or as well as I know I could.
The “isolated” part of all of this is fine**. I am, as I’ve said several times in the past, used to being alone. However, my pre-COVID experiences of being isolated were more nuanced in that I spent most of my time “alone” (and often lonely) but I had regular interactions with humans at the office, in shops, or even at the bus stop. And I derived some level of energy from those interactions. I also derived energy just from the different environments that I spent my days in.
But now, my environment is the same. Day in, day out. The same cottage. The same woodlands. The same view out the same window of my home office. And I think that part of the isolation is what’s getting to me. And I think that has contributed to my extreme inability to be as productive and motivated as I feel I should be (based on pre-pandemic levels).
Indeed, as I think back to The Good Ol’ Days, I can see how I used the changing physical environments to energise me. Writer’s block in the office? Grab your laptop and head to the coffee shop. Grappling with complex theories? Grab a colleague and go for a walk-and-talk. Need human interaction? Meet up with friends for an adventure day out. Want to find a quirky gift for someone? Pop into a little shop in Morningside. You get the point.
As my isolation has gone on, I have found it harder and harder to be productive and to maintain my motivation. It has been more pronounced this month, possibly because I haven’t been away from the estate and so am feeling more restricted. And that means that much of Month Nine has been spent realising just how “stuck” I feel at this point in the pandemic. I am missing the energy that I used to gather from a variety of environments and human interactions and that means that I can spend an entire weekend thinking about things I want to do, but I never actually do them. It’s the same with work. I just feel I don’t know, frozen in this little COVID19 time warp.
Over the course of the month, I have written little notes to myself to remind me of what I should be doing and what I can do to try to get things done. It has also made me realise that I need to find ways of holding myself more accountable for my actions and non-actions in the hope that I can find the energy and motivation to get me through Month Ten and beyond. Indeed, this realisation of this weakness I am experiencing and made me realise that personal accountability should be my primary self-improvement goal for 2021, which will also help to further my ongoing goals of being a stronger, more confident me and to prioritise myself more.
So, I think it’s fair to say that Month Nine has been filled with self-reflection. And, thankfully, I have found ways to address some of the things I’ve been reflecting on. And that means that it has been a good month, even if it’s been very isolating!
I begin Month Ten of my COVID19 isolation period today. As with Month Nine, I fear this will be a challenging month, but I am also confident that I am strong enough to meet the challenge. I also expect that I might have a bit of an emotional wobble come Christmas and New Year than in recent years. But, as always, I am putting together a plan to help me cope with another solo holiday season. In fact, I am fairly confident that my 2020 holiday experience will be one of my most positive post-widowhood holidays – even though I will have to make a lot of (potentially upsetting) changes to my new traditions. Still, I’m living through a global pandemic so I can’t really expect normal now, can I?
I will also spend a bit of time in Month Ten working on my plans for being more accountable so that I can hit 2021 on a positive step! I only have two more weeks to figure out the first few steps in my plan, but I have been working on it. That should mean that I’ll have my goals ready to share for my annual New Year’s goals post!
As for life beyond Month Ten, I am excited that we have a vaccine for COVID19, I am hopeful that we will start to get back to some form of normal sometime in the coming year. I don’t expect that I will come out of isolation until after the one-year mark, but I feel confident that I might be able to slowly start re-joining society next summer (so, after 15-18 months of isolation). Of course, that depends on how well-behaved the rest of society is in between now and then! It also depends on the levels of vaccination we can achieve (I’ll be getting my jab when my turn comes!).
I hope that you are all still keeping safe and healthy. We’ll get through this together!
* I did make a trip to the hospital for a doctor’s appointment, but it was more of a surreal side trip than a real visit.
** I do have a housemate, but he works night shifts in The Real World so we have limited interactions – generally a few minutes of chit-chat when he comes in from work (just before I head into my home office) where he tells me tales from The Real World.