Is this just a British thing?
Things I like about lockdown*
Peace and quiet
Little to no FOMO (aka Fear Of Missing Out)
Reduced cost of living
My pal's weekly Zoom quiz. An absolute Godsend and something to look forward to every week.
No pressure to dress up
No pressure to go out
Feel ok about being alone - it's now completely normal to be on one's own.
Not having to see people you don't like any more
A more level playing field for disabled people who can't get out of the house regularly because of their disabilities.
Regular Government sanctioned walks in nature.
Less pollution. I can breathe easier. I have had no asthma symptoms and barely any allergies for a year now.
The simplicity of life. Being able to pay attention to the small things.
Zoom yoga and meditation classes
The 'we're all in this together' feeling (even though we aren't really - see image above)
Things I don't like about lockdown
Having no place to go
Fear of other people infecting you
Having to keep your distance
The relentlessness of it all
Not knowing what's going on in the world as all the conversations are virtual. There's no bumping into someone at a networking event or conference.
The ableism of those who can and do take risks. So many people can't take those risks with their health and will be stuck inside when others are frolicking recklessly. That's hard to stomach.
Having no-one to hug or to touch
That flat feeling you get when a Zoom call finishes
Poor quality zoom calls - just get yourself a little webcam like this one that I have and a good light!
The divisiveness and politics of lockdown
People being careless or selfish about what risk they're creating for others
People losing their jobs and homes
Rishi Sunak, Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson
So. Much. Death.
*For some context, dear reader, I'm in lockdown 3 in the UK and riding it out on my own
I keep hearing people complain that the ‘mainstream media’ does not understand economics and that we’re talked down to as if everything must be explained as if the economy is a household. In this thread I explain all you (and they) need to know. Economics in one thread then....— Richard Murphy (@RichardJMurphy) December 12, 2020
We've just had the budget so there's lots of talk about bolstering the economy, about supporting those who have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic, about tax rises and what money is or isn't available when you shake the magic money tree. Lots of people talk about needing to pay back this deficit like you have to pay the bank back if you're overdrawn or have taken out a loan. Except governments don't quite run that way where money is concerned. If you're at all interested in how government economics work and how governments create and distribute money, then I highly recommend you read the above thread by Richard Murphy. You can read it on Twitter or via Thread Reader where it reads more like an article. It is fascinating!
I'm at one of those pivotal moments in life where the status quo has gone and I have to create whatever comes next. I've never had, or at least never felt I had, these kinds of choices before. I was restricted when I was younger by money (or lack thereof), time (too much time spent on work in retrospect), negative self-talk (I'm only human) and when it came to going to drama school, complete and utter parental disapproval.
Now that I am an adult orphan and am due to inherit a modest sum of money, I have active choices to make about my life and how I live it. I don't have to stay put. I am not trapped. I can do whatever I like. Well, you know, except for the pesky pandemic, but you get my drift.
Obviously the world has changed dramatically since whilst I was caring for my mother. We're living through a pandemic and that has changed us all in some shape or form. The world of work I knew a few years ago has changed, possibly forever. The commute has gone. The in-person events have gone. The after-work drinks are no more. Travelling abroad to speak at a conference or visit an exhibition to network with colleagues and peers - all gone. And I have little sense yet of when or how that will come back. And if it should come back, do I still want to be part of that picture? Can I slot back in having been absent for the last couple of years? These are questions I'm asking myself daily and perhaps they're the wrong questions. After all, that world has gone - at least for another 6 months, possibly longer.
I need to adapt to that change too and be open to new things. And I've changed too. I'm older, wiser and have been through life experiences that would change anyone's outlook on life. But I'm seeing that as a positive and that I have even more experience and knowledge to share than I did before. So maybe the questions can be more around what am I open to? Who do I want to work with? What talents can I bring to the party? What companies or sectors would be a good fit? What are my transferable skills? What am I hoping to get out of the next step(s)? Where do I want to be?
But choice can be paralysing. Too many choices on a menu and you end up going for the same thing you always go for when you visit that same restaurant. What a privilege to have choices available but what a responsibility too.
I'm sure I'm overthinking it here, as is my wont. It's time for me to do something, to take action, to get involved. It's time for me to start engaging again with the outside world and to start contributing to it again. I can't sit at home waiting for something to happen because I'll be waiting a long time. I have to make it happen. So I'm tapping into my creative spirit. I'm writing more - both published posts and lots of journaling. I'm meditating to get some clarity and vision. I'm dreaming too to see which dreams fit best. I'm starting some of those more work-related conversations with work-friends and friend-friends. I'm researching the market to see what's happening and what people seem to be looking for. I'm reminding myself of what I've done in my career and what my strengths are and thinking about CVs and marketing materials and websites and all that stuff. And I'm opening myself to new opportunities and also looking at what courses I might do to refresh my skills or stimulate some different thinking. I want to have those deep, insightful conversations again. I miss that.
So if you have any bright ideas on what or where my next step might be, get in touch!
(As an aside, if it weren't for the slight issues of Brexit and a Pandemic, I would probably be doing all of this from Barcelona for a month or two whilst supping on Cava, eating tapas and hanging out on a roof terrace. But that's out of the question for a good few months yet.)
I was in denial for a long time that I was Mum's carer. Mum was in denial even longer. She didn't want to lose her independence and she thought that if she accepted that I'd become her carer, or that she needed a carer, then that was her independence lost. This meant a lot to her as she felt her own mother lost her independence too young as a result of moving in with one of her daughters. I was too young at the time to have any opinion on that and don't have much memory of that time. But I do know it weighed heavily on Mum and she didn't want that for herself.
This caring thing really crept up on me and I couldn't say there was a definitive moment when I became a carer. The journey started when my father died eight years ago. It was traumatic and unexpected and not handled terribly well by the medical teams looking after my father. And my mother was in a state of shock becoming a widow at 86. She'd been wholly reliant on my father to look after the money in the household, and although Mum was no pushover, she had let him make most of their financial decisions. So this was all new territory for Mum. Plus she was grieving the man who she'd been connected to since she was 15. That's a very long time. They grew up together and had adventures together and brought up a family and travelled the world in the 70 odd years they were together. That's a big hole to have in your life.
And so it happened that I started spending more time with Mum, visiting more often and spending a bit longer with her each time I visited. And that just increased gradually over time. She wanted the company and she needed help with things as her eyesight deteriorated. And when she became ill, typically in the winter, she needed someone with her to nurse her through it, and that fell to me as I was the child who had no dependents and could, in theory, work from anywhere.
There were times when Mum and I argued about my role as a carer. In retrospect, she was concerned about me as much as she was concerned about herself. She didn't want my work to suffer but the upshot was that Mum needed me, or at least someone, with her more and more. And even though Mum had paid carers coming in, it wasn't enough. And at the same time, I was happy to take on that role and was in a position to do it.
If you find yourself in a similar position and you're spending more time with a parent and are doing more for them - shopping, cleaning, cooking, accompanying to medical appointments etc, then you are a carer. If your parent or elderly friend or relative is becoming more vulnerable due to failing eyesight, hearing, mobility or other ailment and they need more help day to day, and that is falling to you, then you are a carer. If you're doing this willingly as a friend or relative, you are still a carer. if you are doing this from a distance and spending your time up and down the motorway or railway line to provide this care, you are still a carer. You don't have to be living nearby to be a carer. Find out more about whether or not you're a carer here by taking a quick quiz.
When you become a carer, you can get support and I recommend you accept what support is available to you. You may not think you need any, but this caring lark can get very difficult at times and it's helpful to know you're not alone and that there are people who can support you. The first step is to sign up to your local carer's association. You can find out more here on the Carer's UK website.
I registered with the Worcestershire Association of Carers back in 2017. And not long after, also joined the Merton Association of Carers too. That meant I could get local support or advice whether I was in London or in Worcester with Mum. And I did take advantage of that support in many ways. Exercise classes, a day trip to Hastings, training workshops and the advice line. The advisors there can also tell you whether or not you qualify for Carer's Allowance and how to claim it and also what benefits and support the person you care for is eligible for. And they can talk you through power of attorney and other matters that will, no doubt, come up.
In lockdown, the carer's associations really came into their own by providing yoga classes and training sessions on Zoom. The yoga classes became my anchor for the week and were wonderful. What's on offer at any one time depends on what funding is available at the time so it does change.
My next recommendation is to keep a diary of symptoms. I did this in a simple A6 notebook. I looked for mobile apps but nothing really fitted the bill. Sometimes simple is good. I wished I'd started this sooner for Mum but I only started it once we were in lockdown and no longer able to have in-person visits from the cancer nurse at her recommendation. Every day, as part of our morning routine, I would take Mum's SATs - temperature with a contactless thermometer, and her oxygen levels and her pulse using an oximeter (this is the one I have). I used a no-touch thermometer (like this one) and rather than taking the temperature from her forehead, you get a more accurate reading from the inner wrist. And when getting oxygen levels and pulse, you need to keep the oximeter on for longer than you think to get an accurate reading. The numbers need to settle so give it a few minutes. And also, each hand can give a different reading so you may need to take a reading from both hands. Also, the oximeter doesn't tend to like gel nails, so if nail varnish is your thing, you may need to keep a couple of nails varnish-free!
I also took notes every day of Mum's mood and how she was feeling physically, how she was eating, if she'd needed extra oxygen or other meds, and what we'd done during the day. And if Mum felt poorly or wasn't her usual self, I'd take her SATs more frequently. This helped build up a picture of symptoms and what treatment worked or didn't work. And because it was all in a diary, on the occasion we had a call with Mum's GP or nurse, I could confidently tell them exactly what was going on and when. It also meant the medical personnel I dealt with took me more seriously as I became more intimate with Mum's illness and treatments and ultimately, I believe that led to Mum getting better care than she might have otherwise.
My final recommendation is to not try to do too much, if that's possible, and to look after yourself. I was lucky. I could give up work to focus on Mum. I know I could not have looked after Mum if I had had to work as well. It would have been too much to take on. Mum was terribly concerned that I wasn't working, but it was the right decision at the time for both of us. I have no regrets about it at all.
Caring for Mum did get harder over time. I didn't realise how tired I was until it all stopped when she died. It's taken several months for me to not feel tired all the time. The sleepless nights and busy days take their toll and they're not sustainable long term. You will need to take time out - even if it's only an hour. If carers or other support is available to you, take it. You'll probably have to fight for it. I did. The care is rationed and even if you qualify, it probably still won't be enough. Trust me on that one. I had Mum's GP onside, but even then, it wasn't easy to get the help needed so start the process sooner rather than later as it can take time. And you need to find carers to suit you and the person you're looking after. We were lucky, we already had a relationship with a local agency and a few of their carers. It made life a bit easier. But trying to get night carers sorted was a whole other ball game and extremely difficult.
There is no shame in being a carer whatsoever. It might not be what you envisioned for yourself, but that doesn't diminish the importance and responsibility of being a carer. Carers are generally underrated, overworked, underpaid and left to get on with things. Many carers are in difficulty financially and aren't getting nearly enough support financially or emotionally. It isn't an easy thing to do, but it can be the most rewarding thing you'll ever do.